Q&A with Data Center POST’s Contributing Editor, Kathy Xu

Ray LaChanceZenFi President and Chief Executive Officer Ray LaChance recently spoke with Data Center POST about the start-up’s success, its Access and Express Networks and what makes the company’s fiber network unique. ZenFi owns and operates a carrier-neutral dark fiber network specializing in fronthaul, backhaul and wavelength connectivity to enable the Internet of Things (IoT). Other topics discussed in the Q&A include the fiber network industry and ZenFi’s attendance at INCOMPAS Show, April 3-5 in New Orleans.

Data Center POST, Kathy Xu (DCP-KX) Question: ZenFi was established in 2014. To what do you attribute the great growth and success achieved by the company in only a few years? 

ZenFi, Ray LaChance (ZenFi-RL) Answer: While the company is a start-up, there is vast expertise and experience behind it. ZenFi’s founders recognized that there was a need to fill the gap between traditional wireline fiber companies and their disconnected wireless counterparts. Moreover, the ZenFi team has been operating in this industry for over 20 years and has detailed knowledge of New York City’s fiber ducts, routes and conduit systems, which enabled it to design a modern network solution that leverages existing pathways, while identifying new and more direct pathways to strengthen connectivity where needed. We have over 560 miles of high-count fiber in the ground and can hit almost any building, having installed a splice point in over 85 percent of intersections. We also offer 100 times the capability of other fiber providers priced competitively.

DCP-KX Q: What motivates the unique design of ZenFi’s Access Network and Express Network? How does this strategy differ from other fiber networks? 

ZenFi-RL A: ZenFi takes a local, ubiquitous approach to offering mobile wireless connectivity and enhanced IoT on every sidewalk, to and in every building, and throughout every neighborhood and borough in New York. Beginning with the Access Network, ZenFi leverages a neighborhood network and colocation infrastructure model to support widely distributed wireless equipment collocated and interconnected with traditional wireline networks. The Access Network is the point through which an end user accesses the internet “on-ramp.”

The Express Network serves as the interconnection point between New York City’s carrier hotels, carrier-neutral data centers and enterprise locations as well as the gateway to its Access Network connecting wireless access points throughout the city. The ZenFi network design enables neighborhoods to become more readily connected and wired with high-speed network solutions by providing an access point in closer proximity to end users, interconnected to key aggregation points that connect to the core of the internet.

Legacy fiber network providers did not anticipate the need for densification and additional splice points to add network capacity to meet the bandwidth needs of Big Data, SMS, IoT and cloud-based applications as fiber moves closer to users. Without enough splice points, customers, generally the building owners, must pay expensive build fees to reach their locations. ZenFi’s neighborhood network and colocation infrastructure strategy supports these new network requirements. Our fiber network is built with access in mind. Our unique dark fiber network evolves typically fragmented legacy infrastructure to optimize density and network access, satisfying the growing need for fiber everywhere.

DCP-KX Q: How has the fiber network industry evolved? What do you see as the biggest challenge in this industry?

ZenFi-RL A: Fiber is moving closer to the edge of the network and the user. Fiber is a critical element in 5G network infrastructure and addressing the need for denser networks to support mobile data, IoT and other applications. Fiber is being used to connect from antennas back to the core network to support mobile densification.

The challenge for mobile carriers and the opportunity for ZenFi is the need for low latency and high quality of service (QoS) to deliver the high-bandwidth content users will expect from 5G service. 5G will be a network of neighborhood networks, and the neighborhoods will have a central colocation site reaching out to antennas.

ZenFi’s fiber is well positioned to carry traffic between towers and antennas in addition to the benefit of the Access Network and connectivity to buildings throughout New York City.

DCP-KX Q: What new developments are on the horizon for ZenFi?

ZenFi-RL A: ZenFi is in year two of a four-year plan to build its fiber network throughout New York City. New York is the financial, media, social, cultural and political center of the world and a great proving ground for our growth strategy. Although we are currently focused on New York, our model for providing space, power and connectivity can easily be extended to other geographies.

DCP-KX Q: What would you like to accomplish at INCOMPAS?

INCOMPAS is the show for competitive providers and we’re looking forward to the opportunity to network, meet with partners and customers and catch up with industry influencers.

DCP-KX:  Thank you for your time and best of luck at INCOMPAS Show.

Readers, if you are interested in learning more about ZenFi, please visit http://zenfi.com/.