January 16, 2001, 9:32 AM — IT managers of businesses housed in multitenant buildings are having to familiarize themselves with a different breed of carrier: building local exchange carriers.
Unlike their competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) and incumbent (ILEC) counterparts, BLECs are concerned exclusively with bringing data and voice services to office towers, industrial parks, hotels and apartment complexes. While CLECs and ILECs focus on building out broadband networks that terminate at the edges of buildings, BLECs concentrate on running broadband inside buildings.
"The goal of a BLEC is to create an in-building broadband network," says Steven Weinberg, an analyst with Chicago research firm New Paradigm Resources. "Their strategy is often to partner with a real estate manager to bring added value to buildings. The managers can use the broadband services as a selling point."
There are several potential advantages BLECs can bring to building owners and their tenants.
Businesses that stand to gain the most are those located in office complexes that are too far from a telco central office to get DSL service and too remote to be passed by a cable provider's network. Most of these businesses are small and midsize organizations, or branch offices of larger companies, and can't justify several thousand dollars per month for a T-1.
Jeff Moore, an analyst with market research firm Current Analysis, notes that most office buildings in the U.S. don't have fiber connections, so there is a market for BLEC services.
BLECs typically bring broadband into a building by installing a DSL Access Multiplexer (DSLAM), Ethernet switch or ATM switch in the building's basement. These basement boxes connect back to a telco central office via T-1 or T-3 connections. Tenants who want to subscribe to the BLEC's services are then connected to the switch or DSLAM. The more tenants that sign up for a BLEC's service, the more bandwidth the BLEC provides between the central office and the building.
Some BLECs provide voice services in addition to basic broadband data. Edge Connections, which serves customers in Atlanta, Boston, New York and Washington, D.C., is one such provider, using DSLAMs and voice gateways to enable voice service over DSL. Other BLECs rely on ATM to provide voice services.