Ask your in-building carrier for proof

Sooner or later your company will find itself with a branch office in a multitenant building "prewired" for broadband service.

There are at least three types of building-centric broadband carriers. One is the established shared-tenant providers, led by Intermedia's Advanced Building Networks. Another is the fixed-wireless local loop carriers, such as Winstar, Teligent and XO. There are the new building local exchange carriers established by commercial real estate firms. A common theme among them is they are "aggressively" moving to wire buildings.

Here's a tip: Consider visiting each building where these carriers have contracts and poke around to see how aggressive they really are.

Stories are rampant about tenants finding themselves in these supposedly charmed office buildings and then waiting . . . and waiting . . . for the in-building carrier to provide service.

Recently we've had a parade of vendors to this market come through our office. They say their carrier customers maintain detailed spreadsheets to decide which buildings they will serve, no matter what announcements they've made with real estate developers.

Generally these carriers will not invest the capital unless they know they can sign up at least 20% of the tenants in a building. Because many office buildings contain branch offices of national corporations with large-carrier, multisite term contracts, there tends to be a cap on the penetration these carriers think they can achieve.

For example, look at fixed-wireless provider Teligent. As of its November report to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Teligent had installed 433,997 lines to serve 34,189 customers in 4,412 buildings. But Teligent also reported it had secured access rights to an additional 7,483 buildings to which it had yet to begin providing service.

The grinding pace of wiring buildings has led to bitter accusations. Fixed-wireless carriers and other competitive local exchange carriers (CLEC) blame recalcitrant landlords and Bell-company delaying tactics. When talking with the Virginia public relations firm for a national trade group and a Chicago market research firm specializing in CLECs, I found both firms are in buildings where in-building CLEC service was promised months ago and never delivered.

The Building Owners and Managers Association commissioned a study of this situation, and sent these key findings last month to the Federal Communications Commission:"CLECs prefer buildings of at least 150,000 square feet and having 10 or more tenants. That means that published CLEC building penetration rates based on the total number of office buildings in all markets are misleading and irrelevant. . . . The CLEC business model is to build a mature network in a few markets, connect large customers to demonstrate rapid profitability, and then expand in two directions: connecting smaller buildings within the mature-network markets, and repeat the cycle in new markets."

Bottom line is you better ask to see those carrier spreadsheets before counting on rapid installation.

This story, "Ask your in-building carrier for proof " was originally published by Network World.

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