Uniti Fiber to expand network in the Quad Cities

Uniti Uniti Fiber

Jennifer DeWitt with Quad-City Times provides an overview of fiber expansion in the Quad-Cities.

Uniti Fiber plans to build a new fiber optics network across the Quad-Cities that not only will expand its local footprint and network capabilities but position it for future growth in the region.

The St. Petersburg, Fla.-based company, which has served the Quad-Cities since 2013, announced plans to build an additional 80-mile network here. The $5 million investment will increase Uniti Fiber’s local presence by more than 10,000 fiber strand miles, Uniti Fiber said.

Greg Ortyl, senior vice president of sales, said construction is expected to begin in the first half of the year and be completed by late 2017 or early 2018.

“The build is for a large wireless carrier, one of the largest cellular companies in the U.S.,” he said.

Although he could not disclose the customer, Ortyl said, “The network is going in and connecting all their cell towers in the greater Quad-Cities.”

According to Ortyl, the network will support the carrier’s existing 4G (Fourth Generation) network.

“What’s cool about what we’re doing here is it’s going to lay the foundation to support the fifth generation of wireless network,” he said.

As part of the project, Ortyl said Uniti Fiber is building in enough capacity to serve other wireless carriers as well as other business customers in the future.

In a news release, Uniti Fiber President Ron Mudry said the expansion deepens its commitment to the Quad-City region “by creating a denser fiber network that provides new and enhanced connectivity options with major commercial data centers from Chicago to St. Louis.”

“As a business and community development tool, superior communications networks allow regional leaders to attract businesses with rich connectivity needs,”  he said. Ortyl said the network “is not consumer-based like a Google fiber, where you are bringing it to every home.” Rather, he said it is for enterprises and large businesses.

“Fiber is essentially a strand of glass and light that goes through the glass,” he said. “We’re not just putting in 1, 10 or 20 strands, we’re putting in over 200 strands so after we serve our anchor customer, we have lots of fiber that we can use to sell to other entities — hospitals, schools, institutions — anyone with data-intensive uses.”

With the system, Uniti Fiber will be capable of delivering Ethernet service up to 200 gigabits per second. With more robust wireless data capabilities, there will be an improved performance of streaming video, HD mobile, complex gaming, home-management devices and business application. It also will improve high-bandwidth networks through the region of up to 100 gigabits per second and beyond.

Unit Fiber also will introduce dark fiber to the Quad-Cities with its network.

“Most enterprises in the Quad-Cities buy Ethernet. It is a service delivered over copper lines or fiber,” he said. “The way it is delivered is by putting a piece of equipment on each end of the fiber that lights that fiber and passes data through the glass … dark fiber is just the strand of fiber, strand of glass and the end customer/user can light that fiber themselves.”

The advantage, Ortyl added, is the user would own that strand and put their own equipment on either end, giving them unlimited bandwidth.

The expansion in the Quad-Cities will include carrying the fiber optics network across two river crossings, including three sites on the Mississippi River and two on the Rock River.

The Quad-City expansion is part of Uniti Fiber’s buildout in Illinois, including Peoria and Rockford.

“This is a metro build-out … we do have a presence today in the area, but it is minor compared to what we will be embarking on,” said Ortyl, who is based in St. Louis.

He said the company has not decided which of three markets to actually locate a new office.