It was an exciting year to attend COMPTEL PLUS, and this year didn’t disappoint with panel discussions from industry thought leaders integrated into the expo hall networking hours. Attendees had the chance to attend a panel entitled, “Fiber Infrastructure: Network Planning Strategies,” moderated by NEF’s very own president and CEO, Mike Murphy.

The panel featured discussions on topics like new network builds, swaps and acquisitions. Panel participants included:

  • Randy Brogle, Senior Director, Long-haul Dark Fiber, Zayo Group
  • Michael Foor, Vice President of Marketing, NGN
  • Dawna Qualls, Senior Telecom Specialist, TVA

All three participants brought their unique perspectives to the session. Brogle spoke to Zayo’s cost- and revenue-focused approach to building national networks, while Foor helped the audience understand the ins and outs of a rural provider’s process. Meanwhile, Qualls spoke to how the Tennessee Valley Authority handles the mixing of its interests as both an electricity and network provider.

What Should You Consider When Constructing a New Network?

The panel kicked off with a discussion of new builds, with each panelist chiming in on the subject.

  • Brogle – The first order of business is determining what needs to be built. After that, you should consider feasibility and underlying rights. The key thing is ensuring your organization isn’t caught by a “gotcha”.
  • Foor – Our members build to the end user. As a result, NGN will look at the ROI and the needs of the member when making a decision.
  • Qualls – TVA does not consider itself to be a vendor. Everything the agency does needs to fit the TVA’s own operational model. But TVA tries to be as strategic as possible so the partnership can be paired together and mutually beneficial.

Should I Swap or Exchange?

Swaps were also discussed during the panel, including a major focus on how to best appraise the value of the assets involved in any exchange.

  • Brogle – Zayo has an internal process with its auditors for evaluating the value of swapped assets. The company is very conservative as it looks for “comparables” and deals that are mutually beneficial.
  • Foor – It’s hard to determine the value of the assets involved in a swap. NGN hasn’t found an example that works for every instance.
  • Qualls – Swaps are very subjective. Sometimes TVA makes a swap and doesn’t use what it gets in the exchange, while the carrier with which it exchanged immediately puts the asset to use. And yet, TVA looks at them as equal. It’s important to first look for the operational benefit.

How Should a Telecom Company Approach an Acquisition Opportunity?

The last panel question focused on how telecom network carriers might consider approaching the subject of acquisitions.

  • Brogle – Zayo bases its acquisitions on revenue streams. How much revenue is out there today? What are the values of the assets involved? It’s important to look at the number of fibers, the age of the fibers and the underlying rights as well.
  • Foor – Fiber isn’t going to cut it for everything NGN is seeking to do. NGN needs to connect to a wider range of people, and that often requires a blended solution.

Underground or Aerial?

The panel concluded with this bonus question: underground or aerial?

  • Brogle – There’s some opinion and some fact involved in this assessment. Risk factors are a critical factor and they tend to vary. Something could come up with either option.
  • Foor – Psychology is the biggest factor. It’s essentially a coin toss, and there are trade-offs on both sides. As always, there are risk factors to consider.
  • Qualls – The TVA has experienced limit outages. Most of the time, optical ground wire holds and maintains services. The optical ground wire was mangled and twisted, and yet it did not have an alarm or outage until the wire was cut manually.

If you’d like to receive a video of the panel discussion, please contact us.

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