An Interview with Phil Olivero, CTO of Lightpath

Editor’s Note: As the submarine fiber optics market continues on this unprecedented boom period of new activity, cable landing station connectivity has taken on a new urgency for those attempting to move Internet traffic from the submarine cables to the terrestrial networks.  The synergy between the submarine cables and the terrestrial fiber providers is particularly important in a high-traffic area like the northeastern United States. 

To provide some insight into a critical piece of the network, SubCableWorld recently spoke with Phil Olivero, CTO of Lightpath.  Mr. Olivero brings us up-to-date on Lightpath’s activities and provides insights into the current market and what customers are looking for. 

Mr. Olivero: Lightpath has been building fiber optic networks for about 30 years, first as a fully-owned part of Cablevision, a cable television operator in the New York City, Long Island and Connecticut area.  Then European cable television provider Altice bought Cablevision in 2016, as well as a number of other US cable providers.  Altice is now the fourth-largest cable television operator in the United States.

In December 2020, Altice spun off Lightpath into a separate, private company.  Altice retained 50.01% of Lightpath, while also securing investment from Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners for the remaining 49.99%. 

Lightpath has a dense fiber network in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.  For most of Lightpath’s 30 years it pretty much followed the Cablevision/Altice cable and broadband footprint.  But in 2020, the mandates were changed.  The decision was made to grow the business from its successful foundation and to go build fiber wherever it made sense.  And so, in 2021, we expanded into Boston.  We now have about 150 miles of fiber in the Boston area, even though there is no Altice presence in Boston per se. 

We have about 20,000 route-miles of fiber in that pretty compact area of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and now Massachusetts.  We have over 13,500 on-net locations and connect to over 75 data centers.  We connect to seven cable landing stations in the New York/New Jersey area.  This is an important part of Lightpath’s vision as the submarine cables coming into the cable landing stations need to get to the data centers.  We also have extensions from our dense network in those states to Ashburn, where we recently announced that we’re adding a third route, as well as Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta. 

The cable landing stations that are currently on our network are:

  • Long Island
    • 957 Station Road, Bellport
    • 1 Coraci Blvd, Shirley
    • 14 Ramsey Road, Shirley (Brookhaven)
    • Waterside Ave, Fort Salonga (Northport)
    • Barnum Island (Island Park)
  • New Jersey
    • 1400 Wall Church, Wall Township (NJFX)
    • 1941 State Route 34, Wall Township

Last September, we announced that we beefed up our connection to the NJFX campus with two diverse points of access and multiple backhaul options.  In fact, we have multiple routes in and out to all of these cable stations, as well as 1025 Old Country Road on Long Island where a lot of the submarine cables ultimately have their termination gear. 

In addition, while we’re not quite to the Lynn cable landing station north of Boston yet, that’s certainly of interest to us.  We have a number of planned expansions coming up as well. 

Lightpath’s dense network allows us to provide diverse paths from those landing stations and key data centers in the metro area down to Ashburn and up to Boston.  What’s interesting is that our customers like our paths because they’re diverse from the typical telco routes.  The telco routes tend to go into the central offices, while ours, because of the cable television network architecture, go through the Altice headends.  So, we have a little bit different routing and can offer different locations for colocation and for amplifiers and regeneration along the routes from cable landing stations to the data centers.  We offer both the diverse fiber routes and the colocation options at those headends and our customers can take advantage of the dark fiber we offer between the cable stations and the data centers, as well as optical transport services. 

We can customize to take into account route lengths and splices to reduce loss.  We have customers who look for slightly shorter paths because they’re going to run ultra-high-bandwidth custom optical systems on these fibers.  We’re finding that hyperscalers really like the flexibilty that we have with our dense network – meaning that they can customize things to their exact needs

For us, the big request that we constantly get is for a specific path, diverse from other paths, with dual entries, pristine cable and fiber, and with as few splices and the shortest possible route as they’re going to be putting “X” number of Terabits per second on it.  And “X” keeps getting bigger.  The hyperscalers are particular about the network they’re building and the amount of capacity they plan to put on it as the demand on their side keeps going through the roof. 

We’ve been busy and we’ve been moving the network and we will continue to do so to meet that demand between cable landing station and data center.