Telecom Newsroom Interview with Ray LaChance, President and CEO, ZenFi Networks
As President and Chief Executive Officer of ZenFi Networks, Ray LaChance applies proven industry management expertise to deliver cutting-edge communication network solutions to the market. Ray oversees all aspects of the business operations, effectively leading a team of experts to solve industry problems created by the proliferation of mobile data. In addition to Ray’s role at ZenFi, he is also a Founding Partner of Metro Network Services, LLC, a company focused on network planning, engineering, deployment and maintenance. Ray is an information technology industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience managing teams to design, build, and operate complex, high-capacity networks for large enterprises, financial firms and telecommunications service providers.
Telecom Newsroom recently sat down with Ray to discuss the present challenges existing in telecom, as well as the exciting opportunities on the horizon for the industry. He also shares information about the innovative ZenFi network neighborhood network and how it will help power cutting-edge wireless solutions. Ray will be sharing his knowledge as a speaker at the NEDAS Boston Symposium, taking place on July 18, 2018.
Telecom Newsroom, Caroline Kurdej (TN-CK) Question: How has the telecom industry changed in the past 12 months?
ZenFi Networks, Ray LaChance (ZN-RL) Answer: Over the past couple of years, and specifically during the past 12 months, we’ve witnessed a surge in demand for underlying communications infrastructure to support Mobile Network Operators’ need to meet growing user bandwidth demands. In order to achieve this, the entire mobile ecosystem, including MNOs, tower companies, neutral hosts, and fiber optic network operators have begun the largest build out of wireless infrastructure since the beginning of the industry.
TN-CK Q: What do you predict will be the long-term impact of emerging technologies and trends implemented in the coming 12 months?
ZN-RL A: In the long term, I believe that almost all end-user devices will be connected wirelessly using evolving technologies such as 5G, CBRS, etc., resulting in reliable, low-cost, low-latency, high-bandwidth connectivity. However, while end-user devices will connect wirelessly to these networks, mobile operators will need to continue densifying their networks by placing wireless radios and antennas in very close proximity to the consumers. The fundamental underpinning for this densification requires a pervasive underlying ecosystem of fiber optic networks, colocation facilities and siting solutions as the wireless networks of tomorrow will become even more reliant on robust wired infrastructure. In short, wireless needs wires, no matter how advanced the technology becomes.
TN-CK Q: From where does the bulk of funding come for wireless infrastructure solutions? Does this need to change for sustainability?
ZN-RL A: Historically, wireless networks have ultimately been financed by MNOs through direct or indirect funding of the entire mobile network ecosystem. However, as the user demand continues to increase, the funding requirements for both indoor and outdoor wireless infrastructure is so great that, even collectively, the MNOs don’t have the financial capability nor revenue justification to cover the capital requirements. It’s clear that innovative business models and partnerships between entrepreneurial intermediaries, municipalities, property owners, technology vendors, and capital sources will fill the void over time.
TN-CK Q: How does technological innovation create competitive business advantages?
ZN-RL A: As a communications infrastructure provider, ZenFi’s primary business is to build and maintain physical underlying infrastructure assets such as fiber optic networks, optical transport systems, colocation facilities and vertical siting to enable our customers to build innovative technology solutions in the mobile, cloud and enterprise space. While we primarily build and maintain long-life hard assets, we’ve developed quite a few innovative techniques centered around fiber network architecture, power delivery and vertical siting solutions that are incorporated into our fronthaul networks, street furniture deployments and monopole products.
TN-CK Q: NEDAS is a regional association. What do you look forward to most as a participant?
ZN-RL A: The regional NEDAS events provide me and my team with an opportunity to meet and collaborate with other wireless ecosystem players, including vendors and partners as well as customers all in one place.
TN-CK Q: What are your company’s key differentiators?
ZN-RL A: When we founded ZenFi in 2014, our mission was simply to solve a problem that we saw on the horizon. As wireless technology futurists discussed a world where everything would be connected to the cloud, MNOs and technology vendors started driving the discussion about what the network of the future would look like. They determined that the ultimate solution would be a cloud-based network of radios and antennas that work together to deliver on-demand capacity just about everywhere and as close to the end-user device as possible. With a long history of building fiber optic networks in the dense New York metro environment, we knew that legacy fiber optic infrastructure and colocation facilities that were built to solve a very different architecture and density problem for enterprise businesses and cable TV subscribers would not, and could not, work.
To solve for the mobile network densification challenge, and the evolution toward Cloud RAN, ZenFi began building a new type of network that consists of fundamental building blocks, including neighborhood-based, high-capacity, and high-accessibility fronthaul networks, regional colocation facilities and resilient backhaul networks. Our “Network of Neighborhood Networks” architecture, which initially focused on New York City, has expanded to New Jersey via the merger with Cross River Fiber. Today, our 700 route miles of fiber optic network connect more than 50 colocation and data center facilities, 150 buildings and 2,000 outdoor wireless locations with over 5,600 under contract.
TN-CK: Thank you for your time, Ray. We look forward to seeing you at the NEDAS Boston Symposium on July 18, 2018!
The upcoming #NEDASBoston 2018 Symposium will tackle groundbreaking wireless and wireline technology trends and the ways in which they will be implemented, as well as explore exciting future prospects for the telecom industry. To register for the NEDAS 2018 Boston Symposium and take advantage of the opportunity to meet with the panelists, click here. To learn more about the association, visit www.nedas.com.
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