This article originally appeared in the March issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine.
Most countries in the world have figured out that an open, neutral dark fiber network is the essential basis of fairness for all network operators, and therefore the economic growth of the country itself. Many countries have only recently discovered this key to increasing their gross domestic product, but Germany is one country that has had the benefit of an independent dark fiber provider for more than 15 years. That provider is GasLINE.
From their website:
“GasLINE GmbH & Co. KG was established in 1996 by 15 German gas transmission and regional distribution companies. It has a Germany-wide integrated fibre-optic cable network, offering dark fibre capacity to national and international telecommunication companies.“The cables which, for safety reasons, are usually installed in the rights of way of gas pipelines, connect the telecommunication hubs of all major cities. The GasLINE network presently comprises more than 9,500 km of fibre-optic cable. It is gradually expanded in line with customer needs and specifications. In more than 100 cities, the GasLINE cable network connects to telehouses and so-called points of presence.
“GasLINE's flexibility and customer dedication make it the ideal service provider for telecommunication companies. More than 100 national and international carriers are satisfied GasLINE customers.”
Aside from the fact that they spell fiber as fibre, everything else is fairly standard yet quite exceptional. GasLINE uses the natural gas utility rights of way to get around Germany, which is a key to their success. They sell dark fiber within Germany to more than 100 customers from Germany and abroad, and they invest in the expansion of their dark fiber network in more than 100 cities as demand dictates. What is important to note is that just because they already have fiber in the ground does not constitute a glut of fiber everywhere, as evidenced by the new builds that they themselves do.
Most, if not all, carriers that have and will enter Germany take GasLINE for granted. It is the only carrier-neutral dark fiber system of its kind in Germany, so imagine what the country would be like if it did not exist. Would all of those 100-plus carriers get around so easily and cost effectively? Just look at any one of the dozens of countries around the world that do not have such a neutral system, but desire one and notice the differences, specifically in GDP. The benefits are easy to see.
In addition to offering dark fiber, GasLINE also provides associated carrier-neutral co-location in facilities that they own all along the route. This is a subtle and seemingly unnoticed component of their business, but is another one of the keys to their success. If not for the carrier-neutral GasLINE real estate, where would the 100-plus carriers place their networking equipment? The cost to any one network operator that uses the GasLINE dark fiber and co-location facilities to try and build all that GasLINE has in place is so high that it makes it impossible to consider.
In addition to the stated physical layer products that the company offers the most obvious and additional key to their success is that their dark fiber is built directly into the main telehouses (carrier hotels and, or data centers) in the country. This is incredibly important because all networks generally need to connect to others at some point, and any fiber route that lacks access to common network interconnection points has a significantly decreased value as a result.
Similarly, access to the fiber at mid-points along the route provides additional benefit not only to those in the mid-points, but also those on the endpoints in the telehouses. Although this may seem completely logical, it is astonishing how many networks are not built this way and therefore how many countries lack such beneficial network access.
GasLINE was originally built to serve the purpose of managing the 15 separate natural gas companies and their transmission and distribution. The fiber was placed in duct along the pipelines and then used to monitor and control the gas flow. The additional fiber was made available to carriers for the purposes of them lighting their own networks throughout Germany. The master plan was not necessarily for a nationwide, carrier-neutral dark fiber network, but the end result was and is an amazing and essential business and resource for the entire country.
Edited by Jennifer Russell