ZenFi Networks helps customers in New York City meet their Internet infrastructure needs.
By Chris Petersen
The skyline of New York City is what most people envision when they think about the city, but the skyscrapers are only the tip of the iceberg. What really keeps New York City and other metropolises running is the infrastructure underground, and in recent years the traditional utilities of electricity, gas and water have been joined by a new utility: information. The importance of 24/7 access to the Internet has necessitated the construction of a new form of infrastructure, and ZenFi Networks is one of the few companies working in this new utility that can provide a complete turnkey service.
Although the company as it now exists started in 2014, ZenFi’s leadership team has been working together for more than 20 years. Vice President of Sales and Marketing Walter Cannon says the company was established with the vision of connecting traditional fiber-based networks with wireless distributed antenna systems (DAS) to enable wireless Internet connectivity inside properties. Today, ZenFi serves three distinct market segments: mobile carriers including AT&T and Verizon, neutral host companies that build networks for carriers and traditional telecomm service providers including Time Warner.
ZenFi builds carrier-neutral networks that enable connectivity for customers throughout New York City. Cannon says the company’s combination of networks allows for customers to have efficient and reliable wireless connectivity in their properties. The Internet is now the fourth utility, Cannon says, and customers in New York City need an infrastructure that can support their ever-changing needs for that utility. With its integrated services and technical expertise, ZenFi has positioned itself as a premier provider of that infrastructure for now and well into the future.
The most important advantage ZenFi has over the rest of the marketplace is the strength of its networks, Cannon explains. He says ZenFi was formed to address the needs of today’s modern metropolitan areas, and the Internet infrastructure that existed in the past was ill-equipped to handle the combination of wired and wireless devices that need an Internet connection. Previously, there were networks built for enterprise connectivity that were relatively closed off and those built for cellular connections that had little connectivity between them.
“What we did was we designed and are building a totally meshed network with our Access and Express Networks,” Cannon says.
The backbone of ZenFi’s network is its Express Network, which serves as an interconnection point between the city’s carrier hotels, carrier-neutral data centers, enterprise locations and ZenFi’s Access Network. The company says the Express Network is capable of serving even the most bandwidth-intensive requirements, and its redundant paths means it provides the highest level of availability and efficacy possible.
The Express Network feeds into ZenFi’s Access Network, which has been built with today’s wireless needs in mind. The Access Network “leverages a neighborhood network and colocation infrastructure model to support widely distributed wireless equipment interconnection and colocation,” according to the company.
Cannon says this system allows ZenFi to build high-density networks that can provide virtually any type of connection need its customers may have, and the company expects that network to continue spreading throughout New York City. “We’re building that network, we’re in the process of building that network that’s over 400 miles of fiber throughout the boroughs of New York City,” he says.
Although ZenFi’s network alone sets it apart in the marketplace, it’s far from the only advantage the company has over its competitors. Cannon notes that many of ZenFi’s competitors don’t have the integrated services it does, which means ZenFi can offer customers more peace of mind. “What’s unique to us is we have a turnkey offering all under one umbrella,” Cannon says.
Cannon notes that ZenFi’s sister companies include a construction firm with more than 70 years of experience building in the city and a project engineering and design group. This enables the company to provide complete turnkey services to any customer, and helps address one of the biggest challenges to any network provider in New York City. “The biggest challenges today is how to make this network more cost-effective and to help our customers and the actual end-users understand the realities of building and servicing networks,” Cannon says. “To build in New York City is not cheap.”
Creating a more cost-effective network for ZenFi not only includes offering an integrated turnkey service for its customers, but also building a network that can support more diverse revenue streams than networks of the past. “Before, you could build a network, have two customers on it, and it would pay for itself,” Cannon says. “Those days are gone.”
Nevertheless, ZenFi is excited about the road ahead, according to Cannon. “I think we have a lot of opportunity,” he says. “We looked at the forecasts of everybody who’s out there, and there’s more growth, so there’s a lot of opportunities for us.”
Even though “cord-cutting” is a trend across the country, Cannon points out that it’s not an option for the infrastructure that supports that trend. “That type of communication has to be supported by wires,” he says.
No matter how the needs of its customers change, Cannon adds, ZenFi is committed to helping them meet those needs. “Our outlook is extremely high to build a company that becomes the fourth utility, or services that utility,” he says.