The big problem with a fiber lease: limited flexibility

by Dennis Pierce

As school leaders consider how to design next-generation networks that can meet their needs, a number of school systems have entered lease agreements with providers of private lit fiber networks.

These agreements typically last from 10 to 20 years—an eternity compared to the pace of innovation. Consider that:

Twenty years ago, most schools were using dial-up service to access the internet and 56K modems were all the rage. Today, many schools have 1 gigabit per second internet connectivity. Some schools have 10 Gbps access.

Ten years ago, smartphones didn’t exist. Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone at the Macworld convention in January 2007, and it was released in June of that year. Could anyone have imagined a decade ago how much power we would now hold in the palm of our hand?

“The speed at which technology is evolving is difficult to get your head around,” said Richard Marvin, AT&T lead marketing manager for education. Signing a private lit fiber lease “could easily mean making a long-term commitment on technology that is suitable today, but might quickly become out of date.”

In just the past few years, for instance, new technologies such as software-defined networking and network function virtualization have emerged, making Ethernet networks more dynamic making Ethernet networks more dynamic and responsive to school districts’ needs. These technologies allow carriers such as AT&T to offer “network on demand” capabilities, enabling schools to scale bandwidth up or down as their circumstances change, and pay only for what they need.

Unlike a fiber lease agreement, a contract with a carrier typically involves a three- to five-year commitment. “That shorter-term contract gives you a whole lot more flexibility to be able to move to the latest technology, rather than being locked into a technology for 10 to 20 years,” Marvin said.

To learn about how private lit fiber networks compare with switched or dedicated Ethernet services, download this free white paper from AT&T.