Infrastructure News

News and announcements from all sectors in digital infrastructure

Mr. Timmons at Interprivate podium--with Nasdaq logo on podium--holding device

InfraTech SPAC Raises $250M in IPO, Plans Digital Infrastructure Deals

Source: Datacenter Frontier

There’s a new public company shopping for a $1 billion acquisition of a digital infrastructure company. InterPrivate IV InfraTech Partners Inc. raised $250 million in its IPO Friday on the NASDAQ market, and will operate as a special purpose acquisition corporation (SPAC), with a large blank check to go shopping.

The InfraTech SPAC’s leadership is packed with veteran executives from the data center, telecom tower and hardware sectors. The CEO of the new company is Kevin Timmons, who led the buildout of hundreds of megawatts of data center capacity for Microsoft and CyrusOne. Former CyrusOne CEO Gary Wojtaszek and data center design pioneer Peter Gross are co-founders and board members for InfraTech, whose leadership also includes co-founders of American Tower Corp. and Barracuda Networks.

In the company’s debut at the NASDAQ, Timmons said the InfraTech fund intends “to change the world by turbocharging the growth of critical technology through a business combination in the ever-expanding digital infrastructure space.”

InterPrivate is an active player in the use of SPACs, investment vehicles that raise capital from investors for the purpose of acquiring a private company. InterPrivate IV InfraTech Partners Inc. is one of four SPACs sponsored by InterPrivate to capitalize on investment trends. It will trade on the NASDAQ under the symbol IPVIU, and its units opened trading Friday at about $10 a share.

The InfraTech SPAC is the latest example of the huge investment flowing into the data center sector, with global financial players raising billions of dollars in capital to fuel the data economy.  InterPrivate assembled a team of experienced executives to capitalize on this trend.

“We believe that several secular trends exist that will continue to drive a relentless demand for increasing growth of the world’s digital infrastructures,” InterPrivate said in an SEC filing. “We intend to seek digital infrastructure companies that are on what we believe to be a promising growth path, driven by a sustainable competitive advantage, with significant opportunities for acceleration by a partnership with us.”

The InfraTech fund said it will “focus on target companies with an enterprise value of $1 billion or more” in the technology, media and telecom infrastructure sector. But the initial acquisition could be just a first step towards larger M&A ambitions.

“We intend to seek companies that can serve as a platform for future synergistic acquisitions,” InterPrivate says in its SEC filing. “We will actively seek opportunities to combine businesses that can expedite each other’s growth, either through complimentary technology offerings or through geographic scale, as well as businesses that offer the potential to expand services to underserved markets, geographies, and/or demographics.”

More SPACs Means More M&A

SPACs can provide a quick route to the public securities markets for privately-held companies in the digital infrastructure sector. This has been the case in two data center M&A deals:

Successful Cloud Service Providers and Managed Service Providers need to be out in front of everything in their managed data center spaces – ensuring uptime, bandwidth, and operational/cost efficiency today, with the flexibility and scalability to adapt and expand on the fly. Physical layer and  infrastructure is the foundation on which those services are built. Get the new data center ebook from Siemon that explores pro tips and best practices for physical layer strategies for cloud and managed service providers, from zone cabling in the colocation data center to high speed interconnects in the data center

The formation of multiple SPACs appears likely to boost the number of publicly-held companies focused on digital infrastructure. Increased data center M&A was one of the trends DCF highlighted in our annual forecast, Eight Trends That Will Shape the Data Center Industry in 2021.

InterPrivate believes it has lined up a team with the experience and connections will make the InfraTech fund an attractive partner. “We believe that our team’s extensive experience in designing, building, operating, and automating some of the world’s largest digital infrastructures will make us the partner of choice for companies looking to capitalize on this opportunity,” the company said.

Timmons has designed, built, and operated some of the world’s largest technology infrastructures. He led Microsoft’s global data center team as General Manager of Data Center Services, refining the company’s data center network, introducing a lightweight modular data center design. At CyrusOne, he led a “massively modular” design that helped the company win hyperscale deals. Timmons was also employee number four for GeoCities in 1996, serving as Director of Operations for the early web site platform.

BlueBird logo

Bluebird Network expands fiber access in Midwest to support 5G

Source: RCR Wireless News

Bluebird will deploy fiber to over 500 cell towers

Regional operator Bluebird Network plans to extend fiber access to more than 500 towers in order to support the expansion of 5G networks in a number of markets in Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa and Kansas.

“The 5G movement is underway, and Bluebird plans to be a major player in enabling its rollout and subsequent adoption. Our commitment to deploy fiber to over 500 towers will further strengthen Midwest businesses and residents with enhanced network access to leverage the latest technology driving digital transformation,” said the company’s President and CEO Michael Morey in a press release. “We understand these connections are no longer a luxury, they are a necessity for businesses. Many applications require low latency to ensure optimal performance, requiring a concerted effort to move access closer to end-users. Bluebird is stepping up its network capabilities to ensure the communities we serve have the connectivity needed to embrace the digital economy.”

Headquartered in Columbia, MO, Bluebird Network has more than 9,800 fiber route miles in more than 60,000 on-net and near-net buildings and 151 points of presences in the Midwest. Last year, the company completed a 61-mile expansion in Springfield, MO in January, followed by a February fiber expansion in Jefferson City, MO. The following month, Bluebird completed its acquisition of the Illinois Network Alliance (INA).

The carrier, at the end of 2020, also acquired the ColoHub Data Center from Geneseo Communications, located in Bettendorf, Iowa.

“In 2020, we expanded and densified our fiber network infrastructure across several territories throughout the Midwest,” Morey said of the data center acquisition. “Expanding our data center offerings, fortified now with a second facility, is part of our mission to empower businesses and offer a total communications solution.”

boingo logo with airport in the background

Digital Colony Swallows Boingo Wireless for $854 million

Source: Capacity Media

Mobile infrastructure and wifi company Boingo Wireless is to become part of Digital Colony’s empire, which already includes FreshWave, Highline do Brasil and 50% of Zayo.

The private investor said yesterday that it will pay US$854 million for the company, and added that it will “continue investing in Boingo’s diverse network”.

Boingo CEO Mike Finley (pictured) said the deal “will deliver significant and immediate value to Boingo’s stockholders and concludes a robust strategic review process undertaken by Boingo over the past year”.

He added: “We believe Digital Colony’s expertise owning and operating digital infrastructure businesses, combined with its relationships, resources and access to long-term, private capital markets, will provide greater flexibility for Boingo to continue advancing its business strategy.”

The two sides said they expect the transaction to be completed quickly, in the second quarter of 2021.

The announcement came as Boingo, which is Nasdaq-listed, said revenue had declined 10% to $237.4 million in 2020 compared with the previous year, but adjusted Ebitda rose 1% to $83.5 million.

Boingo Wireless is in a similar market to Digital Colony’s London-based FreshWave, a unified brand adopted in January 2020 for three acquisitions, StrattoOpencell, iWireless Solutions and Spyder Facilities, bought between August 2018 and June 2019.

FreshWave, like Boingo, builds and operates wireless infrastructure, using technologies and infrastructure solutions including indoor and outdoor distributed antenna systems (DAS), small cell networks and macro cell towers.

Boingo reported yesterday, with its annual results, that it has completed a restructure into separate business areas.

Carrier services reported revenue down 7.0% to $107.7 million, with profit margin down from 44.4% in 2019 to 37.0%.

Military revenue of $76.8 million was up 2.5% compared to 2019, with a gross profit margin of 76.2%.

Boingo’s private networks and emerging technologies unit recorded revenue of $2.2 million, an increase of 10.4% on the previous year. Its multifamily unit revenue was $21.6 million, a decrease of 13.8%. Legacy revenue was $29.1 million, a decrease of 36.7%.

Finley reported: “The headwinds resulting from Covid-19 accelerated the anticipated decline in our legacy retail and advertising products as well as delayed progress on several projects into 2021.”

But he noted new business. The company signed a tier 1 carrier to a branch of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Long Island Rail Road, and “we signed a Wifi offloading contract with a Tier 1 carrier to begin to utilize Boingo’s Wifi footprint.”

He said that, following the Digital Colony acquisition, “our team at Boingo will continue to execute our strategy with access to more capital and resources to expand our network and robust suite of products and services. Following a year-long formal strategic process through a once-in-a-century pandemic, we could not be more thrilled with the outcome which we believe maximises value for our stockholders.”

Digital Colony, led by Marc Ganzi, and Swedish investor EQT infrastructure completed their $14.3 billion deal to buy Zayo in March 2020.

cell towers against background of purple sky

Vantage Towers aims to be ‘5G superhost’

Source: TelecomTV

Vantage Towers, Vodafone’s neutral host spin-off with near-term IPO plans, is positioning itself as a “5G superhost” that can support the specific connectivity needs of enterprise users as well as wireless service providers.

“We remain focused on our goal of becoming a 5G superhost in Europe, offering bespoke solutions which enable 5G connectivity using our towers across various verticals, including manufacturing, healthcare, e-gaming and agriculture,” noted the company in a financial update issued early on Monday.

That towers portfolio now comprises has 82,000 macro sites in 10 markets across Europe with more to be added: 19,400 of the current macro sites are in Germany and are fully-owned by Vantage, while 22,100 in Italy are co-owned through its 33.2% stake in INWIT (Infrastrutture Wireless Italiane) and 14,200 are in the UK courtesy of its 50% stake in Cornerstone, which transferred to Vantage from Vodafone UK in January.

Its other markets are Greece, Portugal, Romania, Czech Republic, Hungary, Spain (where it has struck a new five-year deal with industry body AOTEC, which represents more than 150 local and regional operators) and Ireland, where it has landed 10-year deals with Eir and Three Ireland for 250 and 200 future site tenancies respectively.

It’s also addressing the important challenge of in-building 5G connectivity, which is particularly important to enterprise users that want seamless service quality and coverage: Vantage noted it has deployed its “first 5G Distributed Antenna System (DAS) solution for a building complex in the Czech Republic where we will act as a neutral host to deliver efficient connectivity solutions.”

Vantage also sees significant new business opportunities from the growing IoT sector and has struck a 10-year deal in Germany to provide Sigfox with more than 350 new sites in the coming financial year, increasing to more than 500 by the end of the following fiscal year. Sigfox Germany currently has 4,800 sites for its “0G network.”

The company, which is due to list its shares on the public markets via an IPO before the end of March, reported revenues of €723 million for the nine months to 31 December and earnings before various costs but after lease payments of €394 million.

Now comes a critical couple of years for Vantage Towers, which, like the other neutral host companies, knows that scale and breadth are important for attracting large long-term deals. It has previously stated its intention to be the European market leader and to grow its portfolio through new builds and through acquisitions, and now says it has a warchest of €1 billion for such purposes.

Its main rival in Europe is Cellnex, which has splashed out billions in the past couple of years to attain a portfolio of 120,000 sites (including future builds): Earlier this month it announced a €5.2 billion deal to buy 10,500 sites in France, a market where Vantage currently doesn’t have a presence but where Orange is still to decide on its towers strategy. (See Cellnex splashes €5.2 billion on Altice’s French towers.)

The neutral host market looks set to play a crucial role in the development of the 5G and associated distributed telco cloud (edge) sector: Companies such as Vantage Towers, Cellnex and others, including American Tower, will all be vying to be the superhost that Vantage aspires to be, with geographic spread, pricing, customer relationship management and technical roadmap all factors that will provide opportunities for differentiation.

– Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

image of Room with servers behind glass doors, image of FedEx airlines, image of VxRail computer

Dell Technologies, FedEx, Switch Partner for Edge Computing & Real Estate

Source: ZDNet

Edge computing build-outs will have a lot to do with real estate assets. Enter a edge computing partnership between Dell (infrastructure), FedEx (real estate footprint) and Switch (data centers).

Dell Technologies, FedEx and data center company Switch said they will team up to create a network of multi-cloud edge computing sites.

The move is one of the first concrete efforts highlighting how edge computing sites will be housed in existing real estate assets. I noted the possibilities in January and it’s no surprise Dell Technologies is involved given CTO John Roese highlighted the connection between edge compute and real estate.

Edge computing, as well as 5G, will acquire a more distributed network with various points of presence. These points are likely to be housed in existing real estate. When Amazon Web Services and Verizon outlined plans to partner on 5G, cloud, and edge computing use cases, it became one more data point in how the technology is also about real estate. 

DellFedEx and Switch said they will develop “exascale multi-cloud edge infrastructure services.” The partnership, which will be focused on artificial intelligence, machine learning and 5G, combines the strength of each player. In short:

  • Switch will contribute its edge data centers;
  • Dell Technologies will provide its cloud infrastructure;
  • FedEx will provide hubs for edge computing throughout its network of sites.

The first edge computing hub will be build in Memphis, TN and expand from there.

As for the architecture, Switch will provide the Switch MOD 15, a Class 4 EDGE data center, and connect it to its four prime data center locations. Dell Technologies servers, hyperconverged infrastructure, storage and networking gear will be used along with managed services. FedEx will provide real estate and cover a portion of construction and infrastructure costs.

FedEx plans to be the first consumer of the edge computing services and use them for low latency compute for its locations and supply chain.

Roese said that the trio is looking to create a “local cloud-based environment” and FedEx CIO Rob Carter said the partnership enables it to innovate “at the intersection of physical and digital worlds.”

Should the Dell-FedEx-Switch partnership work out, you can expect similar alliances as companies that specialize in data centers, 5G and cloud partner with enterprises with multiple real estate locations such as mall operators and logistics firms.  

large yellow cables plugging into servers

Beyond Colo: Equinix Repositions as Digital Infrastructure Company

Source: Data Center Frontier

Equinix is not just about colocation anymore. The company is reinforcing that reality with new branding that positions Equinix as “the world’s digital infrastructure company.”

“It expands our lens and get beyond just colocation and interconnection,” said Jon Lin, the President, Americas for Equinix. “It’s about any of the ways customers can connect to one another, and how companies use digital infrastructure.”

In seeking to move beyond traditional product-based understandings of data center services, Equinix is also looking to forge an identity that encompasses a broader range of offerings, which now includes hyperscale data centers and software-defined connectivity. The company is also pushing into services with its acquisition of Packet and its bare metal cloud services.

Equinix is not alone in this effort, as other leading players are also diversifying and defining platforms that can deliver customer solutions across product categories and geographies. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has driven home the critical nature of data centers, which function as a lifeline for the global economy being tied together by digital networks.

Digital Leadership as a Customer Magnet

So what’s new in the Equinix messaging? The company’s shift will feature “digital leadership,” both for Equinix and its customers.

“Platform Equinix is where digital leaders bring together all the right places, partners and possibilities they need to succeed,” Equinix says in its new positioning language, which was unveiled to analysts yesterday.

This builds on the Equinix’ belief that companies that embrace a digital transformation of their IT operations will have a competitive advantage, and interconnection will play a central role in that process. This message is particularly timely during the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced many enterprises to lean heavily on digital networks to support a sudden shift to a socially distanced, work-from-home economy.

The repositioning by Equinix is part of a broader evolution for a mature industry asserting its essential place in the world, and the best way to talk about it.

“All of our conversations with customers have reinforced how important it is” to have an agile infrastructure, Lin said. “A lot of them are saying, ‘thank God we did this, or our remote workforce wouldn’t work.’ We’ve been working really hard to accelerate that shift, and there’s a huge segment of enterprises that can benefit from it.”

At the heart of that pitch is the company’s shift from physical network connections to software-defined networking (SDN), offering network capacity that can be configured through a web portal, dramatically simplifying the way data center customers manage their connectivity.

“We see the future as the Equinix Fabric, because it will become the default way people connect with one another in a software-defined, instantaneous fashion,” said Lin. “We expect our customers to find new novel ways to use the fabric.” As an example, Lin said customers are now using the Equinix Cloud Exchange (ECX) Fabric to connect with their supply chain, improving security by reducing the need to provide remote access to third parties.

The Language of Data Center Marketing

Why pay attention to a shift in marketing language? As the largest and most successful colocation provider, Equinix has an outsized voice in conversations about data center services. It was the first data center company to market itself as a platform, which is now a broadly-held aspiration in the industry.

As a colocation specialist, the company historically offered space in cages and cabinets where customers could deploy their own IT equipment. As Equinix moves beyond “power, pipes and ping,” it influences the competitive landscape for other colo providers, further blurring the lines between traditional business models.

To be sure, there are plenty of folks who still pay close attention to the differences between retail colocation, wholesale data centers, and managed services. Heading that list are data center investors, who closely track the different rates of return for different business models, and how they will impact exit strategies and valuation. Public companies like Equinix – which is now a real estate investment trust (REIT) – have more leeway to emphasize a broad portfolio of services with varying rates of return.

The new Equinix marketing reflects an ongoing attempt to reframe how folks talk about data centers. Gartner has advocated retiring the term “data centers,” instead calling these facilities “centers of data” or “centers of data exchange.”

Rest assured, we won’t be changing the name of our publication to “Centers of Data Frontier.” But we’ve been using the term “digital infrastructure” a lot more due to the convergence of data centers with wireless infrastructure, fiber and telecom towers. Several industry conferences have made a similar transition.

“There’s a recognition that we’re trying to expand the conversation beyond colocation and interconnection,” said Lin. “We are the world’s digital infrastructure company. It’s aspirational.”

Text reading: "Strategic Alliance, sology solutions & smart city media, partner to bridge the digital divide", next to graphic with various disjointed words

Sology Solutions and Smart City Media Announce Strategic Alliance

Source: Tyler Morning Telegraph

RICHARDSON, Texas, Sept. 2, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Sology Solutions today announced a strategic partnership with Smart City Media, LLC, which will further its efforts to bridge the digital divide across the United States. The companies share a belief in addressing the needs of underserved communities, while building out a citywide network and generating significant revenue for municipalities to fund critical needs.

This partnership reflects Sology’s ecosystem-driven business model and its commitment to identify partners with a like-minded vision to help the underserved. As indicated in recent new alliances with Hollywall Development Company (HWDC) and Clifton, Weiss & Associates (CWA), Sology recognizes it requires a consortium of players who take a holistic and inclusive approach in order to put the necessary infrastructure into place for these areas.

Smart City Media shares in Sology’s vision of serving communities and people who are currently underserved. They are an outstanding partner and together we look forward to meeting the critical needs of cities across the country,” said Tom Touchet, CEO of Smart City Media.

As a systems integrator, Sology works with Smart City Media to deploy kiosks and an associated digital infrastructure known as CityPost®, an interactive broadcast that mixes curated local posters and city apps for enhanced street-level communications. The company’s services include real-time, multimodal transit info, IoT safety services, and small business inclusion. The network of smart community bulletin boards is designed, installed, operated, and managed by a team dedicated to helping grow smart city services. The CityPost platform democratizes outdoor media and powers smart city connectivity and services.

“These kiosks are not only an end device for use in tourist and high-traffic areas. With the build-out of the fiber network to manage the displays, it becomes a foundation for smart cities to put into place the necessary infrastructure to close this critical digital gap,” said Ed Christmas, Sology’s founder and managing principal. “The pandemic has heightened the need for home WiFi for schoolchildren and remote workers alike.”

While other companies may focus on deployment into high-traffic areas that already have WiFi, Sology and Smart City Media are deliberate to deploy kiosks into areas without internet access. They pledge to collaborate with cities to identify programs and content that will leverage technology to help connect vulnerable communities to opportunities and resources they need to be part of the successful growth of the city.

Sology and Smart City Media are dedicated to using technology to drive inclusive economic growth that improves the quality of life for all socio-economic communities. Digital access points and integration into existing infrastructure allow for rapid expansion of public Wi-Fi, digital citizen engagement at the kiosks, and reduction of the digital divide.

About Sology Solutions
Sology Solutions is an integrated technology solutions provider, digitizing spaces to make them intelligent and connected. Focusing on smart communities and transportation, Sology works with its technology partners to deliver networked integration that is scalable and future ready. Applications include smart streetlight control, digital kiosks, gunshot detection, video analytics, and intelligent traffic and notification systems. Demonstrating leadership in the demand for smarter and safer communities, Sology improves the security, operational efficiency, and situational awareness of communities by leveraging the network to connect devices, making them “smart” and even predictive. Sology is a Cisco Premier Certified Partner and a certified Minority Business Enterprise.

About Smart City Media

Smart City Media is one of the fastest-growing companies in the Internet of Things (IoT) market and aims to connect the unconnected by infusing media, technology and interactivity into places and spaces it has never been before. Smart City Media blends virtual and physical worlds together with great thought, cause, and care.

Server room

Edge Pioneer EdgeConneX Acquired by EQT Infrastructure

Source: DataCenter Frontier


Data center developer EdgeConneX has agreed to be acquired by EQT Infrastructure, which is buying the company from Providence Equity Partners. The new owners hope to accelerate the growth of EdgeConneX, which has been a leading player in both edge computing and hyperscale data center development.

EQT is an infrastructure fund that has been an active investor in digital assets, most notably teaming with Digital Colony to acquire the Zayo Group and its telecom and data center networks. The deal boosts the growing presence of infrastructure investors as major players in digital infrastructure, bringing significant capital into the data center industry. Terms were not disclosed for the transaction, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2020.

The EdgeConneX management team will stay in place, and the new owners say they “will support the continued development of EdgeConneX and actively assist the company in its pursuit of new opportunities to grow in existing and new markets globally.”

“EQT brings significant financial resources and digital infrastructure industry experience which EdgeConneX will use to accelerate growth and invest in new data centers around the world,” said Randy Brouckman, CEO of EdgeConneX. “I look forward to continuing to lead EdgeConneX, and we are very pleased to have EQT as our new owner and partner in this exciting growth phase.”

The EdgeConneX deal reflects the extraordinary demand for capital to fuel the growth of the data economy, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Large global investors like EQT – which is based in Sweden and has offices in 16 countries – see an opportunity in the accelerating shift to online services.

“EdgeConneX is uniquely positioned to benefit from the secular tailwinds driving increased data center usage,” said EQT. “As the need for data grows ever larger … there will continue to be substantial opportunities for EdgeConneX to continue to develop critical infrastructure to support its customers’ needs.”

Expertise Spanning All Levels of Digital Infrastructure

EdgeConneX has been distinctive for its ability to play at all levels of digital infrastructure, with projects ranging from cell towers and regional data centers right up to 100-megawatt facility in Amsterdam. All told, it has deployed more than 40 data centers.

The company was an early player in edge computing, building data centers at key network “pain points,” designed to handle high-density racks and operate without on-site staff. That vision has positioned EdgeConneX as an experienced hand in a young ecosystem, where the customers range from startups to tech giants.

Bloomberg report last fall named EQT as a suitor for EdgeConneX, which has often been the focus of M&A speculation.

“EQT has followed EdgeConneX’s journey from its early years to its growth into a top data center industry player,” said Jan Vesely, Partner at EQT Partners. “We are deeply impressed by EdgeConneX’s management team and the success they have had in creating a key contributor to the global cloud infrastructure. This partnership represents an exciting opportunity for EQT in a sector and geographies where we have significant experience. EQT looks forward to working with the team in continuing to grow the business and identify new expansion opportunities.”

EdgeConneX sees this as the third wave of edge deployments. The first wave involved the growth of “over the top” (OTT) streaming video from Netflix and other new content services. The second wave was the mainstreaming of cloud services. The third wave is driven by next-generation technologies including AI, 5G, the IoT, virtual and augmented reality and autonomous vehicles.

The company’s data centers are designed as “lights out” unmanned facilities, using sophisticated monitoring and remote hands for maintenance. EdgeConneX use its EdgeOS data center operating system to monitor and manage its facilities, with more than 1.5 million sensors used in the company’s data centers, monitored every 15 milliseconds.

Chris Ragona, Managing Director at Providence Equity, said it expected continued growth for EdgeConneX under its new ownership, “We fully expect EdgeConneX will continue its momentum and success as the company enters this next chapter. On behalf of our entire investor group, we wish them well,” said Ragona.

vehicle to infrastructure, vehicle to pedestrian concept, graphic of red car being driven autonomously, wi-fi signal above car, pedestrians, and street light

Starting with Michigan, Sidewalk Infrastructure is Looking to Build Roads Specifically for Autonomous Cars

Source: TechCrunch

Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, which spun out of Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs to fund and develop the next generation of infrastructure, has taken the covers off its first big project — the launch of a subsidiary called Cavnue to develop roadways for connected and autonomous vehicles.

Starting in Michigan, Cavnue  will be working with partners including Ford, GM, Argo AI, Arrival, BMW, Honda, Toyota, TuSimple and Waymo  on standards to develop the physical and digital infrastructure needed to move connected and autonomous cars out of pilot projects and onto America’s highways, freeways, interstates and city streets.

The starting point for Cavnue is a 40-mile corridor between downtown Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan that will be dedicated to autonomous vehicles. Ultimately, Cavnue envisions numerous corridors designed for autonomous shuttles and buses, as well as trucks and personal vehicles.

Cavnue will be the master developer of the 40-mile roadway, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday in a joint announcement with Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners .

“The action we’re taking today is good for our families, our businesses, and our economy as a whole. Here in Michigan, the state that put the world on wheels, we are taking the initial steps to build the infrastructure to help us test and deploy the cars of the future,” Whitmer said in a statement. “As we rebuild our roads to ensure every Michigander can drive to work and drop their kids at school safely, we will also continue working to build smart infrastructure to help prepare us for the roads of tomorrow.”

The Detroit-to-Ann Arbor corridor will include communities along Michigan Avenue and Interstate 94 in Wayne County and Washtenaw County, like the University of Michigan, the Detroit Metropolitan Airport and Michigan Central Station. The corridor will also include up to 12 “Opportunity Zones” where communities and small businesses will be able to connect to the industrial, technological and academic hubs of the region, according to the company’s statement.

For the first phase of the project, Cavnue will work with a slew of Michigan state agencies, including the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification and the Michigan Department of Transportation, on a feasibility and design study that is expected to last about two years.

Initial work during the project’s first phase will look at the commercial and technological viability of the roadway’s design. Connected buses and shared mobility vehicles like vans and shuttles will be the first users of the roadway before it is eventually expanded to other types of connected autonomous vehicles, including freight and personal vehicles, according to a statement from Cavnue.

Key partners

In 2018, Bill Ford envisioned a connected corridor similar to the one that Cavnue is proposing to build — envisioning the company’s Corktown innovation hub as an east end node in a circuit that would run along the Ann Arbor to Detroit corridor. Now Ford is a key partner in Cavnue’s project.

However, there are numerous others that Cavnue is also leaning on, including the University of Michigan with its CAV research center and Mcity Test Facility, Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) and facilities along the proposed corridor, as well as the testing facility American Center for Mobility.

“My vision for Michigan Central is to create an open mobility innovation district that solves tomorrow’s transportation challenges and improves mobility access for everyone,” said Ford, the executive chairman of his eponymous car company, in a statement. “Building out a connected corridor cements Michigan as a leader in creating a more connected, autonomous and electrified future. We thank the state for recognizing the community and economic benefits and the importance of creating smart infrastructure across southeast Michigan.”   

Human error behind the wheel of cars is a leading cause of death around the country; in Michigan, 10,000 people have died in fatal automobile crashes over the last decade. Companies like Cavnue’s partners including Ford, GM, Argo AI, Arrival, BMW, Honda, Toyota, TuSimple and Waymo argue that connected and autonomous vehicles can reduce those fatalities while also cutting the hours commuters spend in traffic.

The sweeping nature of Cavnue’s mission is also an admission of sorts that the commercial deployment of autonomous vehicles is further away than this nascent industry initially thought. Born of an innovation event at Google’s headquarters, the seed for Cavnue comes from the realization that level five autonomy (the fully autonomous vehicles that require no human intervention) are still a concept for futurists, rather than a near-term opportunity.

To justify the billions of dollars of investment required to continue research and development around autonomy, companies need near-term applications. And those applications will require physical infrastructure to work.

The Michigan startup scene is growing, and venture capitalists see several key areas of opportunities. Read more on Extra Crunch here.

For municipalities worried about congestion and the abandonment of light rail systems and other mass transit solutions in the age of COVID-19, these dedicated lanes may provide new sources of revenue for autonomous public transit and a way for companies to test their autonomous systems safely in the context of a much larger pilot project.

One thing that some of the planners envisioned was the use of autonomous shuttles as a replacement for light rail and the potential for a far more dynamic solution. Vehicles could be scaled up and down according to demand, and shared routes could speed efficiency and reduce the time it takes to get to a destination, these planners said.

Financing could come from the manufacturers of autonomous systems who would get new testing grounds for their technology and eventually individuals who owned cars with advanced driving systems could pay for access to the lanes using the dead space between public transit vehicles.

Ostensibly, someone could pay $10 to access the road and then put their vehicle into autonomous mode. Public transit and private delivery fleets would be prioritized, and a vehicle would have to demonstrate it has autonomous capabilities to even access the roadways.

The new service would depend on a new type of public-private partnership based on outcomes that could be measured by the number of public fare rates the new lanes generate. Companies like Cavnue would source the vehicles and build the infrastructure. It would provide the capital expenditures for the roadway and retain the rights to sell access to the autonomous-enabled cars when use permits.

If it works in Michigan, some of the state’s congressional leadership intends to push for the expansion of the plan across the country.

“Michigan is at the forefront of this new frontier in mobility. Our state is home to a dense nexus of automakers, suppliers, engineers, universities and testing facilities that are pioneering advances in transportation that will transform how we get around,” said Michigan Senator Gary Peters. “This announcement is a major step forward towards ensuring Michigan continues to be the center of self-driving car research and development. I’m going to continue working at the federal level to develop a federal framework for the safe deployment of these revolutionary — and live-saving — technologies.”

Not everyone is convinced that the investment makes sense, though. 

“That’s an enormous investment in grey infrastructure. That’s a major infrastructure project,” said one infrastructure expert who declined to be identified because she was not authorized to speak about the project. “That’s something that you’re locking into. You’re locking into that design and locking in to that use case… The dedicated lanes are not something that’s being put forward by transportation advocates. I’ve only heard it from people who work with autonomous vehicles and have a vested interest in seeing their adoption.”

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Bluebird Network Fulfills Commitment to Expanding Fiber Infrastructure in Columbia, MO, Fortifying Mid-Missouri’s 5G Wireless Infrastructure

Source: BusinessWire

COLUMBIA, Mo.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Bluebird Network—a high capacity fiber internet and transport services provider and underground data center owner—is strengthening its fiber backbone in Columbia, MO, with one of the single largest fiber build outs in the city’s history. This exciting densification project will add approximately 60 miles of fiber to the company’s existing infrastructure within the city, giving the network a near all-encompassing reach of the area to businesses and allowing Bluebird to nurture the city’s 5G capabilities with stronger support for new and existing cell towers in the area.

“Our wireless customers—the largest cell service providers in the nation—trusted us for their large-scale 5G wireless deployment,” says Michael Morey, President and CEO of Bluebird Network. “They chose us because when Bluebird makes a promise, we deliver. We not only meet expectations, we exceed them. Our customer care and employee work ethic has resulted in Bluebird’s successful growth, and builds like this demonstrate we don’t plan to stop our trajectory any time soon.”

In addition to supporting the wireless carriers new tower deployments, Bluebird’s increased fiber count will bolster the company’s fiber offerings to businesses in and around Columbia, enabling the company to offer higher bandwidth options to support growing enterprise demands.

“There have been a number of requests from healthcare, finance and education customers in the area, and this build will help us serve those needs,” Morey said. “As we continue to realize a more digital world, Bluebird continues to improve businesses’ bandwidth and connectivity across a variety of sectors.”

Bluebird continues its mission of expanding its footprint and service capabilities across the Midwest with expansions and builds being completed in Springfield, MOJefferson City, MO, and Joplin, MO, as well as another expansion in Strafford, MO, wrapping up this month. The company has seen substantial growth after acquiring PEG Bandwidth Illinois and the Illinois Network Alliance (INA) over the last year, strengthening its fiber infrastructure.

About Bluebird Network

Since 1999, Bluebird Network, headquartered in Columbia, Missouri, has provided internet and fiber transport services to Carriers and Enterprises in Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Iowa and the surrounding states. In 2014, an underground data center was acquired, adding the Bluebird Underground Data Center to the Bluebird suite of services. Bluebird now operates over 9,800 fiber route miles of high-speed broadband and fiber-optic connections. The Bluebird fiber network has more than 54,000 on-net and near-net buildings and over 151 Points of Presence (POP) sites spanning the Midwest, including the major cities of Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield (MO and IL), Tulsa, Peoria, Rockford, Bloomington, Normal and the Quad Cities. To learn more, please visit and follow us on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter.