Client needs spur data expansion


123Net is finishing a $5-million, 25-mile expansion of its fiber network in metro Grand Rapids and soon will start construction on a $10-million data center in Byron Center. Courtesy 123Net

As demand for connectivity grows, Southfield-based 123Net will invest more than $15 million in West Michigan data infrastructure in the near future.

The company is finishing up a $5-million, 45-mile expansion of its fiber network in metro Grand Rapids. Along with the fiber network, 123Net’s Byron Center data center is nearing capacity, necessitating a planned $10-million-plus data center.

123Net currently is vetting property sites for a new building and hopes to begin on the project sometime this year, said Chuck Irvin, 123Net director of network development.

“We have quite a few sites in consideration and some designs in the works,” Irvin said. “We even looked at converting some existing buildings, but with the demand we’re seeing from customers, we’re looking to build a customized facility for data center needs.”

Both the new data center and the fiber network expansion are completely driven by client needs, Irvin said. 123Net began in 1996 selling dial-up internet but has grown more into a business-oriented company through the years and opened the Byron Center data center in 2001.

123Net has 3,200 miles of fiber network across the state and in key metro areas and five data centers.

“We’re seeing things take off with quite a bit of demand for the fiber product,” Irvin said. “Businesses are learning about it, and a lot of companies offer it, but they’re looking at companies like ours that are Michigan local and can provide the same services with better cost and customer service.”

123Net is welcoming 15 to 20 customers a month to their network, said Kaitlynn Vaughn, 123Net West Michigan agent manager.

Vaughn said much of the new fiber is connecting areas previously underserved in the technology.

“There are a lot of larger manufacturing facilities and medical companies along the route we’re building,” she said. “They need the high capacity bandwidth, reliability and redundancy it provides. We’re already seeing a decent demand and it’s not even completed, yet.”

The quick speed of fiber coupled with the two-way redundancy the network offers is a premium for customers, Irvin said. The ring currently being built is the second the company has invested in the Grand Rapids area and, at 25 miles, is much further reaching than the original 7-mile ring.

The fiber network now gives 123Net customers a way to add to the wireless towers built five years ago.

“This ring is more encompassing of the metro business parks,” he said. “We’ve been able to get enough customers off those towers that we can now bring on the fiber, and it’s a cool path of connectivity they can take. They keep the wireless for backup, and it’s a dual approach to provide redundancy and increase capacity.”

The relatively recent focus on Grand Rapids comes on the heels of extensive build-outs in the metro Detroit area. The concentration was on the Detroit area and Ann Arbor, but aside from concentrations in certain areas of Detroit, the Grand Rapids fiber network is the most dense fiber network the company has built.

Fiber network is nearing a point of consideration for companies when they look at buildings, just like power, railroad, highway and other resources they might need access to, Irvin said. In the coming years, Irvin said he could see 123Net’s investment in the Grand Rapids area exceeding well past this current $15 million.

“We’re seeing the demand to justify the investment,” Irvin said. “We want to be Michigan's backbone for business. We’re confident that this investment in West Michigan will position us, and our customers, exactly where we need to be.”

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