I recently did a phone interview with Jim Hyde, who was named president and CEO of ExteNet Systems early in September of last year. As well as giving me his first impressions of ExteNet and its position in the industry, he talked about his plans for growing the company into the future and capitalizing on the convergence of technologies.
How has your background prepared you to head ExteNet?
I have been in and around telecommunications networks and service providers for more than 20 years, owned and operated networks, worked on the carrier side, built out fiber and served wholesale customers. Hopefully that experience applies to the opportunity here at ExteNet.
What have you learned since taking over?
It is a great company in a great place and a great time. The team has done a tremendous job of growing the company over the last 10 years, during a time when indoor wireless was just becoming important and outdoor small cells didn’t exist. Much as I thought that I understood the size of the addressable market, it is so much bigger, when including the real estate component, venue owners and operators, and the enterprise model for the services we provide. Thinking out into the future, smart cities and municipalities will become extremely important and significant customers. The size of the prize is significantly larger than what I thought coming in.
Another thing that I did not fully appreciate was the limited competitive set. There are not a whole lot of people that do what we do and do it well. On the one hand it is a tremendous opportunity, but a loud alarm is going off in my head warning me not be complacent because competition is on the way.
How will this company change under your leadership?
ExteNet will become a customer-centered solutions company versus a product company. We have great products and have been able to install quite a few of them indoors and outdoors over the last decade.
We will focus on three core constituents: mobile network operators, real estate owners and operators, and large enterprises. And, we will add municipalities. We have solutions that cut across, in many ways, each of those constituencies. That is the real vision for this company. How do we make those solutions applicable and scalable across those four key customer segments. That will drive our success and create real value going forward. It is important to stay focused on the needs of our customer segments.
What role does fiber play in your future strategy?
At the end of the day we are an infrastructure company, a solutions provider, and a real estate company. Fiber infrastructure is that golden thread that brings it all together. There are only three ways you can get access to fiber. You can build it, which we are doing in major metropolitan areas around the country. You can purchase it through M&A, which we did in purchasing Hudson Fiber Networks, or you can partner with companies that have excess capacity. We are actively engaged in all of those strategies.
We will continue to be a major player in building solutions based on that infrastructure, whether that is selling dark fiber or lit services to wholesale carriers, commercial real estate, indoor/outdoor mobile solutions for network operators, or eventually serving smart cities going forward.
How do you plan to break down the traditional walls between commercial wireless, real estate, private enterprise and municipalities?
The way that we can drive the greatest synergies and monetization of the investments that we are making in this infrastructure is understanding how we can drive as many solutions and as much revenue over that infrastructure. When we build out our infrastructure, we need to understand how we can best design that network to serve each of our customer segments.
How do your views on convergence compare with those of Marc Ganzi [founder and CEO of Digital Bridge Holdings, executive chairman of ExteNet]?
Marc and I have had extensive discussions around his views and my views on convergence in the communications infrastructure space. Marc has great vision and depth of operational experience, for sure. He has the ability to bring people in that can complement and expand on his vision.
One of the most exciting things we agree upon is the space that ExteNet can occupy as we execute the vision and strategy of convergence. We have deep fiber infrastructure in major metropolitan areas, an enterprise platform, and indoor and outdoor distributed networks. What’s going to happen at the edge of the network? We are the edge of the network. We have in-building solutions in major commercial buildings and venues across the country where we can deploy mobile edge computing. We are perfectly positioned. Additionally, we can leverage our cousin companies who are part of the Digital Bridge portfolio, whether it’s macrotowers, rooftops or data centers. Marc is a true visionary concerning how we stitch those assets together, which will be critical to delivering on that vision.