Tilson, a national network deployment and IT professional services firm, has hired Alda Licis to oversee its new expansion into fiber, wireless, network, space and tower asset development and leaseback business. In April, Tilson received an investment of up to $100 million from SDC Capital Partners, enabling the spin-out and capitalization of Tilson’s asset ownership affiliate, SQF.
Previously, Licis worked for Zayo Group in various leadership roles during her five-year tenure including managing the P&L for the data center business unit, developing Zayo’s first small cell implementation team, managing large-scale fiber projects and managing multiple product teams responsible for strategic pricing of all dark fiber-based products (metro, long-haul and FTT/small cell).
“Alda is a triple threat,” said Josh Broder, Tilson’s CEO. “She has experience in small cells, fiber and data centers. In every case, she was early in the development cycles of those sectors, when it was really hard. She is someone who has the engineer’s eye, the developer’s work ethic and deep empathy for the customers and their needs.”
Knowing Licis’ background in asset ownership, SDC Capital introduced her to Broder as it was considering investing in Tilson.
“Zayo’s business model is based on building, owning and operating telecom assets,” Licis said. “When I left after five years, I had worked in enough parts of the business to understand it fully.”
Tilson is mostly known for services dealing with network deployment, information technology and government consulting. In particular, it builds out small cells, fiber, telecom civil construction, vertical construction, line and antenna installation and maintenance. Its customers include telecom providers, government agencies and utilities.
“There are some great synergies on the services side that really play in to owning the assets that support those deployments,” Licis said.
Broder agreed, saying, “Between the services we provide and the infrastructure ownership that we can give, our customers have additional options. Their needs can change over time, so it is good to be flexible. We can mix and match ownership and services.”
SQF was born in 2010 when an opportunity arose for Tilson to run a fiber route from Skowhegan, Maine, to Quebec City, Canada. The resulting company, dubbed SQF, required competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) status. Today, SQF is a CLEC or competitive access provider in 50 states.
“SQF’s development of CLEC status happened very organically,” Licis said. “As Josh was building his business, he ran across one opportunity after another that required asset ownership, so eventually, he applied for CLEC status for all of the states.”
Through SQF, Tilson has a growing ownership portfolio of wooden, metal and decorative concealment structures supporting small cell, DAS, IoT and Wi-Fi applications. It will provide any element of a client’s infrastructure, from poles to dark fiber and wireless networks.
Broder said that SQF is now in a scaling phase. “It has a strong staff of development and deployment directors with the ability to perform nationwide deployments very quickly,” he said. “It has contracts with most of the majors. We have made a large investment in quickly deploying large masses of poles in urban and rural areas for small cell collocation.”
As the pole portfolio has grown, Tilson has invested heavily in information technology, business process and staff to manage the development, ownership and operation of the poles.
“We have a deep understanding of asset ownership and management, because we have been managing assets for other owners, adjudicating applications, and determining make-ready and structural upgrade costs,” Broder said. “We have built systems to encode that knowledge The need for new, inexpensive vertical real estate solutions that can be deployed quickly is what is going to drive our business in the coming years.”