Carrier Hotels: A Detailed Look at Connectivity


A Brief History of Carrier Hotels and Interconnection

Carrier hotels are buildings that house networks and cloud services strategically located in the center of a downtown area. An enterprise can colocate in (or connect to) these providers and cloud services from these buildings. Carrier hotels are the Grand Central Stations of interconnectivity.

Carrier hotels are rooted in the original network—telephone exchanges. Generations ago, the only way that one could call a person in another area was to transfer the traffic from one network route to another route via an operator physically switching the traffic between nodes to interconnect.

This required that network companies establish their infrastructure in these common locations within major cities so the traffic could be transferred efficiently between their network routes as well as other providers’ routes. This hub and spoke network to network interfacing laid the very foundation for telecommunications we still rely on today.

Carrier hotels have evolved over time as the number of long-distance network carriers has increased and the transition of voice traffic to data has evolved. These facilities are now considered “edge” facilities and allow network providers to connect to each other’s backbone without having to duplicate long-haul infrastructures, bringing services closer to where people need them. They include meet-me-rooms (MMRs), which allow providers to physically connect to other networks. Consumers benefit from a cost-effective, single point of entry to a suite of network providers.

What is the Benefit of Carrier Hotels in the Digital Age?

Carrier hotels still serve that same central purpose: allow distinct providers to build out networks via wholesale and owned infrastructure, and then route traffic and service their customers—be they enterprise business, data centers, or other carriers themselves. Operators have also gravitated toward providing their services to businesses (not just other carriers), realizing that enterprises can benefit from placing their infrastructure in their own space.

Ultimately, the modern business can benefit from placing their mission-critical infrastructure within or adjacent to carrier hotels for several key reasons:

Resiliency, redundancies and best-in-class facilities

These matter to the telecommunications carrier as much as they do to any other business. On a rudimentary level, a carrier absolutely needs 100% uptime. Carrier hotels are where networks live, so they must be pristine. If you see denser colocation facilities within a carrier hotel, you can have confidence in the existence of redundancies to support your infrastructure.

The ability to choose between carriers is essential.

A carrier-neutral colocation provider either within or tethered to a market’s carrier hotel instantly places a business within a vibrant marketplace where they can choose the best providers for their objectives. A business can find many advantages to support their needs: driving down network cost, establishing redundancies, improving network performance, or accessing new carriers not available on their premises.

Access to Cloud Providers

Carrier hotels are no longer just the home of carriers and enterprises. They are now home to the largest Public Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, IBM and Oracle. Though CSPs prefer to operate efficient, purpose-built compute facilities themselves, they recognize the need to establish their network nodes, called onramps, within locations their consumers can easily access with the proper capacity and lowest latency possible. This occurs via rich ecosystems of carriers and eyeball networks. Naturally, colocation providers within carrier hotels are a perfect fit. Cologix is proud to be one of the CSPs’ few trusted partners to host onramps, and our clients can trust us for their cloud or hybrid-cloud implementations via our software-defined networking and interconnection platform, Cologix Access Marketplace.

The carrier hotel is the foundation of interconnection. While the flexibility of technologies, infrastructure and operation of carrier hotels have certainly evolved since the central telephone exchange days, the core concept has remained: to serve as a hub that enables providers to serve their customers.

For more information about how carrier hotels work, check out our handy infographic below, which breaks down the history of carrier hotels and the importance of interconnection strategy.


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