Network access point seen as catalyst for more e-commerce
By Sherri C. Ranta
The virtual link between Miami and Latin America will grow stronger in July as Terremark Worldwide Inc. completes its landmark network access point, or NAP, an Internet connection point expected to signal a high-tech development boom in South Florida.
Plans call for a June 30 completion of the $109 million Technology Center of the Americas, a 750,000-square-foot, six-story telecom hotel and home of the $60 million NAP of the Americas, according to Sandra Gonzalez-Levy, senior vice president for corporate communications at Terremark Worldwide Inc.
The Terremark Miami NAP is one of five Tier-1 network access points in the US that allows for international connectivity and will specialize in high-speed Internet service between the US and the rest of the Americas, the Caribbean, Europe and Africa.
Officials say the Miami project is unique because it was developed by a consortium of private-sector carriers and information and telecommunication technology companies. The group, which numbers 86 to date, established itself as the NAP of the Americas LLC in December, and will act as a kind of tenant association for users of the Terremark NAP, officials said.
Terremark Worldwide Inc. will own and develop the Technology Center of the Americas (TECOTA) and the NAP of the Americas. Terremark and Telecordia will jointly operate the NAP, officials said.
Ms. Gonzalez-Levy said the Terremark NAP is expected to occupy 120,000 square feet or the entire second floor of the Technology Center of the Americas, 50 NE Ninth St., next to the Miami Arena.
While it will occupy the second floor, the remaining floors will be leased for office space. Global Crossings, a member of the consortium and an Internet backbone provider, will be an anchor tenant. It has already signed to lease the sixth floor, about 125,000 square feet, officials said.
Ms. Gonzalez-Levy said speed of construction on the project has been unprecedented and that an army of workers at times 500 strong as well as the cooperation and support of the city construction and permitting officials have been helpful.
"They see this as an economic opportunity for the area," she said, "so of course they would like for us to be open as soon as possible."
Miami City Commissioner Arthur Teele said he expects to see at least $1 billion in high-tech and related development in the Overtown-Park West areas based on what happened near other NAPs in the US.
Development estimated at $12 billion followed completion of the Washington, DC, site, he said.
"Very clearly," Mr. Teele said, "we can expect at least $1 billion in reuse and redevelopment toward high-tech purposes, particularly with Latin America and the Caribbean. We think that ultimately every major telephone company in this hemisphere will have offices in that area."
Fred Jackson, business development executive with IBM and a member of the governor's IT task force, said US and foreign companies are already looking at real estate around the Terremark NAP.
"It's already started. What we're finding locally, from a real estate view, are new placements happening on a weekly basis," he said.
With the softening of the economy, Mr. Jackson said what officials thought would be exponential growth, will likely be more "slow and steady growth."
Meanwhile, an interim home for the NAP began operating Dec. 30 in 4,000-square feet of leased space at 1 NE First St., just two blocks from the
construction site. Carriers such as EPIK Communications of Orlando are already using the system. When construction is complete in June, the transition will be seamless, Ms. Gonzalez said.
Telecordia Technologies, one of the world's largest providers of consulting and engineering services in the telecommunications industry with revenues of $1.5 billion is supervising the technological aspect of the center.
The Terremark NAP is being built with what is called Gigabit Ethernet and Packet-Over-SONET technology, a system that allows data exchanges at a rate 10 times faster than technology used in the older NAPs, Ms. Gonzalez-Levy said.
The Terremark NAP, she said, will be different from others since it will be neutral carrier. That means, Ms. Gonzalez-Levy said, clients will be able to choose from any carrier available at the site, she said, unlike other networks where clients use pre-determined carriers.
Benjamin Finzi, chairman of the consortium management committee, said the Terremark network's success will be driven not only by its state-of-the-art technology but by its proliferation of carriers.
"The key is to have as many people in that pot as you can. If you have enough carriers that are interesting then you have created a magnet point where everyone else will want to come."
Mr. Finzi said he briefed Gov. Jeb Bush last week about the project.
"The presence of the NAP in Florida," he said, "is seen by the government as a way to position Miami as a gateway to Latin America, potentially making Miami the virtual capital of the entire continent."
Terremark officials have secured financing for the project through a $109 million partnership equity and construction-financing package, officials said.
Ocean Bank, with participation from International Bank of Miami, TotalBank and TransAtlantic Bank will provide $61 million in construction financing. Terremark also secured $48 million in partnership equity from Barrow Street Capital, Lubert-Adler Management and Calor Development Ltd.