With a much lighter debt load following a pair of asset sales totaling $1.8 billion earlier this year, U.S. broadband provider WideOpenWest (WOW!) set its sights on building greenfield fiber to as many as 400,000 homes by 2027.
CFO John Rego said during an investor event the company will start with an initial goal of building fiber-to-the-home to 200,000 locations by 2025 at an approximate cost of $160 million. If it finds success in its starter markets, he said, WOW! will up its spend and press on to hit 400,000 locations by 2027. All the while, it also plans to continue investing in edge outs and business services, Rego added.
Don Schena, WOW!’s chief customer experience officer, said it will target cities currently served by a single 1-gig provider and a DSL incumbent, which he noted was a competitive profile it has had “terrific success against” elsewhere. While 22 million homes fit that criteria, he said WOW! will ultimately choose cities that meet “strong economic parameters and strong demographics, providing significant residential and commercial growth opportunities.”
WOW! CEO Teresa Elder stated it plans to begin construction in its first greenfield fiber markets in 2022 and see new subscribers from those projects by 2023.
“This is what we’ve known how to do for a long time and there are a lot of opportunities out there,” she said. “To me, the biggest risk is not doing enough fast enough"
She continued: "When we’re choosing markets for the future, we’re looking at those where we would be first to the door with fiber to the home…We know we can be extremely successful with that.”
Elder noted it has achieved edge out penetration rates of around 20% to 25% in markets where it faces stiff competition. WOW! expects it can do better in its chosen fiber markets since there will be less competitive intensity in those areas, she added.
In terms of technology, WOW! CTO Henry Hryckiewicz said its fiber network will be 10-gig ready on day one and scalable up to 50 Gbps.
Despite the new focus on greenfield fiber, Hryckiewicz said WOW! isn’t planning to neglect its existing HFC plant. The operator has already deployed DOCSIS 3.1 across 99% of its network and it plans to leverage DOCSIS 4.0 in the coming years to increase capacity.
Hryckiewicz said WOW! doesn’t necessarily have specific plans around when it will move to DOCSIS 4.0 but will upgrade “when the time is right.”