EarthLink says dark fiber growth driven by network installation, customer best practices

EarthLink is seeing basic fundamentals like best practices around network installation paying off. The competitive carrier reported that it saw an uptick in dark fiber and overall fourth quarter wholesale service sales.

With enterprises being the preferred target for dark fiber, a particular highlight for the service provider is that it won a large deal with an enterprise customer.

Joe Eazor, CEO of EarthLink, told investors during its fourth quarter earnings call that it saw overall wholesale deals rise in 2015 over 2014.

"In 2015, we installed over twice as much recurring transport revenue as we did in 2014 leveraging our unique fiber assets and strong execution by the business unit team," Eazor said. "We closed the year on a high note by signing a long-term dark fiber lease arrangement that will deliver $5 million in cash in 2016 and approximately $10 million in revenue over the 20-year life of the deal."

Eazor said the company will focus on two areas to improve: optimizing processes and overall customer experience.

In optimizing its processes, the service provider plans to not only improve how it interacts with customers, but also reduce order and installation errors and shorten service delivery intervals.

"These changes will enhance customer retention, increase customer satisfaction, reduce costs and create opportunities to expand our relationships with customers, potential customers and partners," Eazor said. "While this will extend beyond 2016, we expect to lay the foundation, develop the roadmap and made solid improvements this year."

As it improves installation times for wholesale and traditional retail services, EarthLink plans to find ways to improve overall customer service -- something at which Eazor said the overall telecom industry needs to do a better job.

"We already received good marks on this front relative to our industry peers, but I believe that our industry sets a relatively low bar and that we need to set our sights much higher," Eazor said. "We have established a new chief customer officer and rolling out programs will put us on the path delivering world class customer service from the sales process all the way through billing."

Improving its processes and customer service are just two parts of the company's vision.

As it looks to lure more customers with dark fiber and complex cloud-based services such as its upcoming SD-WAN product it plans to release later this year, the service provider is going to start offering professional services.

By adding professional services to its arsenal, EarthLink will be able to establish a greater bond with customers that can serve their unique needs. Having that capability will also enable the competitive carrier to differentiate it from cable operators that are trying to go up market outside of the small to medium business (SMB) space they have traditionally served.

"We have incubated a small professional services capability over the last year that we will further invest in and grow in 2016 and beyond," Eazor said. "This will bring more value to our customers and pull through more comprehensive network services for EarthLink. We are also developing stronger industry specific solutions around cloud networking with a very strong presence in the retail sector and/or investing enhanced efforts in healthcare and potentially other industries."

For more:
- see the Seeking Alpha transcript

Related articles:
EarthLink focuses dark fiber sales on enterprise customers, will de-emphasize TDM-based products
EarthLink sells IT unit to Synoptek for $29M, sharpening focus on carrier, enterprise
EarthLink's Eazor: Wholesale transport revenue turnaround is driven by refocusing business
EarthLink's Alterman: It's important to protect our lit fiber business

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