Windstream takes leverage and extend approach to 1 Gig FTTH roll out

As Windstream begins to deliver its 1 Gbps FTTH service to residential and small businesses in four markets, the service provider is looking for opportunities to ease the installation process by leveraging existing fiber it has built in a number of its rural communities.

What's interesting about the service provider's approach is that it can leverage existing fiber it had already deployed in new housing developments over the past 10 years.

However, the service provider had not installed an optical network terminal (ONT) on the side of these homes to terminate the fiber and deliver services.

Unlike AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ), Windstream will be bringing services to areas where larger telcos and cable operators have not been as aggressive in providing services.

Just this week, Windstream launched service in four markets serving about 35,000 residential and small business customers, including Lincoln, Neb., Lexington, Ky., Sugar Land, Texas, and seven North Carolina communities.

To address new service requests, Windstream will either place a GPON-based optical network terminal (ONT) at a house where it has deployed fiber or extend new fiber into a house in an older neighborhood.

"It's a little bit of a mix," said Sarah Day, president of consumer and small business for Windstream, in an interview with FierceInstaller. There are some homes where we already have the fiber dropped to the home and it's just the ONT and the standard install process and there are some Brownfield deployments where we drop a line on demand to the consumer home."

Regardless of the situation, Day added that they have the capabilities to handle various installation scenarios.

"In all cases we have the process installation down to be a reasonable timeline and window as would be experienced by our users when they're installing new Internet service with us," Day said.

In tandem with the network installation process, the service provider will take a three pronged approach to marketing the service to users that reside close to the fiber build. Potential users can go to the Windstream website and enter their address to see if they qualify for service. Windstream will also market the service by talking to residents and business directly at their premises or at their local retail stores.

Day said that as it rolls out 1 Gbps to more homes, "you'll see more awareness driving tactics on the website where we speak to next neighborhood deployments."

While serving residential customers is a key focus, the fiber roll out will also benefit nearby small businesses that may not need a dedicated Ethernet connection, but have surpassed what DSL or a T-1 can provide. Windstream can now bring its fiber to these nearby business locations and use the same installation processes to give these customers a price competitive broadband experience.

Windstream is not the only provider that's taking a leverage-and-extend approach to deploy FTTH in its markets.

The telco's larger ILEC brothers AT&T and Verizon are conducting similar methods.

AT&T, which has an ambitious plan to deliver 1 Gbps FTTH service to 56 markets, is leveraging and extending its existing fiber-to-the-node (FTTN)-based infrastructure that it has rolled out to deliver IP broadband service already to 57 million U.S. locations.

Interestingly, as AT&T rolls out FTTH services, it will extend fiber to local businesses that reside in nearby neighborhoods and even to backhaul distributed antenna systems (DAS) and small cell systems.

AT&T CFO John Stephens told investors during the Deutsche Bank 2016 Media, Internet & Telecom Conference in March that by multitasking its fiber deployments it can gain a better return on its investment.

"When we build these things, we look at it on a holistic basis," Stephens said. "Yes, on the front end it may take a little more investment, but when you think about the efficiency that you can get multiple uses out of the fiber backbone or these connecting points it's really much more efficient and provides more value."

Verizon, while not planning on lighting any new markets with FiOS, says that it can also extend fiber to new or former customers to support new symmetrical speeds by installing new ONTs on the sides of the home in areas where their fiber passes.

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