The central U.S. appears to have caught the eye of equity investors, with Bluepeak becoming the latest privately-funded fiber company to plot a major expansion there.
Right now, Bluepeak offers service to around 60,000 subscribers in South Dakota and parts of western Minnesota under the name Vast Broadband. In February, investment firm GI Partners closed a deal to acquire Vast Broadband for an undisclosed sum. Now, Vast is plotting a name change and an expansion into two new states: Oklahoma and Wyoming.
The operator’s Chief Commercial Officer Jeff Seidenfaden told Fierce service in its new markets will launch under the Bluepeak banner, with existing markets set to switch over to the new name by mid-2022.
Planned investments include a $140 million build in Oklahoma to bring fiber to more than 140,000 homes and businesses across the state. Thus far, Bluepeak has announced projects in Bartlesville, Clinton, Enid, Perry, Tonkawa and Stillwater, with approvals in the works for Lawton, Elk City and Weatherford.
In Wyoming, Bluepeak plans to spend $70 million to run fiber to 70,000 homes and businesses. Target markets include Cheyenne, Laramie, Casper and Sheridan. Construction in Cheyenne is already underway and the company expects to break ground in the remaining markets in the first half of next year.
Inclusive of expansion activity in its existing markets, Seidenfaden said it’s aiming to cover 240,000 to 250,000 new locations, with the majority of these expected to start coming online in 2022. He noted Bluepeak is very deliberately targeting smaller towns in the central part of the country.
The company’s leadership team shares a “true belief that small towns are overlooked. That there’s a need, there’s a market and that very likely – because the demand hasn’t been there – these markets won’t see incumbent investment, that it’s really going to require a third party, an overbuilder, to come in and build out to these markets,” he explained. “For too long there have been too many folks that may have viewed these parts of the country more as flyover country and for us it was really never that way.”
It's also putting an emphasis on bringing top-tier multi-gig broadband to these markets. That’s in part because Bluepeak has experienced a 50% growth rate in take rates for its 1-gig offering in existing markets since July.
Specifically, Seidenfaden said it is planning to offer 1-gig, 2-gig and 5-gig service tiers for residential customers, and up to 10 Gbps for business customers. Most of the markets it is targeting are served by a telecom and a cable provider, so Bluepeak is aiming to snag an advantage as the first to bring fiber to town, he said.
But Bluepeak isn’t the only company that has identified opportunities in the central U.S. In at least some of its Oklahoma markets Bluepeak will be competing with Dobson Fiber, which recently debuted a 10 Gbps residential service in Enid, Lawton and Weatherford.