Frontier Communications is on track to beat its goal of building fiber to 495,000 homes this year. CEO Nick Jeffery told investors at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia event that Frontier will hit 600,000 homes passed this year, which is 105,000 more homes than planned.
Jeffery attributed the aggressive expansion its fiber footprint this year to Veronica Bloodworth, Frontier’s new EVP and chief network officer and a former AT&T executive, who was hired by Jeffery in April. “Veronica brings practical knowledge about permitting, vendors and labor,” Jeffery said.
Bloodworth most recently was SVP of construction and engineering at AT&T where she oversaw the planning, design, construction and capital maintenance of AT&T’s wireline and wireless network infrastructure. Jeffery noted that Frontier’s fiber build, while ambitious, is still not as fast as the fiber build that Bloodworth oversaw while she was at AT&T.
When asked about supply chain issues, Jeffery said that the company hasn’t experienced any issues yet and he is confident that it won’t because Frontier announced its accelerated fiber build before many other fiber providers announced their plans. This allowed the company to get contracts with vendors before many others. In addition, he said that Frontier has secured multi-year agreements with vendors and has a lot of vendor diversity.
Jeffery's comments about the company exceeding its 2021 fiber expansion plan follows Frontier’s announcement in August that it was raising its fiber rollout goal from 6 million to 10 million locations by the end of 2025. The company said, at the time, that it had 2.8 million total broadband customers, including both fiber and DSL.
During the investor call, Jeffery, also said that he believes that Frontier can succeed in its turnaround strategy if it focuses on four goals: building fiber as fast as it can; launching compelling customer offers; improving its customer care; and streamlining its costs.
This strategy, Jeffery said, will help the company achieve its fiber penetration goals, which is to have 15% to 20% penetration in its fiber markets within 12 months and 25% to 30% penetration rates within 24 months.
Jeffery noted that Frontier will likely have to lure some customers away from cable competitors to achieve its penetration rates. However, in many of Frontier’s markets, the company has just one competitor. “Will we take share from cable?” Jeffery asked. “Yes.”
Perhaps even more critical than Frontier’s aggressive fiber build is its attempts to remake its image and company culture –both with customers and with employees. With that in mind, Jeffery said that the company has a new tagline that it created to make sure everyone was aligned to the same goals. “Building Gigabit America,” is the tagline that Frontier is using to bring new focus to the company.
Jeffery noted that the company is still weighing whether it needs a brand refresh due to its past reputation for having poor customer service. He said that the company is trying to first determine what is the root cause of customer dissatisfaction and overcome those issues before it does any rebranding.
John Stratton, executive chairman of Frontier, added that he is pleased that Jeffery is working on a “data-driven” approach to figuring out how customers perceive the Frontier brand instead of just changing the name and creating a new logo. “You can slap a new coat of paint on a business that is fundamentally broken but that will not work,” Stratton said.