If there was one takeaway from today’s Lumen Technologies analyst event it was that the company is bullish about its Quantum Fiber business.
In September 2020, CenturyLink rebranded under three separate entities: Lumen Technologies, CenturyLink and Quantum Fiber. Lumen Technologies' platform brings together a global fiber network and edge cloud capabilities. CenturyLink is the legacy telecom business. And Quantum Fiber is a subscription service, delivering fiber to residents and small businesses.
Quantum Fiber will compete against cable and wireless companies for consumer and small business accounts.
Lumen’s CEO Jeff Storey said today that he thinks Quantum Fiber is superior to wireless or hybrid fiber coax (HFC) connections for small businesses. He touted fiber’s symmetrical upstream and downstream capabilities, compared to other types of connectivity.
Maxine Moreau, president of Mass Markets at Lumen Technologies, said, “Within Mass Markets, the primary driver is Quantum Fiber. Consumers and small businesses require reliable broadband. Quantum Fiber can deliver that.”
She, like Storey, also touted Quantum Fiber's symmetrical speeds compared to cable’s asymmetrical speeds in which “upload speeds are often far slower,” she said. “Leveraging Lumen’s vast fiber network, we can differentiate Quantum Fiber against our competitors.”
Lumen plans to launch Quantum Fiber across all its U.S. markets during 2021. In 2020, the company said it passed an additional 400,000 locations with fiber, resulting in a total of 2.4 million locations passed.
Moreau said Lumen is taking a “micro-targeted, urban-densification approach” to its Quantum Fiber buildout. “In one top-tier market we are already 40% fiber enabled,” she said.
“We want an urban-densification in our fiber-to-the-home,” added Storey. “We think it’s a great opportunity. “We’ll continue to use our micro-targeting efforts to expand our footprint.”
Asked how much capital Lumen would spend to deploy more fiber for Quantum, Moreau said, “We don’t have a ceiling target. We’re not capital constrained. We believe we’ve got a long run-way for growth.”
The company’s CFO Neel Dev added, “We have a very dynamic capital allocation process. We look at the outcomes.” Dev said if the average revenue per unit (ARPU) of its Quantum Fiber product grows, as it expects it to, then Lumen “can allocate more capital.”
In 2020, Lumen’s total capex was $3.7 billion. It didn’t specify how much of that was spent for the fiber deployment to pass 400,000 more locations.
In addition to marketing the service as a better choice than cable or wireless, Lumen is also striving to offer a more modern customer experience. Moreau said, “A customer’s bill looks as simple as your monthly Apple subscription notice.” And customers can use apps such as Apple Pay and Pay Pal to pay their bills. “We have eliminated over 50% of human interactions with our new digital platform,” she said.