Bell Aliant's Q1 data revenues rise $22M on strong Internet, TV adds

Bell Aliant continued to see the fruits of its FibreOP fiber to the home (FTTH)-based broadband and IPTV efforts pay off in the first quarter of 2014 as data revenues grew $22 million, or 8.6 percent, due to an uptick in Internet and TV customer adds.

Driven by growth in broadband customers, Internet revenue rose 3.9 percent to $4.5 million year-over-year.

During the quarter, the telco added 16,000 new FibreOP Internet customers, ending the quarter with a total of 200,000 subscribers. FibreOP additions include both existing Bell Aliant customers migrating from DSL and fiber to the node (FTTN) networks to the fiber-based serves. These migrations don't contribute to the overall high-speed customer growth, but they do contribute to improved customer retention and growth in overall average revenue per customer (ARPC).

Overall, Bell Aliant added a total of 11,000 new high-speed customers during the quarter, up from the same quarter of 2013, bringing total high-speed Internet customers to 963,000 at the end of March 2014.

On the IPTV front, revenue grew $11 million, or 43.5 percent, up from the same quarter a year ago, with total IPTV customers of 189,800, up 38.3 percent from a year earlier. FibreOP TV customers grew by 13,400 in the first quarter to reach 171,400, a portion of which were migrations from Bell Aliant's FTTN TV service. Overall net IPTV customer additions were 11,700 in the first quarter of 2014, compared with 14,300 a year earlier.

The company reported that other data revenues rose $4.5 million, or 4.9 percent, from the same period a year ago due to higher data networking hardware sales and expansion of Bell Aliant's next-generation network technology, which enabled IP data services growth to offset legacy declines.

Per the ongoing wireline industry trend, local and long distance service revenues declined $14 million, or 5.4 percent, and $9.1 million, or 13.4 percent, respectively, compared with the same quarter in 2013, driven largely by NAS declines of 5.6 percent.

Interestingly, the company reported that it narrowed both residential and business network access services (NAS). Residential net NAS declines of 23,900 in the first quarter of 2014 improved 2,400 from the same quarter in 2013 with improved performance in both fiber and non-fiber markets, while business net NAS declines were 7,600 in the first quarter of 2014 compared to 5,900 in the first quarter of 2013.

From an overall financial perspective, Bell Aliant reported net earnings of $63 million, down $14 million from the same quarter in 2013. It attributed the revenue decrease to lower earnings in Bell Aliant GP, with lower EBITDA and increased restructuring costs compared to the same period a year ago.

Shares of Bell Aliant were trading at $27.13, up 13 cents or 0.48 percent, in Thursday morning trading on the Toronto stock exchange.

For more:
- see the earnings release

Special report: Wireline telecom earnings in the first quarter of 2014

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