Bell Aliant ups competitive ante with 250 Mbps FTTP speed tier

Bell Aliant (Toronto: BA-UN.TO) has added a 250 Mbps/30 Mbps Fiber to the Home (FTTH) FibreOP speed tier, giving it another weapon to battle thriving cable MSO competition in Canada's Atlantic region.

The new speed tier is part of an ongoing evolution of the service provider's FTTH network and was motivated by the fact that "40 percent" of its users access the Web, download videos and watch TV simultaneously, creating the demand for higher bandwidth.

"With this new speed tier we continue to have the fastest upload and download speeds in Atlantic Canada, which is interesting because we operate in a very dynamic and competitive market," said Andre LeBlanc, VP Residential Product, Bell Aliant in an interview with FierceTelecom.

While the 250 Mbps data tier will pertain to the power users that run multiple devices and OTT services, LeBlanc said that he sees the most demand for the 30 Mbps symmetrical speeds, which are part of its "Better Bundle" that also includes voice and IPTV service. It also offers a 70 Mbps download speed tier.

Beginning at the promotional three-month rate of CAD99 (USD100) a month, the service provider also offers two other bundled offerings: the "Good Bundle" with 15 Mbps symmetric data service and the "Best Bundle," which includes 30 Mbps symmetric data service in addition to an expanded IPTV station lineup.

"Today, our most popular package is our 30 Mbps symmetrical service offered in our Better Bundle," LeBlanc said. "For a lot of households, depending on what they were getting before, the 30 Mbps service an amazing product in terms of download and upload speeds."

LeBlanc added that while "not many users use the 250 Mbps product today, who would have ever thought that a symmetrical 30/30 Mbps would be our most popular product."

But Bell Aliant's broadband story isn't just about speed. By offering IPTV on its FTTH network under its FibreOP TV brand, the service provider is keen on enabling new services for users that they can't get with cable including its Facebook for FibreOP TV app.

"Our Facebook on TV application has been hugely successful with our customers," LeBlanc said. "It just goes to show how these worlds of social media, Internet, and video are blurring for some users."

FTTH has been a major initiative for Bell Aliant to reduce churn from aggressive cable operators such as Eastlink and Rogers (NYSE: RCI), both of which are also offering consumers their own brand of triple play bundled services.

As one of the first Canadian telcos to build out FTTH throughout an entire city, the service provider is on track to build out the FibreOP network to about 650,000 homes and businesses in its territory. Since January, the service provider has been expanding its FibreOP footprint with new builds in Sussex, New Brunswick; Yarmouth and Bridgewater, Nova Scotia; and Sudbury, Ontario. It plans to announce other communities throughout 2012.

What has helped Bell Aliant prove out its business case for FTTH is the nature of its aerial wired network infrastructure. An estimated 85 percent of the network infrastructure in Atlantic Canada is aerial.

"We have a lot of granite rock out in the ground, meaning that there's a big need for a lot of aerial wiring," LeBlanc said. "This makes FTTH a real economical choice when you're building a fiber network because you don't have to blast through underground areas to get your fiber right to the home."

LeBlanc added that with the aerial wiring network "it makes the cost to do FTTH versus FTTN pretty similar especially for our area and you get so much benefit from FTTH."

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