Bell Canada says it's on track to deliver 1 Gig to 3 million homes by end 2016

Bell Canada is on track with its fiber-based broadband expansion plans, with plans to reach nearly 3 million locations by the end of the year.

Speaking to investors during its fourth quarter 2015 earnings call, Bell Canada CEO George Cope said that the provider will continue to aggressively build out a mix of FTTH and fiber-to-the-node (FTTN) as part of its broader broadband expansion plan.

"Turning to our network for 2016, we expect by the end of '16 to have about 8.2 million locations that will either have access to fiber to the node or fiber to the premise," said Cope, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. "The Toronto overlay will continue through 2016 and into 2017. We would expect at the end of 2016 to have about 3 million of our footprint covered with 1-gig services."

It appears to be on track to meet that gigabit connections goal. Bell Canada has extended the reach of its 1 Gbps FTTH service Gigabit Fibe to over 2.2 million homes across Quebec, Ontario, and the Atlantic region of Canada as of the end of 2015.

But 1 Gbps is only one part of Bell Canada's gigabit broadband desires. Similar to pioneering municipal provider EPB Fiber, Bell Canada has intimated that its FTTH build could serve as a foundation to deliver 10 Gbps by 2017.

Besides offering higher speeds for customers and businesses, Bell Canada sees potential cost savings from rolling fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) due to reduced maintenance costs that are hard to achieve on existing copper network infrastructure.

"We are seeing that we have got 2.2 million customers on wireline, on fiber what we would call service calls or assurance calls, the difference between fiber and FTTN, not just DSL is about a 50% reduction in service calls," Cope said. "As we migrate that footprint out, you can imagine a lot less repairs, that will provide us operating cost savings."

Bell Canada's outlook on FTTH installation and maintenance of copper networks mirrors Verizon's copper-to-fiber migration. In recent years, Verizon has been replacing aging copper infrastructure serving its POTS customers with fiber.

Whether over FTTN or FTTH, broadband subscriber counts continued to rise during the fourth quarter. However, like its U.S. counterparts AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ), Bell Canada saw overall growth decline year-over-year.

Bell Canada was able to pull through 39,000 Internet net adds, but that figure was down from the 52,010 subscribers it added in the same period a year ago.

The service provider said that despite 12 percent higher retail residential additions in the fourth quarter, "reflecting stronger growth in Quebec and Ontario, total Internet net additions were down compared to a year earlier, the result of lower wholesale net customer additions."

For more:
- see the Seeking Alpha transcript (reg. req.)

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