CenturyLink reaches nearly 50 percent of former Qwest households with 40 Mbps

CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) said that it has continued to make progress in upgrading its existing copper network in the former Qwest serving territory, making it possible for nearly 50 percent of area non-rural customers to get up to 40 Mbps services.

In an FCC filing, the service provider reported that it increased the amount of homes that could get its lower speed 12, 5 and 1.5 Mbps speed tiers. Nearly 70 percent of its customers can get access to a 12 Mbps connection, while 79 and 95 percent are eligible to get a 5 Mbps and 1.5 Mbps connection.

Given the limitations of the copper network, the service provider noted that "at any given time, a small percentage of these households in some areas may not be able to obtain CenturyLink broadband services on demand, due to capacity constraints in the network."

From an overall company perspective, CenturyLink continues to enhance the speeds of its existing copper-based DSL and FTTH networks across its entire footprint. Today, 56 percent of its customers can get access to 20 Mbps or higher, while 70 percent can get access to 10 Mbps or higher.

One of the interesting elements CenturyLink is seeing in the Qwest and other markets it serves is the effect of its growing 1 Gbps FTTH network.

By the end of the year telco plans to extend its GPON 1 Gbps service to 500,000 businesses and 700,000 homes -- two initiatives that company executives have said should continue in 2016 and beyond.

Stewart Ewing, CFO of CenturyLink, reiterated to investors during the Oppenheimer's recent 18th annual Technology, Internet and Communications Conference that in the areas where it offers 1 Gbps service, the company is seeing a "halo effect" where customers outside of the FTTH footprint are calling the telco to order speed tiers.

"What we saw in Omaha where we built fiber-to-the-home to about 45,000 homes, not only did we take market share inside the areas where we deployed fiber-to-the-home, but we also saw a halo effect from the standpoint that it made the phone ring," Ewing said. "When customers saw that and learned that we can get 40 Mbps or get 80 Mbps, we saw customer and market share growth outside of the areas where we deployed fiber-to-the-home."

Ewing added that "we're hoping in these other 15 markets where we are deploying fiber-to-the-home we'll see that halo effect there and supplement the copper-based services with bonding and vectoring to increase those speeds and provide a better experience to those customers."

Enhancing the existing copper plant is clearly a key complementary initiative to the FTTH drive. In Salt Lake City, CenturyLink is currently trialing a 100 Mbps service, for example. If that trial proves to be successful, it plans to bring it to other markets.

For more:
- see this FCC filing (PDF)

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