Shentel passes 15K homes with FTTH, replaces outdated cable network infrastructure

trench dug for fiber

Shentel has passed over 15,000 homes with FTTH, replacing obsolete cable infrastructure in its rural Virginia-based markets to offer customers a set of broadband and video services they could not get before.

Ed McKay, SVP of engineering and planning for Shentel, told FierceTelecom that telco’s FTTH build has targeted rural areas in its footprint where the coax cable could not support higher speed broadband or new video offerings.

“We have 15,000 homes passed fiber right now,” McKay said. “Those are mainly in rural areas targeting areas with cable systems we purchased that weren’t worth upgrading so we scrapped the coax and built fiber to the premises.”

Due to the largely rural nature of the cable systems, McKay said that Shentel found a number of interesting deployment strategies.

“Some of these cable systems were very rural and had cable attached to trees and we went and cleaned them up,” McKay said. “The head end locations looked like outhouses or Lowe’s garden shed so we had some challenges.”

McKay added that the ongoing upgrades will also produce benefits for existing customers that have been served by various companies.

“Some of these cable markets had been through 10-13 different cable providers over the past 20 years,” McKay said. “The customers are seeing us coming in there, do the upgrades, and see a stable company that can provide them consistent high quality service they hadn’t received in the past.”

Similar to other service providers that have a largely rural footprint such as TDS and FairPoint Communications, Shentel has also built an arsenal of cable properties over the past 20 years via acquisition of various regional cable companies.

In January, Shentel purchased West Virginia's Colane Cable TV for $2.4 million. By purchasing Colane, Shentel gained cable network that has 3,680 customers and passes 8,660 homes in the areas of Omar, Crawley Creek, Low Gap, Delbarton and Boone -- areas that are adjacent to existing Shentel systems in McDowell and Wyoming counties. 

While it did not specify if it would bring FTTH to these areas, the service provider said at the time that it would make significant upgrades to Colane’s systems, deploying faster internet speeds and more HD video.

But Colane is just one of many acquisitions that Shentel will likely make.

McKay said that it always looking for other cable systems it could buy to expand its video and broadband footprint.

“We’re very interested in additional cable assets, particularly if they are adjacent to our current markets,” McKay said. “The challenge is there’s just not a lot available right now on the market.”

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