Sonic, an independent ISP serving Northern California, has expanded the reach of its $40-a-month 1 Gbps service to over four new San Francisco neighborhoods in a market that's lacked true broadband choice.
Starting in the southern portion of The Mission, Sonic will make the service available to the surrounding communities of Noe Valley, The Castro, Dolores Heights, Glen Park, Potrero Hill, and Sunnyside in the coming months.
Residents can check service availability and order today at Sonic.com.
Being an independent competitive ISP that serves a mix of consumers and business, Sonic is a bit of an anomaly. Sonic continues to grow and expand its presence throughout California, doubling down on its fiber offerings in particular.
“San Francisco is our third city,” said Dane Jasper, CEO and co-founder or Sonic, in an interview with FierceTelecom. “Going from our first city, which was Sebastopol, then Brentwood and now San Francisco where we are seeing a ton of demand.”
Scaling broadband choice
While San Francisco is a hot bed for technology innovation, the city ironically lacks an array of affordable broadband options. Part of this is related to local ordinances that have made it challenging for service providers to build out network facilities.
Sonic’s key competitor AT&T found themselves engaged in a battle over where to place its remote terminal (RT) boxes to house network equipment to support its U-verse broadband and IPTV services.
In 2014, AT&T filed a suit against San Francisco over its protest to the telco's proposed placement of utility boxes on city sidewalks that will house the VRAD equipment to support its U-verse broadband and IPTV service.
“There was a real backlash in San Francisco about the fiber to the node cabinets that were involved in the U-verse deployments so AT&T packed up its toys and left town with regards to new deployments for a number of years,” Jasper said. “As a result, cable systems did not see much need to upgrade either.”
Jasper added that “San Francisco has been one of the most poorly connected large cities in America.”
A lack of broadband has created an opportunity for Sonic to offer customers a service with disruptive pricing. Initially, the service provider offered a mix of ADSL2+ and VDSL2-based broadband and voice copper services as a CLEC before transitioning into building its own FTTH networks.
“I think the neglect of the market by others has really helped create an opportunity for us,” Jasper said.
Improving installation timelines
With the launch of disruptive 1 Gbps pricing, one of Sonic’s challenges is to hire more installers to keep up with service orders in San Francisco.
In this latest network build, Jasper said The Mission and other surrounding areas are those where there’s a large population of high tech workers who desire a similar or better broadband experience in their homes.
“Some of the biggest challenges we have had over the year since launching in Western San Francisco has been staffing enough installers,” Jasper said. “We have hired a lot of folks to get our installation intervals to acceptable levels and ramping up that rollout.”
Similar to large service providers such as AT&T and Verizon, which have large-scale FTTH networks, Sonic is also benefiting from new network innovations like pre-connected optical components that speed installation times and cut costs.
Verizon, which just signed a multi-year $1 billion deal to purchase optical fiber and components from Corning, is helping to drive new innovations on the fiber network installation side.
“The technologies are getting better,” Jasper said. “The key technology for lowering the cost of deployment is pre-connected components.”
Additionally, Sonic is seeing emerging innovations for customer premises equipment (CPE).
“Customer premises equipment and installation methodologies are getting more cost effective,” Jasper said. “The capabilities of deploying fiber are getting better and better.”