TDS is applying consumer FTTH learning to 1 Gbps business rollout

TDS Telecom
The prevalence of telecommuters and smaller businesses that have to conduct larger data transfers are changing the nature of SMBs’ bandwidth needs.

TDS’ recent move to start offering fiber-based 1 Gbps PON service in local small to medium businesses (SMB) to compete against cable where it currently offers the same service to consumers is a logical extension of the service to a customer set whose bandwidth needs continue to rise.  

The service provider added the 1G X 400 M PON commercial product in alignment to that of consumers.

TDS recently announced that it will offer 1 Gbps internet service in various towns across six states: Georgia, Indiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Tennessee and Wisconsin. In all, TDS will offer the service across 27 towns throughout these states.

Extending fiber to local businesses in these areas makes sense as it can leverage the existing fiber and related equipment to serve the residential areas, which are often not far from local businesses and even municipal locations like police and fire stations.  

RELATED: TDS Telecom extends 1 Gbps internet service to businesses in 6 states

Shane West, VP of marketing and product development, told FierceTelecom that it can apply what it learned in the consumer FTTH market to businesses whose expectations for always-on service are higher.

“It’s a nice place to learn the market before you go into a commercial market where the risks of something going sideways are much more dramatic,” West said. “It allowed us to learn the business and what features they use and to extend those into our commercial segment.”

Enhancing upload speeds, reliability

Leveraging the same PON-based architecture it uses to deliver its residential service, TDS wants to give SMBs that may not need a high-end fiber-based Ethernet circuit a new choice of speeds and network reliability.

The service provider is offering SMBs two main offerings: a symmetrical 300 Mbps service and 1 Gbps/400 Mbps tier. Depending on the market, eligible customers can get the 300 Mbps service for $299.99, while the 1 Gbps service is $499.99 per month.

“It’s a tremendously powerful upload speed as well as download and the price point is designed for those SMB customers who don’t require a service level agreement (SLA),” said Mark Lyons data product manager for TDS. “The sweet spot is the spend conscious, less mission critical business option, but understanding fiber over the competitive offerings that exist.”

TDS will also continue to offer up to 10 Gbps symmetrical fiber-based Ethernet service with an SLA for dedicated internet access (DIA) and other applications.

While 1 Gbps services were once only the product for larger businesses, West said that the prevalence of telecommuters and smaller businesses that have to conduct larger data transfers to clients are changing the nature of SMBs’ bandwidth needs.

“As small businesses continue to develop and work at home becomes more prevalent, you’re seeing this in a different type of business,” West said. “The five-person advertising agency that’s doing large data file transfers to customers means an ad campaign can’t be sitting on a 768 Kbps connection anymore.”

Extending existing fiber

In building out the 1 Gbps services to local small businesses, TDS will extend the existing fiber or work with a customer to conduct a custom build to their building.

Lyons said the availability of fiber in local buildings where TDS Telecom is targeting business customers for the fiber-based services will vary by market.

“The product price allows us to extend fiber laterals to buildings in some cases,” Lyons said. “In those instances where it’s well off the network, we’ll work through a discussion about our return and whether the customer aids in that construction or we can find a price point that satisfies the capital costs to do the extension as well as meet their needs.”

Besides its own network builds, TDS is purchasing other regional fiber providers. It is currently working to complete its acquisition of Wisconsin-based Sun Prairie Utilities (SPU). Earlier, TDS completed an acquisition of Southern Utah-based InterLinx Communications.

SPU has provided fiber-based high-speed internet service for 16 years and currently serves more than 242 residents and 31 businesses. Meanwhile, the InterLinx deal adds 170 miles of fiber to TDS’ network.

“We’re nearly close to finalizing the deal for the Sun Prairie municipal fiber network and that will be one where we’re building out everyone,” West said. “It will be a retail available product for the business segment.”

Additionally, TDS, while traditionally a wireline ILEC, has been establishing itself as a cable provider. The service provider will also extend the PON-based fiber service to businesses in the MSO territories it entered via its acquisitions of Bend Broadband and Baja Broadband.

“In areas where we are the cable operator, one might argue there’s more similarity between PON and DOCSIS versus PON and dedicated fiber,” Lyons said. “What we found in these cable markets is that there’s demand for an upload speed that exceeds what’s available on DOCSIS.”