TDS takes on Frontier, Charter with Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, FTTH service

TDS Telecom
TDS is offering residential customers internet speeds up to 1 Gbps as well as its TDS TV service.

TDS Telecom is giving Frontier and Charter a run for their money as the service provider is about to begin installations of its FTTH service to preregistered homes in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin this week.

What’s compelling about this network build is the timing. Leveraging three sets of contractors that were working around the clock, the FTTH network was completed only 140 days after TDS acquired Sun Prairie Utilities’ (SPU) fiber network. TDS is offering residential customers internet speeds up to 1 Gbps as well as its TDS TV service.

TDS and its contractors have been working to expand the former SPU fiber network since breaking ground in May. Taking a page from Google Fiber’s Fiberhood sign-up process, neighborhoods within the expansion footprint had to meet a registration goal and deadline to guarantee a build-out.

RELATED: TDS officially acquires Sun Prairie Utilities' assets, furthers 1 Gbps fiber reach

As of the middle of September, 22 of the 24 residential Sun Prairie neighborhoods had met the subscriber threshold. TDS said that all residents can still receive special offers if they register before their neighborhood launches.

Installations of residential customers in several areas that met the threshold are now underway. TDS will be calling customers 1 to 2 weeks in advance to schedule installations. Business installations are expected to begin in October.

“Thousands of customers are signed up to receive services and already have had boxes set at the home during the fiber drop process,” said DeAnne Boegli, a TDS Telecom spokesperson, in an email to FierceTelecom.

Establishing a new presence

Unlike other FTTH builds TDS has conducted in its ILEC territory, the new network was built nearly from scratch to establish the service provider as a new competitor in Sun Prairie.

“We overbuilt the entire city aside from a small segment the utility had built to in one neighborhood and a loop they had placed through downtown,” Boegli said. “This is the first time TDS has overbuilt a city in a competitive market area and it started with the purchase of the SPU network last May.”

During the process of building out the new fiber network, which is effectively a CLEC operation for TDS Telecom, the service provider built its facilities in an area where consumers only had a choice of either Frontier Communications or Charter. As part of overbuilding the FTTH network in the Frontier and Charter market, TDS then connected Sun Prairie to its Madison, Wisconsin, headend. Boegli noted that Sun Prairie is a “high growth area” that TDS Telecom can capitalize on to drive up revenues and awareness about its offerings.

M&A fuels FTTH, business service plans

TDS Telecom has not been shy making acquisitions to fuel its FTTH expansion plans. Besides Sun Prairie, TDS Telecom signed a deal in August to acquire Central Oregon-based Crestview Cable Communications to further its fiber-based broadband reach.

The service provider said that the Crestview acquisition fits in well with its FTTH expansion plans for Oregon. When it completes the Crestview acquisition, TDS Telecom will add more than 21,000 service addresses to the adjacent BendBroadband system the telco acquired in 2014.

Dave Wittwer, the outgoing president of TDS Telecom, told FierceTelecom in a previous interview that while some of its latest acquisitions like Crestview are in areas adjacent to existing operations, it is open to acquisitions that can complement its base.

TDS Telecom
Dave Wittwer

“Crestview surrounds our Bend Broadband market, but that does not mean our only choice is a market that’s contiguous,” Wittwer said. “As you can imagine, when a market is closer there are greater opportunities for those employees to grow and develop, we get the name recognition, but we don’t limit ourselves.”

But the expansion of residential FTTH is only one part of TDS Telecom’s fiber expansion plans.

Its purchase of Sun Prairie also opens the door for TDS to provide up to 1 Gbps internet, dedicated fiber connections, and TDS managedIP, a hosted VoIP communications solution, to local Sun Prairie businesses. Ever since it began building out 1 Gbps FTTH service in multiple markets, TDS recently launched a similar service for its business customer base.

TDS Telecom has also been making acquisitions to enhance its fiber reach to business and wholesale customers. Earlier, the service provider also completed its acquisition of InterLinx Communications and its subsidiary Tonaquint Networks in Southern Utah, adding 170 miles of fiber to its network.