Because Windstream has already built out fiber to a number of homes in its Greenfield builds over the past 20 years, it will be easy to roll out 1 Gbps fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) service across its network footprint, according to the company's CEO.
Speaking at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, Windstream CEO Tony Thomas said that having this fiber already in the ground will enable it to ramp a 1 Gbps offering quickly.
"Windstream is going to launch GPON, or 1 Gbps service, to homes that are already fiber-fed enabled," Thomas said. "As a reminder, like most telcos, Windstream has been deploying fiber on its new subdivision builds for the past couple of decades so there's fiber already to the home, but what we have not done is enabled that fiber through the appropriate electronics."
Thomas said in the near term, it will launch one market with 1 Gbps this year with the potential to reach five.
"We are drawing a line in the sand that says we're going to launch a 1 Gbps market in 2015 and if the team overachieves, we'll launch in five," Thomas said. "I think after that we're going to launch in every one of our markets a 1 Gbps product because in almost every one of our markets where Windstream competes today we deployed fiber."
Thomas was quick to add that it "can't blanket those markets, but we can make an impact in those markets by offering 1 Gbps service."
Joining TDS, AT&T (NYSE: T) and CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL), all of which have rolled out 1 Gbps in various markets, Windstream is showing that it wants to enhance its competitive status against cable.
What's different about Windstream is that like TDS Telecom, the service provider will be bringing services to areas where larger telcos and cable operators have not been as aggressive in providing services. Some of its largest markets include Lincoln, Neb., and Lexington, Ky.
"I am confident that the telcos are going to be very competitive with the cable companies from a product portfolio," Thomas said. "Look at where Windstream does business: We have very few customers per square mile and we're not competing in the urban centers like other telcos do."
GPON is only one part of its next-generation broadband story.
At the same time, it is advancing its hybrid copper-fiber VDSL2+ deployment. By deploying this technology throughout its network footprint, Windstream will have another weapon to increase broadband adoption rates.
During the first quarter, it reached 200,000 customers in its ILEC territory with VDSL2+ technology.
However, Thomas said that the true impact of the VDSL2+ deployment won't be seen until the second half of 2015 and into 2016.
"Once we get the VDSL2+ and bonding capabilities fully available in the back half of the year and our Connect America Fund phase one (CAF-I) investments where we're replacing copper with fiber a lot of those investments start to accrue in the fourth quarter of this year as well as the first half of 2016," Thomas said. "I think the combination of all those means that the first half of 2015 will give us results similar to what we saw in the first quarter."
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