Windstream to begin 1 Gbps trial in December, sees broadband growing through 2017

Windstream will begin 1 Gbps FTTH service trial with plans for a broader roll out to follow in 2016 in markets where it has previously built fiber to homes.

Speaking to investors during the Wells Fargo Securities Technology, Media & Telecom Conference, Tony Thomas, CEO of Windstream, said the 1 Gbps service will leverage and extend existing fiber network facilities.

"In the fourth quarter, we'll make an announcement that we're be launching a 1 Gbps trial," Thomas said. "We'll be expanding our 1 Gbps service on a greater extent in 2016."

Thomas added that the pending debut of the 1 Gbps FTTH product reflects the company's mission to leverage and extend existing fiber assets.

"In each one of these instances ... we have FTTH, but we have not enabled the 1 Gbps service capabilities," Thomas said. "Being a network-first company where you have done the work of putting fiber in the ground you must get every single dollar you can through monetization."

At the same time, the service provider's Project Excel program will implement VDSL2 network equipment to support up to 100 Mbps in more of its rural markets.

Leveraging funds from the upcoming sale of its data center business, the Project Excel program will accelerate its plans to further upgrade broadband speeds for both its residential and small business customers. The program upgrades its fiber-fed DSLAM infrastructure with VDSL2-capable equipment to deliver the higher speeds and a more robust backhaul network.

It has also completed significant service upgrades in approximately 600 markets across 12 states to bring speeds of up to 100 Mbps to residential and small business customers.

Thomas said it is seeing some initial positive take rates for the 100 Mbps service, but he would not provide specific numbers.

"We're seeing some very encouraging results in selling the higher speeds," Thomas said. "We just wrapped that program up on Oct. 31 so the sales force is still getting accustomed on how to position the product, but for new customers coming into Windstream we're having tremendous success selling 100, 75 and 50 Mbps services."

Thomas added that "what we have to get better at is helping our existing customer understand the benefits of these higher speeds, but I am confident that there's going to be more bandwidth required at the home."

A key focus of these initiatives is to drive future broadband growth.

Thomas said that while he expects to lose 30,000 basic DSL customers in 2015, it has the foundation to grow the broadband base because it will have a set of more competitive speeds.

"This year we'll use roughly 30,000 DSL customers this year, but we will not lose that many in 2016," Thomas said. "We will be pivoting growth in the broadband customer base, perhaps not in 2016, but in 2017 as we have increased competitiveness around Project Excel and the Connect America Fund programs."

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