Ting’s CEO: We Want to Meet the Massive Coax-to-Fiber Conversion

Ting sees an opportunity to hasten the broadband industry's movement from copper and coax to fiber-based broadband.

  • Ting Fiber

Ting Fiber has a clear role it wants to play in the broadband industry: an insurgent provider that can hasten the movement from copper and coax-based low speed to symmetrical fiber-based services.

Elliot Noss, president and CEO of Ting Fiber’s parent company Tucows, told investors during its fourth-quarter earnings call that Ting Fiber is a story of “lots of growth with lots of opportunity.”

“The year 2021 will include our largest capital spend by far,” Noss said. “Of course, that means corresponding growth in fiber customers, but the work underneath that growth is more important as we continue to build a construction, billing and provisioning platform that can scale to meet the massive opportunity that is the coax-to-fiber conversion taking place in the U.S.”

The provider continues to make progress with its fiber internet business. During the fourth quarter, Ting Fiber not only increased its subscriber count, but also the number of homes passed and those it can serve.

Ting Fiber added 1,700 new subscribers, raising its total to 15,400 subscribers, which Noss said was its “biggest quarterly net subscriber increase.”

It passed 2,800 new addresses and added 5,100 serviceable addresses with fiber, bringing the total of serviceable addresses to 55,500, up 52 percent year-over-year. Ting Fiber’s expansion was complemented by its acquisition Cedar Networks last January, which added about 1,400 customers and 6,400 addresses passed by fiber.

Revenue from Domains and Ting Internet operations was $66.8 million, up 3 percent from $64.8 million for the same period last year.

“The results for the fourth quarter and year-over-year were strong across the board, reflecting the high demand for Ting's fiber product, an appreciation of our industry best customer experience and our early work scaling the operation,” Noss said. “But we don't view this as enough and are continuing to keep our foot on the accelerator. We hope and expect our capex spend, passed addresses and net new subscribers will double in 2021.”

Scaling the Fiber Business

While Ting Fiber has responded to the need for symmetrical bandwidth as telecommuting and remote learning has risen, the service provider is seeing opportunities to fulfill demand in various new markets.

Specifically, the provider is looking to get orders fulfilled in North Carolina and Colorado for its $89 a month home gigabit internet service.

Following roll outs in Holly Springs and Fuquay-Varina, Wake Forest became the third Ting Internet town in North Carolina, and the seventh in the country. Likewise, the fiber build has continued to progress in Centennial, Colorado, which began in 2017.

“Although we've caught up on the pandemic order backlog, we're now working through a lengthy list of preorders in our recently launched market of Wake Forest, North Carolina as well as significant preorders in several newly lit neighborhoods in Centennial, Colorado,” Noss said. “The surge in demand and backlog of new customers created by the pandemic brought new innovations to our insulation practice.”

To anticipate future fiber broadband growth, Ting Fiber had previously enhanced its back office infrastructure.

“Before the pandemic, we were already heads down deploying a new order management system that will dramatically increase our efficiency, remove a fair bit of manual order management work, provide a foundation for future automation and, of course, will be deeply integrated with our billing and provisioning platform,” Noss said. “A key strategic focus for us has been building the Ting Fiber business foundations to be able to scale by orders of magnitude.”

Shoring Up Fiber Team

Besides expanding the reach of its FTTH network, Ting Fiber has been beefing up its management team.

In November, the service provider tapped former Google Fiber executive Jill Szuchmacher to lead up its network efforts as Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Vice-President Networks for Ting Internet.

Earlier, she served as VP of operations at Google Fiber, where she led strategy, planning, training and analytics for build and field operations where she led strategy, planning, training and analytics for build and field operations.

Noss said it needs to have the right team in place to manage its growth trajectory, which includes enhancing the network build out time, product diversification and customer acquisition strategies in its established markets.

“I have known Jill for many years and consider her a fellow traveler on the fiber journey,” Noss said. “We share a vision of not just the business of fiber networks, but the role they play in society more broadly. And Jill has come to Ting Internet and Tucows at a critical time in our business growth. The need for fast, reliable Internet access has never been more apparent.”

Szuchmacher’s appointment followed Tucows’ recruitment of other fiber industry leaders, including Justin Reilly as Chief Product Officer at Ting and Tucows, and Neil Shah as Vice President of Product at Ting Internet.

“They, and other key members of the team, have all experienced what could be with fiber networks, if only they were done right,” Noss said. “They share a deep belief in the coax-to-fiber transition and share a vision for applying the Tucows lens of innovation and software development to tried-and-true best practices from traditional telecom and cable.”

(To keep up with the Q4 broadband earnings, make sure to check out our new report From AT&T to Verizon: Sizing up Q4 Broadband 2020 Earnings)

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