The Great Broadband Build: Frontier Adds 75K New Fiber Subs in Q4; AT&T, Blackrock Create Open Access Venture

As the new year gets underway, several new communities will soon benefit from new broadband builds: Frontier adds 75,000 new fiber broadband subscribers in the fourth quarter and AT&T establishes an out-of-territory fiber plan with Blackrock.

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Broadband build activity is getting underway in the new year. In this week’s issue, we’re tracking Frontier adding 75,000 new fiber broadband subscribers in the fourth quarter and AT&T establishing an out-of-territory fiber plan with Blackrock.

Frontier Adds 75K New Fiber Subs in Q4 2022
During Citi’s recent 2023 Communications, Media & Entertainment Conference, Frontier told investors that it added 75,000 fiber broadband customers in the fourth quarter of 2022. The company said that “strong customer growth in the fourth quarter” led it to finish 2022 with 17 percent more fiber broadband customers than at the end of 2021. For the fifth consecutive quarter, fiber broadband customer additions outpaced the telco’s copper broadband customer losses, resulting in 8,000 total broadband customer net additions in the fourth quarter of 2022. Frontier noted that fourth-quarter customer results are preliminary and subject to change pending the completion of year-end closing review procedures.

AT&T, BlackRock to Form Wholesale Fiber Provider Venture
AT&T has first moved to extend its fiber presence outside its traditional territory by establishing a partnership with BlackRock Alternatives (BlackRock), a fund managed by its Diversified Infrastructure business. It signed an agreement to form a joint venture that will operate a commercial fiber platform. According to AT&T, the newly formed joint venture—Gigapower—expects to provide a fiber network to internet service providers (ISPs) and other businesses across the United States. Gigapower will serve customers outside of AT&T’s traditional 21-state wireline service footprint with fiber access technologies in innovative and efficient ways. And AT&T will leverage its nationwide wireless sales capabilities to sell fiber to customers in Gigapower territories.

Gigapower plans to deploy a multi-gig fiber network to an initial 1.5 million customer locations, serving as a joint owner and using a commercial open-access platform. The Gigapower fiber deployment will be incremental to AT&T’s target of 30 million-plus fiber locations, including business locations, by the end of 2025. Combined with existing efforts within AT&T’s 21-state footprint, this network deployment will advance efforts to bridge the digital divide, ultimately helping to provide the fast and highly secure internet people need. This network expansion will also help spur local economies in the communities in which Gigapower operates. Following the close, AT&T and BlackRock will jointly own and govern Gigapower. AT&T does not expect to consolidate Gigapower’s financial results but does expect to report its consumer subscribers served through Gigapower in Consumer Wireline business unit operational results. Any impacts to AT&T’s 2023 capital investment or free cash flow forecast will be included in AT&T’s 2023 financial guidance when it announces fourth-quarter 2022 results in January 2023. This transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals. Additional terms were not disclosed. 

Archtop Fiber to Acquire Hancock Telephone Company
Archtop Fiber, a multi-gig fiber Internet and phone service provider to residential and business customers across the Northeast, has signed a stock purchase agreement with Hancock Telephone Company, a family-owned telecommunications provider based in Hancock, New York. Through this strategic agreement, Archtop Fiber will provide Broadband and phone services to customers throughout New York’s Delaware County and northeastern Pennsylvania service area and beyond, bringing new tech-focused jobs and business opportunities to the region. This is just one of Archtop Fiber’s many acquisitions to expand its reach. Following the GTel acquisition, Archtop’s purchase of Hancock Telephone will continue to execute partnership agreements with municipalities across the region. The acquisition is anticipated to close in early 2023, pending regulatory approvals.

Amherst Communications Acquires Union Telephone and Unitel
Amherst Communications has purchased Union Telephone Company, continuing its focus on its core broadband areas and expanding fiber internet to rural Wisconsin communities. In addition to buying Union Telephone Company, Amherst recently acquired Unitel. Unitel, which has offices in the northeast and central Wisconsin, designs and installs IP Telephone systems and related equipment. Unitel was named Sangoma’s U.S. Partner of the Year for 2020, has a large customer base across the United States, and expands our reach and offerings to our customers. Both acquisitions will allow the company to provide an even more comprehensive range of high-speed internet, data, phone, security, cloud and wholesale carrier solutions.

Bluespan Builds Hybrid Fiber/Wireless Network for Arizona, Washington Communities
Bluespan and Tarana unveiled several hybrid fiber and wireless broadband network projects, resulting in more than 750,000 homes passing across Arizona and Washington state. Operating in Arizona and Washington since 2001, Bluespan mainly offers fixed wireless broadband service. Bluespan was an early adopter of Tarana technology, first using G1 to overlay their entire network in Flagstaff, Arizona to provide better internet speeds to their customers. Before ngFWA was introduced in the area, locals had only two options for broadband service: 10 Mbps DSL or the legacy fixed wireless technology from Bluespan that also maxed out around 10Mbps and struggled to cover all of the homes on their network reliably. Bluespan now offers plans up to 500 Mbps in Flagstaff and no longer faces capacity limitations on densely populated networks.

Bluespan, an early adopter of Tarana’s technology, uses a hybrid approach to achieve these improved service plans. Throughout their Arizona networks, they are deploying fiber to 15 newly G1-equipped towers and using Tarana to bring broadband from the tower to the home at scale. The service provider has developed a similar deployment in Sonoita, Arizona, a famous wine region lacking viable options for reliable, high-speed internet. Nestled beyond a mountain pass in a rural area, Sonoita was nearly impossible to serve with fiber or cable alone. Instead, they deployed fiber to one Tarana-backed tower overlooking the greater Sonoita and Elgin communities and now offer them 500+ Mbps internet service. With additional plans to ramp G1 deployments in their Washington service footprint, Bluespan targets a minimum of 30 Tarana towers across two states within the next six months.

123NET, DayStarr Communications and Peninsula Fiber Network Build Michigan Fiber Route
Three Michigan companies, 123NET, DayStarr Communications and Peninsula Fiber Network, announced a 90-mile fiber route connecting Southfield to Lansing. This network will enhance connectivity options in underserved areas. The project partners are 123NET, Michigan's premier fiber internet, colocation, and voice services provider; Owosso, MI-based DayStarr Communications, a high-speed Internet and phone service provider; and Marquette, MI-based Peninsula Fiber Network, a provider of network, NG911, and core services throughout the state and in Wisconsin. This multi-million-dollar joint investment brings fiber opportunities to Lansing, Okemos, Williamston, Webberville, Fowlerville, Howell, Brighton and other municipalities along the path. Underground construction has begun and will continue for approximately 18 months. One common goal of all three companies is improving connectivity options to nearby underserved or unserved areas. This network investment will bring connectivity to nearby communities and create opportunities for more partnerships in the future.

Metronet Connects Ohio, Indiana Communities with Multi-Gigabit Broadband
Metronet is giving residents and businesses throughout three communities in Ohio and Indiana access to its upgraded multi-gigabit fiber internet speeds. Huber Heights, Ohio, residents can access its 1 or 2 Gbps symmetrical speeds, while businesses can get up to 10 Gbps. The updates to multi-gigabit speeds were made without disrupting the current Huber Heights infrastructure. Likewise, in Granger and Lawrence, Indiana, residents and businesses can get 1 or 2 Gbps symmetrical speeds, and companies can get up to 10 Gbps. In addition to Metronet’s current symmetrical 1 Gbps, speeds up to 2 Gbps are now available for residents; businesses may choose speeds up to 10 Gbps.

OzarksGo Surpassed 35,000 Customers in 2022
OzarksGo, a local fiber broadband subsidiary of Ozarks Electric Cooperative, has completed construction in the Ozarks Electric footprint and has connected its 35,000th subscriber. Guy Smith of the Crosses, Arkansas area received an Apple TV 4K for streaming his OzarksGo TV service and an Apple iPad for surfing the internet with the fast and reliable OzarksGo internet. OzarksGo connected its first customer in 2017 in west Springdale and has since made the internet, television, and phone service available to almost all Ozarks Electric members across Northwest Arkansas and Northeast Oklahoma. OzarksGo provides residential internet speeds up to one gigabit and TV and telephone service. In 2023, OzarksGo will be offering multigigabit services to our residential customers and will continue expanding fiber deployment outside of the Ozarks Electric footprint to ensure that many more in the region will benefit from its services. The fiber network also helps Ozarks Electric members by enabling intelligent grid technology to reduce outages and the duration of power outages. Since OzarksGo launched, several other Arkansas electric cooperatives have started their fiber projects. They recently announced that Diamond State Networks would be uniting the fiber-optic networks of electric cooperatives throughout Arkansas further to improve the growth of high-speed connections throughout our state.

GCI’s Aleutians Fiber Project Launches Service in Unalaska
The first GCI customers in Unalaska, the remote fishing town on Alaska’s Aleutian Chain, can now access its 2 Gbps fiber internet service. GCI will use a phased approach to bring fiber-based internet speeds to Unalaska consumers and businesses as quickly as possible. It completed the installation and successful internet speed tests in November. Since then, GCI crews and contractors have worked tirelessly to ensure the new network is open for business and able to handle pent-up demand from the island community that has been limited by satellite-only service. As the project moves forward, GCI will adopt a phased approach to turning up service across the island, including local businesses and residential customers. GCI’s island-wide launch of a 2 Gbps service for consumers is scheduled for mid-January.

With work wrapping up soon in Unalaska, crews will continue up the Aleutian Chain and the Alaska Peninsula toward Kodiak, stopping in Akutan, Sand Point, King Cove, Chignik Bay and Larsen Bay to install new local access networks. The communities are expected to come online in the next two years. The work won’t stop there. Phase two of the project will extend fiber optic connectivity to six more communities in the region through a partnership with the Native Village of Port Lions, recently awarded a $29.3 million grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Phase two of the project will bring urban-level connectivity to the small communities of Chignik Lagoon, Chignik Lake, Cold Bay, False Pass, Ouzinkie and Port Lions.

Clearwave Fiber Begins Buildout of Fiber Internet in Spring Hill, KS
Clearwave Fiber has begun building its Fiber Internet network in Spring Hill, Kansas. This expansion for the Savannah-based operation marks a continuation of almost 6,000 route miles of Fiber in the Southeast and Midwest and an ongoing commitment to serve Kansas communities. The company's goal is to bring the most advanced and fastest Internet available to more than 500,000 homes and businesses across the United States by the end of 2026.

Welsh-Based Ogi Lights 25 Gbps Speed for Local Tech Incubator
Wales’s alternative internet service provider – Ogi – has deployed Nokia’s 25G PON fiber technology onto its network, bringing 25 Gbps connectivity to the city’s tech incubator, Tramshed Tech. In the first commercial deployment of its kind in the UK, engineers at Ogi have upgraded the tech hub’s ecosystem with the latest technology from the Finnish telecoms giant, doubling the bandwidth capabilities for business users at the site. Nokia’s 25G PON enables operators to boost fiber broadband capabilities as demand for capacity increases simply by adding new optical cards into the fiber nodes in their fiber exchange and new fiber modems at the customer end of the network. No new fiber needs to be laid.

RFP/RFIs
Escambia County, Florida Resolicits Proposals for North Escambia Residential Fiber Project
Escambia County solicits bids for a company to provide fiber internet to North Escambia homes and county facilities. Initially, the county accepted proposals to offer fiber to homes north of 10 Mile Road and approved entering a memorandum of understanding with Escambia River Electric Cooperative. Cox Communications has since filed a formal protest against the award. The proposal from local power provider EREC included only their electric franchise territory, an area north of Barrineau Park Road. As a member-owned electric cooperative, EREC would provide fiber internet service to all 4,000 homes and businesses in their territory. Cox submitted a proposal to provide broadband internet to about 2,500 homes in unspecified areas north of 10 Mile Road. Escambia County is seeking a provider to offer broadband from Muscogee Road/Becks Lake Road north to the Alabama state line.

Network Trials

Nokia, etisalat by e& Demonstrate 100G Fiber Broadband
etisalat by e& and Nokia Bell Lab’s conducted a 100 Gbps PON proof of concept (PoC) demonstration on a single wavelength in the UAE. To achieve 100 Gb/s on a single wavelength, Nokia Bell Labs used new digital signal processing (DSP) techniques. Nokia said that once advanced DSP is adopted, the steps to 50G and 100G are straightforward and 100G could be commercially available in the 2030s. The Nokia Bell Labs 100G PON prototype is an application of a flexible rate transmission in a PON network. Flexible rate transmission works by grouping fiber modems (ONUs) that exhibit similar physical network characteristics (e.g., loss or dispersion) and makes data transmission more efficient. Using flexible rate transmission results in lower latency on a PON and cuts power consumption in half -- two essential characteristics for fiber networks that have a rapidly growing role in the massive delivery of fixed and mobile broadband services.

 

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