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Altice USA Begins Fiber Buildout

Mari Silbey

The US division of Altice has begun rolling out fiber-to-the-home, part of a five-year plan to cover its entire Optimum footprint and part of its Suddenlink service area.

The company also confirmed it has begun beta-testing a new video hub product in the second quarter, with plans to start rolling out the gateway commercially within the next month or so. (See Altice Hopes Hubs Will Move Needle.)

The news came alongside the company's second-quarter earnings. Altice reported revenue from its US operations of $2.3 billion in the quarter, up 3.2% year-over-year despite lackluster activity on the subscriber front.

Altice USA's FTTH rollout comes as many of its peers in the US are focusing more heavily on DOCSIS 3.1 for high-speed broadband services. Altice believes it can deploy fiber cost-effectively thanks to what it considers pioneering GPON technology developments, and the fact that much of the company's outside plant -- at least throughout the Cablevision/Optimum footprint -- is built around aerial connections rather than underground cabling. (See Altice USA Sticks to High-Fiber Diet.)

Capex for Altice USA for the quarter was only $228 million, but the company said that number is "expected to increase through H2 2017 and into 2018... as the build phase of the FTTH rollout has now begun."

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Despite Altice's big plans, the company still faces the same competitive threats as any cable operator in the US, and it hasn't yet mustered much momentum with customers. Altice lost 12,000 video subscribers in its Optimum territory, and 25,000 video subs in its Suddenlink footprint in the second quarter. The company managed to add 10,000 Optimum broadband customers over the same period, but that result was offset by a loss of 8,000 Suddenlink Internet subs. Altice also lost 1,000 Optimum voice subscribers and 7,000 Suddenlink voice subs.

In a surprise moment during Altice's earnings call, the chairman and CEO of Altice USA, Dexter Goei, did shed some light on the company's outlook around offering wireless services in the US. He noted that Altice isn't very interested in acquiring a mobile operator, but did say that he would be open to working with Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Charter Communications Inc. in pursuing the wireless sector if the right opportunity arose. (See Sprint Plus Cable, Still on the Table – Report.)

"We've got a great relationship with our peers. We've got a very open dialog, so to the extent there's an opportunity to do something together, we will absolutely look at it very seriously," said Goei.

This is the first quarter that Altice has reported earnings since its US IPO in June. The company raised $1.9 billion through its initial public offering, one of the largest entries into the market so far this year. Altice USA opened today on the New York Stock Exchange trading at $33.76 per share. Declines throughout the day have left the share price hovering about a dollar lower in the afternoon hours. (See Altice Raises $1.9B in US IPO.)

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

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