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WOW Preps for Gig Service Too

Alan Breznick
8/4/2016
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Add WideOpenWest (WOW) to the roster of cable operators looking to deliver 1 Gig service to broadband users.

WideOpenWest Holdings LLC (WOW) , a long-time cable overbuilder that has now become the sixth largest US MSO with more than 780.000 total customers in the Midwest and Southeast, plans to unveil its gigabit service deployment plans next month, according to WOW CEO Steven Cochran. In a brief phone interview with Light Reading earlier this week, Cochran said the provider intends to roll out 1 Gig service in several undisclosed markets this fall, with more launches to come next year.

"There will definitely be some 1 Gig launches this year," Cochran said. "We'll say more in a month." While he declined to reveal many more details, he did say WOW will use a combination of DOCSIS 3.0 and DOCSIS 3.1 technologies to deliver the higher speeds.

WOW now offers top data speeds of 300 Mbit/s downstream and 20 Mbit/s upstream to both residential and commercial subscribers, covering about 80% of its footprint of 3 million households. Plans call for boosting download speeds to at least 600 Mbit/s across its footprint in the short term and at least 1 Gbit/s in the longer term. (See WOW Launches 300Mbit/s Internet Service .)

Like other cable operators pursuing gigabit upgrades, WOW is making the move as broadband continues to emerge as the industry's most profitable and promising service. With traditional pay-TV service on a steady decline for the past few years, most operators are pouring money into broadband upgrades and speed hikes while trying to stave off big video sub declines for as long as possible.

"We continue to evolve as a cable company," Cochran said. "We're much more focused on the high-speed data side of our business. We see that as the future."

WOW's broadband thrust comes as the privately held company, which received an infusion of $125 million from private equity fund ClearviewPartners late last year, also continues to expand its footprint by extending its reach into adjacent areas and buying up smaller cable systems in nearby markets. In the latest example earlier this week, WOW bought NuLink, a small cable operator serving 34,000 homes in a distant Atlanta suburb, from New York private equity firm Halyard Capital for an undisclosed price. (See WOW! Wins $125M Private Equity Investment and WOW Buys NuLink in Atlanta.)

Cochran said the NuLink deal will help beef up WOW's Southeast footprint, where it owns a string of cable systems running roughly from West Point, Georgia to Montgomery, Alabama. Although it's too early to tell yet, he's also on the lookout for any systems that might become available from the fallout of Charter Communications Inc. 's twin takeovers of Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) and Bright House Networks and Altice 's similar takeovers of Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) and Suddenlink Communications .

In the Midwest, WOW has moved into areas that are served by Charter and Comcast in cities such as Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, and Columbus.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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