Traditional retail stores not part of WOW's mobile game plan, CEO says

WideOpenWest CEO Teresa Elder shed more light on WOW's new wireless offering, noting that the company's partner in the endeavor, Reach Mobile, will be handling the bulk of the post-sale customer interactions.

WOW will hook some of its internal systems into Reach Mobile's platform to ensure that home broadband customers get a bundled discount, but Reach Mobile will pretty much take the ball from there, Elder said Tuesday (June 14) at the Credit Suisse 24th Annual Communications Conference.

WOW recently soft-launched its new mobile service in Montgomery, Alabama.
  (Source: Sipa USA/Alamy Stock Photo)
WOW recently soft-launched its new mobile service in Montgomery, Alabama.
(Source: Sipa USA/Alamy Stock Photo)

WOW will also rely almost exclusively on digital/online sales to push its new mobile offering, meaning it won't be following Comcast's and Charter's pursuit of mobile sales in traditional, brick-and-mortar stores alongside a digital sales presence.

"We aren't building retail stores," Elder explained.

Those details are coming forward a few days after WOW soft-launched its mobile service, branded as WOW! Mobile powered by Reach, in Montgomery, Alabama. WOW plans to make the service available across its full footprint in the coming weeks.

WOW is starting off with a mix of shared and unlimited plans starting at $15 per month, and allowing customers to purchase up to six lines per account. To entice customers to bundle, WOW is offering $10 off monthly mobile bills when the service is combined with WOW's home broadband service.

"It's fun to be back in the wireless business," Elder said, referring to a work background that includes executive roles at both Clearwire and Vodafone Ireland. "This [partnership with Reach Mobile] is a chance for WOW to get into this business without having to build out a whole wireless network ... and provide good value to our customers."

Fiber buildout update

Elder and WOW CFO John Rego also spent some time discussing WOW's wired broadband strategy, which includes "edge-outs" to adjacent areas and a newer strategy focused on building fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) networks in select greenfield markets where broadband competition is relatively low. WOW recently doubled that commitment, which now calls for the company to build fiber to 400,000 new homes passed by 2027. Once complete, the greenfield build will increase WOW's footprint by 21%.

That strategy, which involves "cherry picking" markets that aren't already flooded with broadband competition, will push WOW's growth-related capex to $80 million this year, up from historical levels of about $30 million per year, Rego said.

In addition to focusing on areas with favorable competitive environments, WOW is also picking markets based on other factors, including the market's mix of single-family and multiple-dwelling units, commercial service opportunities and how much network can be built on aerial plant rather than underground. Following initial greenfield buildouts in Seminole County and Orange County, Florida, WOW is also targeting 30,000 homes passed in Greenville County, South Carolina.

WOW is close to breaking ground and expects to be ready to start adding customers in some of the greenfield builds within six months. "We've got the machine rolling," Elder said.

WOW, like others in the telecom sector, is also navigating supply chain constraints. Getting its hands on some materials that typically take two months to come might take eight months these days, Rego said. "The orders for what we'd like to have in-house for 2023 are already put in," he said.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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