Altice USA preps for multi-gig speeds

Not content to offer just 1-Gig speeds to its broadband subscribers, Altice USA is shooting to offer speeds as high as 10 Gbit/s over its rapidly expanding all-fiber network by the end of next year.

Speaking Wednesday at MoffettNathanson's 8th Annual Media & Communications Summit, Altice USA CEO Dexter Goei said the cable operator is aiming to start delivering symmetrical, multi-gig service over its new fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) lines in both its Optimum and Suddenlink territories. "We'll be 10-Gig-ready in the next 18 months," he proclaimed in a talk with Craig Moffett, a senior research analyst at MoffettNathanson. "We look forward to offering up to 10 Gigs next year."

The ambitious new goal comes after Altice USA has rolled out 1-Gig service to 92% of its national footprint, relying on a mix of FTTP lines and DOCSIS 3.1 technology over hybrid fiber-cable (HFC) networks. The operator, which passes more than 8.8 million homes largely in the Northeast and Southwest, still has another 700,000 households to cover with gigabit speeds in the Suddenlink region.

Pressed about his company's ambitious expansion plans, Goei said the nation's fourth largest MSO intends to upgrade 400,000 of those "low-penetration and low-speed" homes to fiber over the next year and a half. That total breaks down to 250,000 to 300,000 homes in the second half of this year and the rest in 2022.

Plans also call for Altice USA to step up its "edge-out" efforts to expand the reach of its footprint in both the Suddenlink and Optimum areas after slowing down the construction pace during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Goei said he's looking to double the edge-out construction pace to 100,000 to 150,000 new homes in the Suddenlink areas alone this year, boosting the total number of new homes covered to 150,000 to 200,000.

After reaching the milestone of 1 million homes passed by fiber in its Optimum region of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut during the first quarter, Altice USA is looking to add another 500,000 homes this year. Goei said the MSO then intends to pass another 1.5 million homes with fiber over 2022 and 2023 as it continues to go head-to-head with Verizon's all-fiber Fios network.

"We're very focused on volume growth going forward," Goei said. He noted that the operator, which has historically focused mainly on adding more subs in the Suddenlink areas, will now place more emphasis on building its Optimum customer base as well.

Overall, Goei said "60% to 70% of our gross adds are taking fiber" and about half of them are signing up for 1-Gig service. The operator closed out Q1 with 1-Gig service penetration levels of 9.8%, up from 2.4% in the year-ago quarter.

New mobile push coming in fall

After getting off to a promising early start with its new wireless service, Altice USA has been mostly treading water with mobile lately. The operator added just 5,000 lines in Q1, extending its total to 174,000, or roughly 3.7% of its residential customer base.

Questioned about the company's wireless strategy, Goei said Altice USA pared back its early aggressive marketing efforts because of high customer dissatisfaction and churn rates. Instead, the operator decided to wait until its service made the migration from Sprint's old network to T-Mobile's new network.

"We went out with aggressive pricing on an underperforming network," he said. "I wanted to get all the kinks out."

Satisfied with the results of switching networks, Altice USA plans to gear up its marketing push in the fourth quarter, likely in conjunction with Apple's launch of its next iPhone.

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

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