Frontier exits chapter, claims it can double fiber-to-the-home footprint

An Ethernet cable and fiber optic wires.

Getty Photographs | Rafe Swan

Frontier Communications emerged from Chapter 11 chapter on Friday, saying that it plans to double its fiber-to-the-premises footprint by extending fiber to an extra 3 million houses and companies.

“Frontier is deploying capital and pursuing an in depth fiber build-out plan that may speed up the corporate’s transformation from a legacy supplier of copper-based providers to a fiber-based supplier… Underneath the primary part of the plan, Frontier intends to take a position closely and move greater than 3 million houses and enterprise areas, enabling a complete of over 6 million houses and companies with Gig-plus speeds,” the corporate mentioned in a press release.

Increasing to three million further houses will take a number of years, as Frontier mentioned it plans to succeed in “roughly 495,000 further areas in 2021.” That apparently contains 100,000 new fiber areas already constructed within the first three months of this yr.

Frontier is analyzing whether or not it could actually “at the very least double the construct fee subsequent yr,” Frontier’s newly employed CEO Nick Jeffery mentioned, according to FierceTelecom. “We’ve got 3.4 million complete fiber passings right this moment and plan to at the very least double this footprint over the approaching years,” Jeffery additionally mentioned.

12 million houses on Frontier copper

Frontier’s present community consists of copper strains that move 11.8 million houses and companies and fiber strains passing 3.4 million houses and companies, Frontier mentioned in a presentation for traders. Even when Frontier achieves its objective of doubling its fiber community, over 8 million houses and companies would stay caught on Frontier’s outdated copper community, which supplies slower DSL service. Though Frontier did not promise to increase fiber to all and even to a majority of its copper areas, its presentation mentioned the corporate’s community has a “substantial aggressive benefit relative to rivals” as a result of it contains “12 million copper passings to doubtlessly convert to fiber.”

Frontier mentioned it’s planning for $1.5 billion in capital expenditures in 2021, up from $1.2 billion in 2020. The corporate mentioned its “incremental money price” for constructing fiber is “roughly $550 per location.”

Frontier supplies Web service in 25 states. The corporate had 3.05 million Internet subscribers as of March 31, 2021, a drop from the three.18 million it had one yr beforehand. (These numbers exclude 4 states the place Frontier sold its network.)

Of these 3.05 million Web subscribers, 1.3 million are on fiber. The decline in clients is from the copper service, as Frontier says it has added fiber clients for seven consecutive quarters. Frontier reported Q1 2021 income of $1.68 billion, down 6.3 % yr over yr. Internet earnings was $60 million, an enchancment over Frontier’s $186 million loss in Q1 2020. Frontier mentioned it makes $56 per 30 days on common from fiber Web clients and $40.10 per 30 days from copper Web clients.

“Important under-investment in fiber”

Frontier filed for bankruptcy in April 2020 after telling investors that its monetary troubles and buyer losses had been attributable to “important under-investment in fiber deployment and restricted enterprise product choices.” Components of Frontier’s fiber community had been put in by Verizon earlier than Verizon sold some of its operations to Frontier.

In January 2021, Frontier said it had failed to satisfy the end-of-2020 deployment deadline in 17 out of 28 states the place it accepted broadband funding from the Federal Communications Fee, despite the fact that that funding program solely required 10Mbps obtain speeds and 1Mbps add speeds. Frontier had accepted $283.4 million in annual help over six years to deploy service to 659,587 houses and companies in 28 states—the corporate now says it can end the buildout by the tip of 2021, early sufficient to keep away from monetary penalties due to a 12-month grace interval supplied in US legislation. Frontier is in line to get another $370.9 million over 10 years from the FCC regardless of its earlier failure to complete a government-funded buildout on time.

In the meantime, a report commissioned by the California state authorities discovered that Frontier and AT&T have let their copper phone networks deteriorate by neglect since 2010, leading to poor service high quality and lots of prolonged outages. To win the state’s approval for its post-bankruptcy plan, Frontier dedicated to deploy fiber to 350,000 California homes and businesses inside six years.

Frontier mentioned its Chapter 11 course of “diminished its debt by roughly $11 billion and annual curiosity expense by roughly $1 billion.” Frontier additionally mentioned it has “liquidity of over $1.3 billion at emergence, creating flexibility to reinvest in fiber community enlargement.” Frontier mentioned in a government filing that its complete present liabilities, together with long-term debt due inside one yr, are actually $7.2 billion, down from $19.2 billion a yr in the past.

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