Frontier Communications and Ziply Fiber to raise funds for fiber optic network buildouts
Frontier Communications and Ziply Fiber have secured more funding for their respective fiber optic network building projects and network upgrades.
On October 4th, Frontier announced that it intends to offer, subject to market conditions and other factors, $1.0 billion aggregate principal amount of second lien secured notes due 2030 (the “Notes”) in a private transaction. This offering comes approximately five months after Frontier emerged from bankruptcy armed with a multi-year plan to upgrade millions of residential and business locations in its footprint. Frontier plans to deploy FTTP to about 600,000 homes this year and, more broadly, to extend FTTP to about 10 million homes by 2025.
According to Jeff Baumgartner of Light Reading, Frontier will deploy XGS-PON and is debating what to do with a remainder of its fiber and copper network. Its footprint includes rural areas that aren’t as economically attractive as the original portions of its upgrade plan. The company has discussed multiple ideas for a so-called “Wave 3” buildout that might include exploring joint ventures, securing private equity or pursuing asset swaps.
Frontier offers a variety of services to residential and business customers over its fiber-optic and copper networks in 25 states, including video, high-speed Internet, advanced voice, and Frontier Secure® digital protection solutions. Frontier Business™ offers communications solutions to small, medium, and enterprise businesses.
Ziply Fiber, a company formed last year via the acquisition of Frontier’s operations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, has raised $350 million in fresh funding from bond buyers.
In a prepared statement, Ziply says the new funding will support its ongoing fiber expansion. “It will ensure that we have the resources on hand to keep up the strong pace of construction we’ve set for ourselves as we head into the new year, and to continue to deliver on our goal to providing the best connected experience possible for people in the Northwest.”
At the time of its acquisition from Frontier, Ziply reported that 31% of its homes passed were fiber capable. Ziply fiber expansion goals targeted reaching 80% by 2024. The company reported passing 1.6 million locations when it was formed.
Washington state is the company’s largest market, and Montana is its smallest. Ziply employs more than 1,400 people, according to the statement about the additional funding.
The company says on its website that it is “investing $500 million to bring the best, fastest internet to our neighbors across the region.” And that was before the new $300 million funding offer.
Ziply Fiber currently serves about 500K customers across its four state footprint and has been pushing fiber deeper into its network. The company has been steadily announcing new fiber markets, adding 14 to its growing list in August 2021.
Earlier this year, Ziply Fiber announced it was moving ahead with an FTTP network upgrade that will deliver 1-Gig services to another 14 markets in Washington state and Oregon later this year. That ties into a broader commitment to deploy FTTP to 52 markets in its regions.
Like Frontier, Ziply Fiber is also starting to gear its efforts toward XGS-PON, a standard that paves the way for symmetrical 10Gbit/s services and beyond.
Ziply Fiber uses GPON today but is “fast approaching where everything will be XGS-PON,” Ziply Fiber CEO Harold Zeitz told Light Reading in a recent interview. “We are preparing all of our network for XGS. The only difference will be the ONT [optical network terminal] that goes on the home. Everything else will be XGS-ready.”
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Consolidated Communications has a five-year plan to extend its fiber footprint to reach 1.6 million upgraded locations, and Udell says the company is on track to reach 300,000 new upgraded residential and business locations with 1Gbit/s fiber despite global supply chain issues impacting the telecom industry.
“Ultimately, fiber is going to be the best future-proof answer, and radio for fixed wireless is always going to be best where you just can’t build [fiber] effectively,” said CEO Bob Udell about Consolidated’s emphasis on fiber versus FWA. There are some mobile or temporary use cases where FWA is best, he says, but for the majority of customers, fiber is more cost-effective for Consolidated to deploy.
AT&T has struck a deal to use Frontier Communications’ fibre network to expand its reach for business customers and to support its 5G build.
The companies seem determined to pitch this deal as some kind of partnership, rather than a wholesale agreement. “Together, the two companies will enable high-speed connectivity to large enterprise customers within Frontier’s 25-state footprint,” the AT&T press release reads. Or to put it another way, Frontier will break ground so AT&T doesn’t have to.
In all fairness to AT&T, it does admit as much.
“With Frontier building out its own fiber network where we are not building, we’ll be able to work together to provide large business customers with the high-speed, low-latency data connectivity they need to grow and thrive,” said Scott Mair, President, Network Engineering and Operations, AT&T. There was a similar canned comment from Frontier’s EVP of Business and Wholesale, Mike Shippey.
In addition to connectivity for enterprise and hooking up 5G mobile sites, the deal will also allow AT&T to use Frontier’s Ethernet network to boost connectivity between cell towers and the core.
Frontier Communications Sells Junk Bonds After Bankruptcy
Frontier Communications Holdings LLC tapped the junk-bond market for the first time since emerging from bankruptcy earlier this year, marking a turnaround as the company seeks to fund an ambitious overhaul of its telephone and internet network.
The telecommunications company sold a $1 billion second-lien high-yield bond on Tuesday, with proceeds earmarked to fund capital investments and operating costs from building out its fiber network and customer base, and also for general corporate purposes, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
Frontier filed for bankruptcy in April 2020 with a plan to cut more than $10 billion of its $17 billion debt load by handing ownership to bondholders. It was the biggest telecom filing since WorldCom in 2002, reflecting years of decline in its business of providing internet, TV and phone service in 29 states.
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