Ziply® Fiber [1.] has announced an agreement to acquire Ptera, Inc, a fiber internet and fixed wireless internet service provider (WISP) serving four counties across Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho. The acquisition, Ziply’s fourth since June 2022, is scheduled to close later this year, pending regulatory approvals. Financial terms of the buyout were not disclosed.
Note 1. Ziply was created in May 2020 after Frontier Communications sold its operations and assets in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana to WaveDivision Capital in partnership with Searchlight Capital Partners for $1.35 billion. Ziply won just over $57 million in Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) support to build fiber to more than 21,000 locations. It has also been working with state and local broadband officials on additional opportunities and plans to participate in the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program.
Image Credit: Ziply® Fiber
Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Liberty Lake, WA, Ptera serves more than 4,000 customers in the cities of Airway Heights, Cheney, Liberty Lake, Medical Lake, Otis Orchards and more. All Ptera employees will join the Ziply Fiber team as part of the acquisition.
“Both Ptera and Ziply Fiber were born here in the Northwest, and both of our companies have been focused on a similar mission to connect communities that have been underserved when it comes to reliable, high-speed internet,” said Harold Zeitz, CEO of Ziply Fiber. “We look forward to having the Ptera employees join the Ziply Fiber team and continue the work underway to expand their fiber network to reach more addresses in the region.”
Zeitz told Fierce Wireless the deal will not only help fill in a gap in its fiber map, but will also give it fixed wireless access expertise which may help it secure more customers in the future. Zeitz said, “We’re not going to build fiber generally where there is fiber. So, rather than skip those areas that we think fit what we ultimately want as our network, it makes sense ultimately to join forces rather than skip an area or build over fiber.”
Zeitz told Fierce Wireless on Friday that it now serves fiber to approximately 800,000 locations – and remains on track to hit its goal to deploy fiber to 80% to 85% of its territory. But for the 15% to 20% of locations that fall outside its economic threshold for building fiber, Zeitz said it will either use grants to help fund its build or just use fixed wireless. Its recent acquisitions “give us an opportunity to have teams that are experienced with that.”
“There’s definitely a part of the footprint that’s just too expensive to get to but they deserve better internet, so fixed wireless is a good alternative for that cross section of the population,” he said. “We may build fiber where there is fixed wireless [today] but we’ll likely have some fixed wireless and we may extend the fixed wireless. We’re in the process of thinking through how we would do that.”
Steven Wilson, CEO of Ptera, said, “Ptera has been a family-owned business for more than 20 years, and I’m very proud of the work our team has done to earn the trust and support of our customers across the Inland Northwest. I’m excited about this next chapter for the company and our future together with Ziply Fiber.”
Current Ptera customers will not see any immediate changes to their service or working relationships. Once the acquisition officially closes (which can take months), customers will benefit from expanded customer service capabilities and access to new products such as SD-WAN and improved network management capabilities.
Meanwhile, the fiber buildout boom shows signs of slowing due to inflationary pressures for labor and equipment with a higher interest rates (i.e. cost of capital). In a new report to MoffettNathanson clients, Craig Moffett found that incremental telco fiber passings in 2022 were about 500,000, roughly 8% below year-ago expectations. Meanwhile, combined guidance for 2023 has dipped by 3.1 million, or 40%, he added, noting that this doesn’t include the build activities of private companies such as Windstream, Brightspeed, Ziply Fiber and Cincinnati Bell (altafiber).
AT&T has reduced the pace of future fiber buildouts to 2 million to 2.5 million per year, down from the prior suggested run-rate of 3.5 million to 4 million. That doesn’t include the AT&T-BlackRock joint venture initially targeting the buildout of 1.5 million fiber locations outside AT&T’s current footprint.
Lumen’s build also dropped about 33% from its year-ago guidance amid a broader company “reset”. Frontier Communications’ expected 2023 build has been cut back by about 300,000 passings, though its target to build fiber to 10 million locations by 2025 hasn’t changed.
Altice USA has also reduced its original fiber upgrade plans, putting more emphasis on DOCSIS upgrades in rural footprint.
Moffett doesn’t see any near-term relief as more government funds are released to support rural builds. “We expect labor cost pressures, in particular, to worsen,” he wrote. “We are inching ever closer to the allocation of rural subsidy BEAD [Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment] funds to states, and then to individual grantees. Those projects will introduce an enormous new source of demand for labor (and for crews from contract builders such as Dycom).”
About Ziply Fiber:
Ziply Fiber is local in the Northwest, headquartered in Kirkland, Washington, and has major offices in Everett, Washington; Beaverton, Oregon; and Hayden, Idaho. Most of Ziply Fiber’s executive team, which consists of former executives from AT&T, CenturyLink, and Wave Broadband, either grew up in the Northwest or have spent the better part of 30 years living here. That local ownership and market familiarity is an important part of the company mindset and culture. Ziply Fiber’s primary service offerings are Fiber Internet and phone for residential customers, Business Fiber Internet and Ziply Voice services for small businesses, and a variety of Internet, networking, and voice solutions for enterprise customers. The company also continues to support Ziply Internet (DSL) customers and its TV customers in Washington and Oregon.
Ziply Fiber has committed to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to build an advanced, 100-percent fiber network to both suburban and rural communities across the Northwest that have been underserved when it comes to internet access. The company has been actively building fiber across the Northwest since June 2020 and has plans to build and deploy new fiber-optic cables, local hubs, new offices, and new hardware to run the network as part of hundreds of additional projects across its 250,000-square-mile footprint.
A full listing of products and services can be found at ziplyfiber.com.
Ptera, a Liberty Lake, WA based telecommunications corporation, was founded in 2001 as a family-owned business. Today, Ptera is a pioneering wireless internet service provider operating a network with coverage in four counties across Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho. Ptera also offers hosted voice over IP phone solutions serving customers across the country. The company’s service has no data caps on fiber internet and the lowest latency in town, even lower than DSL or cable providers. Ptera’s VoIP service offers crystal clear digital phone calls over an Internet connection utilizing your current handset or Cisco office phone.
For more, visit ptera.com.