Clearwave Fiber, a joint venture formed by operator Cable One and a handful of partners in January, is looking to make a big impact in small towns, targeting fiber rollouts to half a million rural locations by 2027. It is mostly aiming for organic growth but also has its eye out for strategic acquisitions and in fact already struck a deal to buy a small Kansas-based fiber provider, Midwest President Byron Cantrall told Fierce.
According to Cantrall, Clearwave plans to hit its expansion goal through a 70/30 mix of densification in existing markets and edge outs to greenfield areas outside its current footprint. The former will include work in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and South Carolina, while the latter could see it reach into parts of Arkansas, Tennessee and Indiana.
“The specific focus is just that underserved rural community where there’s either no fiber provider that’s building fiber-to-the-home, fiber-to-the-curb services for these communities or perhaps there was an original fiber operator that has stopped building into that community for various reasons where we can go bridge that digital and economic divide,” he said.
In terms of how its work will be spread out over the years, Cantrall said 2022 will primarily be spent putting staff and resources in place to enable the company to ramp construction in 2023 and beyond. Though he didn’t provide a passings target for each year, he noted the goal for 2022 will be “maybe a third” of what it’ll be aiming to hit in 2023, 2024 and 2025. The executive added 2026 and 2027 will be more about densifying in the areas where it’s already expanded.
As it grows its fiber footprint, Cantrall said Clearwave is expecting penetration rates to reach around 20% after 12 months. But that number could be much, much higher. “We think that the communities – because of how unserved these communities are the take rate will be much greater than that,” he said.
Right now it’s offering plans ranging from 50 Mbps to 1 Gbps, but Cantrall said it is looking to move into multi-gig territory sometime in the future.
Clearwave is also looking to supplement its organic growth with acquisitions, though such transactions aren’t core to its strategy. In particular, it’s hunting for targets in or nearby the areas where it plans to expand that have a company culture similar to its own. Cantrall revealed it actually just struck a deal to scoop up a small operator in Kansas called RG Fiber. Additional details about that deal were not immediately available.
“As those opportunities pop up, we’re going to continue to be aggressive in pursuing them,” Cantrall stated, adding it is especially interested in “small, rural fiber operators that are perhaps underfunded, that if they just had access to a strategy and more capital we can accelerate the growth.”
Source: Fierce Telecom