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Hawaiian Telcom Unleashing 500Mbps Broadband on Oahu

hawtelHawaiian Telcom is introducing fiber to the building Internet speeds of up to 500/50Mbps to residential and business customers who need the fastest Internet speeds in Hawaii.

The telephone company has managed to outmaneuver Oceanic Time Warner Cable, its chief competitor, with up to five times faster speed than the cable company’s current top-tier of 100/5Mbps.

oahu“Hawaiian Telcom’s expansive deployment of fiber optic technology is connecting Hawaii to the world with speeds never before seen in the islands,” said Eric K. Yeaman, Hawaiian Telcom’s president and CEO. “We’ve invested $125 million in our next-generation fiber network and systems and there is more to come. As a committed local company with deep roots in the islands, Hawaiian Telcom is dedicated to meeting Hawaii’s bandwidth needs today and into the future.”

HawTel has already deployed a fiber to the neighborhood network across parts of Oahu similar to AT&T’s U-verse, delivering up to 50Mbps broadband over existing home or business copper telephone wiring. To boost speeds further, the phone company will extend a fiber connection directly to any subscriber signing up for faster speeds. The available fiber tiers are 100Mbps ($95), 200Mbps ($200), or 500Mbps ($300). A wireless gateway and security software is provided at no extra charge.

Yeaman says faster speeds are increasingly important in homes where multiple Internet-enabled devices share a single broadband connection. HawTel expects to offer its enhanced broadband and television products to 240,000 Hawaiian homes when the project is complete.

Interested customers can begin signing up for the fiber to the home broadband service on March 2.

Thanks to Stop the Cap! reader Aaron for the news tip.

Hawaii O-No: Spending to Revitalize Hawaii’s Telecom Infrastructure Panned by Wall Street

Spending money to earn more money is a fiscally sound principle of doing business, but short term investors often decry increased spending as harmful to the value of a company’s stock and dividend payout. That is why Hawaiian Telcom (HawTel) earns mixed reviews from Wall Street about the company’s aggressive infrastructure improvement project, a fiber to the neighborhood network that intends to bring television, phone, and faster broadband service to an increasing number of Hawaiians.

HawTel’s stock price has bounced up, down, up, and then down again as investors digest the company’s ongoing effort to reinvent itself as a 21st century telecom company.

The Old HawTel

HawTel’s fiber buildout began on the island of Oahu in 2011, eventually passing 27,400 homes on the island. At the end of 2011, 1,600 (6%) of those homes signed up for the service. That’s an acceptable number, especially for a service barely promoted. HawTel does not mention the television service on its primary website, and approaches potential customers one-on-one with in-person and targeted mail marketing.

At the end of the second quarter or 2012, HawTel TV had 6,400 subscribers. The company hopes to have an additional 50,000 homes enabled for its TV service by the end of 2012, with the goal of enabling 240,000 households across Hawaii over the next five years. HawTel hopes to eventually capture 30% of the Hawaiian market.

HawTel’s principal competitor is Oceanic Time Warner Cable, which provides traditional cable service across the Hawaiian Islands. HawTel had been at a substantial disadvantage competing with Time Warner’s television package and faster broadband service. But the fiber upgrades are allowing at least some customers to purchase speeds up to 50/10Mbps, slightly faster than what the cable operator offers.

Time Warner has taken note of the phone company’s re-emergence as a strong competitor, targeting Oahu with special promotional offers that lock customers in place with triple play discounts designed to make it inconvenient to switch providers.

The New HawTel

Unfortunately for HawTel, fiber upgrades do not come cheap, and the company’s earnings have taken a hit.

Capital expenditures totaled $41.2 million for the six-months ended June 30, 2012, up from $35.4 million for the six-month period a year ago due primarily to investments in broadband network infrastructure and expansion of video enabled households.

Hawaiian Telcom reported an 18 percent decline in second quarter earnings, which it blamed primarily on broadband network expansion.

The company also announced it lost another 6% of traditional landline customers during the second quarter, but that was offset by expansion in its broadband and television service. For HawTel, the solution to ending landline losses is to upgrade their network to compete with the types of communications services consumers are interested in buying today.

But those plans can and do conflict with at least some stock traders who are interested primarily in short term financial results. Spending can cut into profits, so some analysts downgrade stocks of companies spending the most, even if only to compete more effectively down the road.

So far, HawTel executives have not been discouraged carrying their network expansion plans forward. In July, Hawaiian Telcom announced it would acquire Wavecom Solutions Corporation’s local exchange carrier business in a stock purchase transaction valued at $13 million.

Wavecom’s undersea fiber network

The acquisition would give Hawaiian Telcom access to Wavecom’s fiber optic network connecting the main Hawaiian islands. Wavecom, formerly known as Pacific Lightnet, Inc., serves more than 1,700 customers across Hawaii.

In an application with the Federal Communications Commission, HawTel officials said access to Wavecom’s 400-mile undersea telecommunications cable network will permit the company to expand and enhance its broadband and television services beyond Oahu to other Hawaiian islands, and help position the company to effectively compete with Time Warner.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Hawaiian Telcom TV Tour.flv

Watch a HawTel-produced video tour of the company’s new TV service.  (4 minutes)

Trouble Looms for Smaller Phone Companies As Cable Swipes Away Business Customers

The cable industry is moving in on the phone companies' best customers: commercial enterprises

The growing competitiveness of the cable industry in the commercial services sector could spell trouble for some of the nation’s smaller telecommunications companies.

A new report from Moody’s Investor Service declares the cable industry is spoiling the business plans of telephone companies to grow revenue selling service to business customers.

With cable companies now investing in wiring office parks and downtown buildings to sell packages of voice and data services to corporate customers, traditional phone company revenue will suffer, declares Moody, which predicts traditional wireline revenue will be flat or decrease this year into next.

Cable Companies Quash Telecom Business-Revenue Rebound,” warns the companies at the greatest risk of revenue declines include EarthLink, Inc., Integra Telecom, Inc., U.S. TelePacific Corp., and CCGI Holding Corp. Among familiar independent phone companies, Frontier Communications, FairPoint Communications, and Hawaiian Telcom are at the biggest risk of losing customers, primarily because all three lack strong business products, according to the Moody’s report.

AT&T, CenturyLink, and Verizon are at a lower risk of losing customers, because all three focus investments on commercial services. CenturyLink’s acquisition of Qwest, a  former Baby Bell, strengthened its business services position, especially in the Pacific Northwest.

The cable companies best positioned to steal away telephone company customers are Comcast and Time Warner Cable, both of which have invested heavily in wiring commercial businesses for service. In the past, cable operators charged thousands (sometimes tens of thousands) of dollars to install service in unwired commercial buildings, but now that initial wiring investment is increasingly being covered by cable operators.

Moody’s declares the business service sector a growth industry for cable. The report notes business revenues only account for $5 billion — just six percent — of the cable industry’s total business in 2011. In contrast, phone companies earn 40 percent of their revenue from business customers.

The report also states individual cable companies are now collaborating to deliver business service to companies with multiple service locations, which used to present a problem when offices were located in territories served by different operators.

If the cable industry continues to erode traditional telephone company revenue, it could eventually threaten the viability of some companies, especially those heavily-laden with acquisition-related debt.

Telco’s Ethernet Over Copper Can Deliver Faster Speeds, If You Can Afford It

Ethernet over Copper is becoming an increasingly popular choice for business customers stuck in areas where companies won't deploy fiber broadband (Graphic: OSP Magazine)

With Verizon and AT&T effectively stalling expansion of their respective “next generation” fiber and hybrid fiber/coax networks, and independent phone companies fearing too much capital spent improving their networks will drive their stock prices down, telephone companies are desperately seeking better options to deliver the faster broadband service customers demand.

The options over a copper-based landline network are not the best:

  • ADSL has been around for more than a decade and is highly distant dependent. Get beyond 10,000 feet from the nearest switching office and your speeds may not even qualify as “broadband;”
  • DSL variants represent the second generation for copper-broadband and can deliver faster speeds, but usually require investment to reduce the amount of copper between the customer and the switching office;
  • Fiber networks are more expensive to build, and some companies are using it to reduce, but not eliminate copper wire in their networks. But companies traditionally avoid this solution in rural/suburban areas because the cost/benefit analysis doesn’t work for shareholders;
  • Ethernet Over Copper (EoC) is increasingly the solution of choice for independent phone companies because it is less expensive to deploy than fiber and can quickly deliver service at speeds of up to 50Mbps.

Unfortunately for consumers, EoC is typically way above the price range for home broadband.  Most providers sell the faster service to commercial and institutional customers, either for businesses that have outgrown T1 lines or where deploying fiber does not make economic sense.  Some companies have tried to improve on DSL by bonding multiple connections together to achieve faster speeds, but Ethernet is quickly becoming a more important tool in the broadband marketing arsenal.

With phone companies pricing EoC service from several hundred to several thousand dollars a month, depending on the speed of the connection, they hope to remain competitive players against a push by the cable industry to more aggressively target business customers.  In more rural areas, phone companies lack cable competition, so they stand a better chance of success.

Fierce Telecom‘s Sean Buckley published an excellent series of articles outlining the current state of EoC technology and what phone companies are doing with it:

  • AT&T: Inherited EoC from its acquisition of BellSouth, and barely markets it. Instead, AT&T uses it as a quiet solution for challenging customers who cannot affordably be reached by fiber.  AT&T will either deliver the service over copper, copper/fiber, or an all-fiber path depending on the client’s needs.
  • CenturyLink: No phone company is as aggressive about EoC as CenturyLink. When CenturyLink acquired Qwest, interest in the technology only intensified. EoC is a CenturyLink favorite for small businesses that simply cannot get the speeds they need from traditional DSL.  Most EoC service runs up to 20Mbps.
  • Verizon: Verizon’s network is the most fiber-intense among large commercial providers, so EoC is not the first choice for the company. However, it does use it to reach multi-site businesses who have buildings and offices outside of the footprint of Verizon’s fiber network/service area.
  • Frontier: In the regions where Frontier acquired Verizon landlines, EoC has become an important component for Frontier’s backhaul traffic. EoC has been deployed to reach cell tower sites and handles broadband traffic between central office exchanges and remote D-SLAMs, used to let the company sell DSL to a more rural customer base.  Frontier looks to EoC before considering spending money on fiber service, even for commercial and institutional users.
  • Windstream: EoC is the way this phone company gets better broadband speeds to business customers without spending a lot of money on fiber. Small and medium-sized customers are often buyers of EoC service, especially when DSL can’t handle the job or the company requires faster upstream speeds.  Windstream markets upgradable EoC capable of delivering the same downstream and upstream speeds and can deliver it more quickly than a fiber project.
  • FairPoint: Much of this phone company’s EoC efforts are in territories in northern New England acquired from Verizon.  FairPoint targets small and medium sized companies for the service, especially those who have remote offices or clinics that need to be interconnected. FairPoint has also gotten more aggressive than many other companies working with ADSL2+ or VDSL2 to deliver faster broadband to office buildings and complexes more economically than fiber.
  • SureWest: This company is strong believer in fiber to the premises service, so its interest in EoC has been limited to areas where deploying fiber makes little economic sense. In more out-of-the-way places, EoC is becoming a more common choice to pitch businesses who need more than traditional broadband.
  • Hawaiian Telcom: HawTel uses copper-based EoC to provide connectivity across the diverse Hawaiian Islands.  Speeds are generally lower than in mainland areas, partly because HawTel still relies heavily on traditional copper-based service. But fiber-based EoC is increasingly available in more densely populated areas.

Hawaiian Telcom’s Top Secret Cable TV Service: How Much, Where Service is Available Company Won’t Say

If this is a new way to attract customers, it’s sure stumping marketing experts who are questioning Hawaiian Telcom’s launch of its new cable TV service to compete with Time Warner Cable’s Oceanic Cable.  Nobody knows where exactly the service is available for sale, or for how much, and HawTel officials are not saying.

“If you call Hawaiian Telcom and ask them about the service, they essentially say ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’ and they are the phone company!” says Oahu resident and Stop the Cap! reader Dan Ho, who first discovered HawTel was getting into the cable business from Stop the Cap!  “I realize we’re talking about another form of U-verse here, but that could still be a good thing for Hawaiians who cannot get Oceanic Cable and are stuck with HawTel’s awful DSL service.”

HawTel’s new fiber-copper hybrid network tested successfully for 250 mystery families who participated in a secretive beta-test.  The new service is expected to be sold mostly in a packaged bundle with extra high speed DSL (presumably up to 25Mbps), a central DVR terminal that can record up to four shows off the company’s digital cable TV package concurrently, and unlimited phone service.

Lester Chu, a HawTel spokesman, wouldn’t tell reporters the prices for the new service, instead offering to accept bills from competing providers and allowing HawTel to competitively bid for your business.  The company also wouldn’t say where the service was for sale, “for competitive reasons,” added Chu.

But HawTel has been licensed to provide service on the island of Oahu, and intends to rollout the service in contiguous service areas, so once the first new customers do go public, we’ll be able to ascertain where the service is slated to be delivered next.

HawTel says they will begin targeted advertising to alert residents when the service will be available.  That traditionally means direct mailers, door hanger tags, and door-to-door visits from sales teams hired by HawTel.

“It’s a crazy way to build excitement for the product, by keeping it a secret,” Ho believes. “More important, I suspect their pricing is not going to be very good if they require customers to bring in a current bill from a cable competitor in order to get a quote.”

Ho should know, he’s a marketing professional himself.

“I suspect the company wants face time with a customer to explain away the lack of visible savings by instead talking up the features they will offer that Oceanic Cable does not,” Ho suggests.

Among those features – the four-recordings-at-a-time DVR, the 250-channel all digital lineup, and the presence of NFL Network, a network Time Warner Cable systems have perennially refused to carry on their basic digital tier because of its cost.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/KITV Honolulu Hawaiian Telecom Bring Cable Competition To The Islands 7-7-11.mp4

KITV-TV in Honolulu opened their newscast with the mysterious launch of Hawaiian Telcom’s new TV service.  (2 minutes)

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/KHON Honolulu Hawaiian Telcom launches cable TV service in select location 7-7-11.mp4

KHON-TV in Honolulu covers HawTel’s introduction of cable competition on the island of Oahu, even though company officials won’t say where it’s available or for how much.  (Loud Volume Warning!) (1 minute)

 

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