Fresh off its return last quarter from New England’s telecom doghouse, FairPoint Communications (news, filings) seems to be gearing up for a bunch more fiber in its diet. The ILEC announced late last week that it intends to invest in its wireless backhaul capabilities across Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The buildout is primarily aimed at wireless customers, but the fiber will benefit other sources of bandwidth demand in communities along the way.
As of now, FairPoint serves 1600 towers across its northern New England region with backhaul for 3G. With this expansion, they intend to offer Ethernet-over-fiber to more than half of those towers, i.e. more than 800. They’ll need it of course for 4G sooner or later, so it’s not a big surprise. Even still, that’s a substantial expansion for a region that doesn’t have any tier 1 metro areas. On the other hand, it also doesn’t have a lot of alternative metro and regional fiber either, which makes the economic task easier.
Fairpoint emerged from Chapter 11 in January having cut its debt from $2.8B down to $1.0B. Their first quarter results should give us an idea just where they stand. It still seems quite possible that the company could participate in further RLEC consolidation this year, though probably only as a seller until they prove they’re all the way back.
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