The United States’ fourth largest cable provider is making a big expansion into fiber. Altice USA — the owner of Optimum, Suddenlink, and Lightpath — intends to build out fiber connections to “all” Optimum customers and “most” Suddenlink customers within five years, beginning in 2017.
Altice hasn’t said which areas it intends to build out first. Initial markets will be announced “in the coming months.”
The fiber connections are supposed to be capable of delivering internet at up to 10 Gbps. It’s not clear, or necessarily even likely, that Altice intends to offer those super-fast speeds right off the bat, but the intention seems to be offering somewhat faster speeds soon and much faster speeds down the road.
Altice USA CEO Dexter Goei tells The Wall Street Journal that this is being viewed as a long-term investment. “We know that there will be applications and demand for further bandwidth going forward, whether that is in two, three, four, or five years,” he said.
Other internet providers have been upgrading their networks and rolling out higher speed offerings too, mostly after being provoked by Google Fiber. AT&T’s U-verse offers gigabit speeds, and Comcast even offers 2 Gbps speeds — but in both cases, it’s only in limited areas.
Altice’s rollout schedule is aggressive, and it’s worth questioning how quickly it can make it all happen. Back in 2008, Verizon said it would connect fiber to every household in New York City by 2014 — in fact, it made a deal with the city to do so — and that rollout ended up being “an egregious failure,” according to the city. And Google Fiber, which put “fiber” in its company name, has had so much trouble building out its lines that it’s more-or-less switching over to wireless internet delivery going forward.
All of which is to say that Altice has a lot of work cut out for it to get this done. But if it does, it could put some pressure on Comcast, Charter/Time Warner Cable, and other internet providers in the areas where they actually compete.