Consolidated expects to add 3X as many fiber subs in '22 as last year

Consolidated Communications is well on its way to a previously stated goal of reaching 400,000 new locations with fiber in 2022, having crossed the halfway mark earlier this year when it added a record number of new passings in Q2. Erik Garr, the operator’s president of Consumer and Small Business, told Fierce this week it’s in the home stretch with its build in Maine, which accounts for more than a third of Consolidated’s planned passings for this year.

According to Garr, Consoldiated’s 2022 roadmap includes a total of 150,000 new passings in Maine. That means the state alone accounts for just over 37% of the new locations the operator is looking to reach. Just last week, Consolidated lit up fresh fiber for 41,000 homes across five communities in the eastern part of the state. Of the planned passings there, Garr said it’s already completed 120,000 to date and the operator remains on track to reach its broader goal for the year.

“In the first half of the year, we completed 226,000 passings. Third quarter is still underway, and our teams are on target,” he stated.

On the operator’s Q2 2022 earnings call, CEO Bob Udell noted approximately 80% of the fiber it is building in northern New England is aerial and located near its existing backbone facilities. This has allowed it to move faster than expected with construction, thanks in part to favorable weather conditions. Udell said on the call its teams are now working about two quarters ahead of schedule, marking an improvement from being one quarter ahead back in June.

All told, Consolidated is looking to hit a total of 1 million fiber passings by the end of 2022 and 2 million by the end of 2025.

Already, these new passings are delivering results for the operator. Udell said during Q2 earnings it achieved positive total broadband net additions for the first time in over seven years as fiber customer gains surpassed DSL losses.

The CEO added at the time that for the full year it’s on track to “add three times the fiber net adds” it did last year. In 2021, the operator gained 15,500 fiber subscribers, implying it expects to add more than 46,000 in 2022.

In terms of what service tiers its customers are taking, Garr said its 1-gig offering is the most popular. However, he added the 2-gig option Consolidated introduced in June is " proving a compelling offering for our work-from-home and gaming crowd."