Dobson Fiber CEO sees potential for 3-4M passings in Arkansas, Oklahoma

After securing a $700 million investment from private equity firm iCON Infrastructure partners, Dobson Fiber has set its sights on reaching 500,000 passings over the coming years. But CEO Francisco Maella told Fierce that target only scratches the surface of the total opportunity it sees across its three-state territory in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas.

According to Maella, work toward Dobson’s initial target is well underway, with permitting, construction or signups in progress for some 250,000 passings. He said its projects are focused in Oklahoma and Arkansas, with the company edging out into communities along its nearly 5,000-mile fiber backbone. Its targets include small communities of 1,500 to 2,000 households as well as small cities, he said.

The operator has already launched service in nine Oklahoma communities and three towns in Arkansas. It’s also committed to builds in 12 more markets across the two states. Dobson is peddling services ranging from a 100 Mbps option for $55 per month to a 10-gig service priced at $115.

Thus far, Maella said the early results from its expansion have been positive. While he declined to provide an exact metric, he said it’s achieving its target penetration rates fairly quickly. “We’re seeing mid-double digits pretty much within a few months of turning up a market or zone within a market,” he said.

As Dobson continues to build and validates its business performance metrics, Maella said there’s a good chance its targeted number of passings will increase “significantly.” He noted zones that would fit within its plans range from the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area to Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

“We’re probably looking at, that we could realistically serve, 3 to 4 million if we were to go after all of it,” he said. “That just assumes that we’re not going to acquire or construct more middle mile. As we continue to expand our network that opportunity grows.”

Middle mile advantage

Other operators including AT&T, Altice USA, Vyve Broadband and Bluepeak have announced fiber builds in Oklahoma. While Maella said it plans to keep a wary eye on the competition, he added Dobson expects its middle mile backbone to be a key differentiator for the services it offers.

The nearly 5,000-mile ROAD-M based network is made of pure fiber, he said, meaning the company’s ability to expand its capacity is nearly infinite. Today, the 44-channel system runs 400-gigs per channel. Though it’s capable of running 800-gigs per channel, there’s not yet a need for it, Maella stated. But as it adds more residential markets, it can adjust its backbone as needed.

In addition to offering flexible capacity, Dobson’s middle mile fiber also provides a direct interconnection to a peering point in Dallas. Maella said this means the operator can reliably deliver not only Netflix and Hulu but also remote work applications from cloud giants like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud to its customers.

“We’re not building islands, we’re building an ecosystem,” he concluded. “We believe that the performance of our product and our network is, even with competitors, is going to give us a competitive advantage over any insurgent.”