Altice Commits to ‘Operation GigaSpeed’

Less than three months after closing its $9.1 billion purchase of Suddenlink Communications, Altice N.V. has recommitted to the mid-sized operator’s ultra-high speed data upgrade – dubbed Operation GigaSpeed – promising that customers in at least 250 communities will have access to 1 Gigabit-per-second service by year end.

Suddenlink first announced Operation GigaSpeed in 2014, promising to invest about $250 million to bring 1-Gbps service to 90% of its footprint by 2017. Deployments began in 2015.

The European telecom giant – which also is in the middle of the approval process for its $17.7 billion purchase of Cablevision Systems – is reaffirming its commitment to the Suddenlink program, Altice USA co-president and chief financial officer Charles Stewart said.

“It [Operation GigaSpeed] fits perfectly with Altice’s ownership philosophy,” Stewart said in an interview. “Investment in infrastructure is at the heart of our business model.”

Stewart said Altice has earmarked more than $4 billion for infrastructure investment throughout its worldwide footprint, including Suddenlink.

Operation GigaSpeed was a pet project of Suddenlink founder and former CEO Jerry Kent – who is remaining an adviser to Altice – to bring big-city data speeds to rural America. Altice said that as the 1-Gbps service is being made available, more than 70% of Suddenlink Internet customers should have access to speeds of 400 Megabits per second or greater. Additional GigaSpeed deployments are expected in 2017, rounding out the nearly quarter-billion dollar total investment supporting the program.

The focus on speed could make its way to Altice’s other U.S. outlet – Cablevision Systems – if that deal is approved by regulators. Altice has said it expects to close the deal in the first half of the year, and is confident it will make that deadline.

“For Cablevision, it’s too early to be precise,” Stewart said. “But I think it’s reasonable to expect that we are going to focus on network  investment and speed.”

Part of the controversy around the Cablevision deal has been Altice’s claim it could cut $900 million in costs out of the business over time. While an increased network  investment would seem to contradict that goal, Stewart said they go hand in hand, adding that any reduction in costs for repairs and maintenance would result in increased efficiencies could mean more money for network improvements.

The need for speed is evident in its Suddenlink markets. While Altice rolls out GigaSpeed, it also plans to upgrade other services, resulting in standard offerings of up to 50, 100, and 200 Mbps, plus 1 Gigabit. Local business owners are also provided access to the Gigabit service, along with customized, multi-Gigabit services that the company has offered for years.

Altice also has plans to introduce a home gateway device in Suddenlink markets that enables all services -- TV, Internet, and phone. No timeframe has been set as to when that product will see daylight.