WOW Guns for a Gigabit

WideOpenWest (WOW) will be joining the gigabit club when it lights up those speeds in five U.S. markets by the end of 2016 – Huntsville and Auburn, Ala.; Evansville, Ind.; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Grosse Pointe Shores, Mich.

Those markets represent about 10% of WOW’s footprint, said Steven Cochran, WOW’s CEO, noting that the plan is to expand access to 1-Gig speeds to additional markets in 2017.

“We have a plan over the next couple of years to continue to increase speeds,” he said. WOW is also rolling out a new 600 Mbps service next week (more details on that further below).

WOW will announce pricing on the new 1-Gig service in those markets closer to launch (the MSO will be offering it as a standalone service and as a service bundle). WOW is using the “Gigtopia” brand for its new, speedier offering, and has launched a website where customers can register to be alerted when 1-Gig becomes available to them.

WOW will be using DOCSIS 3.1 technology to deliver 1 Gbps down by 50 Mbps up on its HFC networks in those initial markets. The operator’s primary network platform for D3.1 will be the Arris E6000 Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP), and is currently evaluating modem vendors.  Six modem vendors have achieved DOCSIS 3.1 certification – Arris (for a retail model), Askey, CastleNet, Netgear, Sagemcom, Technicolor and Ubee Interactive.

In Grosse Point Shores, WOW is expanding its footprint using GPON-based fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) technology, and will be offering symmetrical 1-Gig capabilities on that portion of its network. WOW said Grosse Point Shores represents its largest investing to date in FTTH.

Notably, WOW is not implementing usage-based pricing for broadband on any of its speed tiers, including the coming 1-Gig offerings.

“For the time being, we don’t see a lot of value in it,” Cochran said. “Somewhere down the road it may make sense, but, from where we stand right now, we've been able to have a pretty compelling offering to our customers without having to put that in.”

Cochran said WOW’s HFC plant in markets such as Evansville, Knoxville and Auburn were already built out to 860 MHz or 1 GHz, so they already had capacity required to accommodate a 1-Gig service. WOW’s launch of 1-Gig in Huntsville is more of a competitive response – there, AT&T is expanding its fiber-based GigaPower platform, and Google Fiber is preparing to offer gigabit broadband and TV services that will ride a new muni-owned network. Comcast also serves Huntsville. 

WOW said it will be the first provider in Evansville and Auburn to bring 1-Gig to residential and small business customers.

Because most consumers don’t need 1-Gig yet, Cochran doesn’t expect it to generate a big take rate early on.

“To us, at least initially, it's a signal of the quality of offering we're able to provide…We're not going down a path of trying to force everyone into a gig if that's not what they need at this time,” he said, noting that home automation and other IP-based apps and services will continue to drive up speed requirements.

WOW also has plans to replace its current high-end DOCSIS 3.0-based 300 Mbps service with a 600 Mbps offering starting next Tuesday (August 16) across about 90% of its footprint. That will complement WOW’s existing tiers that deliver downstream speeds of 30 Mbps, 60 Mbps and 110 Mbps.

Cochran said 60 Mbps is currently the speed tier with the highest sell-in.