Bluepeak continues to progress its fibre plans in the central United States, activating and actively building service in more than 16 markets by the end of 2021. This year alone, the operator passed 70,000 fibres, and Bluepeak Chief Commercial Officer Jeff Seidenfaden said that more is on the way.
Bluepeak will introduce fibre markets in two South Dakota markets at the end of 2021. So far, fibre has been installed in 14 markets by 2022, largely in Oklahoma but also in sections of Wyoming and North Dakota. It also has two further Wyoming launches planned: Sheridan on December 30 and Laramie in March 2023.
“Eighteen markets is a lot for a short period of time,” Seidenfaden said. “Certainly there are folks whose neighbors are eager to get service as well…I’d say it’s been a phenomenal year.”
Looking ahead, Bluepeak hopes to surpass 50,000 passings before the end of the year. Seidenfaden added most of those passings will be integrated into Bluepeak’s existing 18 markets, and deployment rates have already surpassed the operator’s three-year expectations.
“When we look at our original plans, it was calling for much less than what we’ve been able to accomplish in the first year,” he said, noting a lot of these markets “just made sense” to move into, proximity-wise.
“While we’re there, if we can build on over to another community that makes sense for us, then it’s something that’s on our roadmap,” Seidenfaden continued. “That was something we certainly looked at as we finalized the budget.”
As for logistics, Seidenfaden believes Bluepeak is “set up really well” in terms of managing supply chain and construction hurdles.
“[Our construction teams] have really looked to secure and allocate 8-12 months in advance, so that we know we’re going to have the materials available,” he said, adding the company is also flexible with “moving around materials as we need” from areas where construction is taking a little bit longer to other markets where the work might be completed at a faster rate.
Bluepeak underwent a transformation this year, as the firm rebranded its new and existing markets from Vast Broadband to Bluepeak.
Seidenfaden believes the rebranding has been well-welcomed and has helped the company’s internal growth. Bluepeak has hired Lumen veteran Billy Parker as VP of its business and connected properties segment.
“More than a name or a name change, Bluepeak I think for me has been really that philosophy of what we do. And that is bringing big city internet, if you will, to smaller communities,” he stated, echoing what he told Fierce last year about Bluepeak deliberately targeting smaller towns across the central U.S.
“We talk sometimes about Bluepeak markets, and it truly is a pride that we have that there are markets that really fit into who we are as a brand,” Seidenfaden said.
From a competitive standpoint, Bluepeak’s markets are mainly served by larger Tier 1 or Tier 2 incumbents as well as a competing DSL provider. And those networks, Seidenfaden said, “typically have some age on them.” Bluepeak also factors in fixed wireless and satellite providers into the competitive mix, along with other fiber players.
“At this point, that’s a very small part of where we’ve built that we do have some other [fiber competitors] that have decided it’s a great opportunity and they’re going to come in as well,” he noted.
Bluepeak hopes to announce a handful of new franchise agreements beginning next year, according to Seidenfaden. While Seidenfaden did not reveal who those partners will be, he did say that those agreements often entail Bluepeak collaborating with a city or municipality to supply Bluepeak’s fibre product via public rights of way. Bluepeak’s IPTV streaming service is also routed through that fibre.
According to Seidenfaden, the operator does not consider TV bundles to be its lead product, although Bluepeak does seek to attract customers who value that offering.
“Our laser focus is really bringing the best possible internet to communities that haven’t had a choice,” he explained. “If the video gives someone an opportunity to come to us that may otherwise choose not to, then we want to have that for them.”
Asked about federal funding opportunities, Seidenfaden touted that Bluepeak is predominantly privately funded, though notably, it has taken federal funding in the past to build out its network in South Dakota. And this year, the operator applied for some American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to further expand into Oklahoma.
“If there are areas that don’t make the financial payback, that make sense because of a grant or any type of government funding, we would certainly look at that,” Seidenfaden said. “But our buildout is in no way reliant on securing any funding, we have all the funding to continue our buildout privately.”