Windstream Puts Focus on Growth

by Robert Bell  on Monday, Apr. 25, 2011 12:00 am  

Jeff Gardner, Windstream Corp. CEO and president, said the company?s focus on broadband and business services was part of a five-year plan to grow the company?s revenue.

Windstream had gained several data centers as part of its various acquisitions and offered some data services prior to the Hosted Solutions purchase. But most of the Hosted Solutions staff and management stayed on board to provide expertise in this area.

Gardner said Windstream customers of all types had been clamoring for these services, from very small businesses seeking data backup or outside IT infrastructure to larger enterprises that want to increase their network efficiency by outsourcing some of the processing horsepower they need.

Another element of Windstream's strategy is selling backhaul service to wireless carriers. As wireless data use increases, these carriers will have a greater need for leased fiber from companies such as Windstream to handle the increased load. "It's one of the big reasons we bought KDL last year," Gardner said, referring to Windstream's $818 million acquisition of Q-Comm Corp. of Overland Park, Kan., which owned fiber-rich Kentucky Data Link Inc. of Evansville, Ind. KDL has a contiguous fiber network of 30,000 miles across 22 states.

"Fiber is going to be an ever-important part of the infrastructure, whether it's on wireless calls or home phone data broadband usage in your home. So a fiber company like KDL was perfect," Gardner said. "We're really getting a lot of our new business opportunities from cellular companies who need fiber-to-cell, because not only are things like Netflix being used on televisions at home, but also more and more smart phones are accessing video clips and people are watching Netflix on iPads, etc."


The Bandwidth Battle

As a broadband provider itself, Windstream also has to contend with bandwidth-hungry applications like Netflix, YouTube and Hulu. The advent of high-definition video has increased the strain on Internet providers. Gardner didn't disclose how much of Windstream's Web traffic is taken up by video applications, but it is likely a significant amount.

"Video is here to stay," Gardner said. "It's definitely something customers want and it's both an opportunity and a challenge for telecom companies. You have to figure out how to most effectively and efficiently transform your network to handle that."

So is this a net neutrality issue?

"It is in the aspect that for the network to work in the long run, people just can't expect the telephone companies and the infrastructure providers to provide an unlimited amount of bandwidth for the applications," Gardner said.

Windstream has long offered television service through its partnership with satellite provider Dish Network. But a new sales avenue it has developed during the last three years involves signing deals with apartment and condo owners to provide video, broadband and phone service.

"This is one area we're real proud of, because over the last two or three years we've made an effort to try to grow a channel that, before, we were losing in a big way to wireless and cable," said Brent Whittington, Windstream COO.



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