A CenturyLink service van seen from behind, with several CenturyLink logos visible.
Enlarge / A CenturyLink service van parked in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Could 2, 2019.

CenturyLink is promoting massive parts of its copper community in 20 states to a private-equity agency, letting the telco pull out of rural areas the place it does not plan to put in fiber-to-the-home know-how.┬áCenturyLink agreed to promote the networks for $7.5 billion to Apollo Funds, a private-equity fund operated by Apollo World Administration. Apollo will even take $1.4 billion of debt off CenturyLink’s arms.

Beneath the deal anticipated to shut within the second half of 2022, Apollo will purchase the CenturyLink ILEC (Incumbent Native Alternate Service) enterprise within the 20 states, together with “client, small enterprise, wholesale, and largely copper-served enterprise clients and belongings,” a press launch mentioned yesterday. The networks within the pending sale attain seven million residences and companies however solely have 200,000 fiber-to-the-premises deployments.

CenturyLink mentioned it should preserve its ILEC networks in 16 states the place it has 2.4 million fiber-to-the-premises deployments amongst 21 million properties and companies, saying these networks have “important overlap” with its “enterprise and fiber-to-the-home construct alternatives.”

CenturyLink lately renamed itself “Lumen” however nonetheless makes use of the CenturyLink model identify for residential and small-business clients whereas utilizing the Lumen model for enterprise clients.

Houses languish on previous copper traces

“On a convention name with buyers, Lumen CEO Jeff Storey mentioned that 70 p.c of the markets that Lumen will retain within the deal are in city and suburban areas and that these are the forms of markets by which Lumen was almost definitely to put money into upgrading broadband service to its fiber-based providing often known as Quantum,” Telecompetitor wrote.

Within the states the place CenturyLink networks are being bought, Storey mentioned, “we knew that we have been unlikely to prioritize funding in these markets forward of our different alternatives in enterprise and Quantum fiber.”┬áThe networks within the pending sale have 1.3 million CenturyLink Web subscribers, almost all on copper-based DSL. About 59,000 of these subscribers are on fiber.

Apollo will even be serving CenturyLink landline telephone clients. CenturyLink stopped reporting the variety of phone subscribers it has a couple of years in the past, however the firm had 10.3 million telephone entry traces on the finish of 2017. Extra lately, the “voice and different” class accounted for $518 million of the $1.4 billion income within the firm’s mass-market class in Q2 2021. Together with residential and enterprise segments, the corporate’s voice companies made $1.5 billion of the overall $4.9 billion in quarterly income. The remaining is from client broadband, enterprise IP and information companies, compute and utility companies, and fiber infrastructure companies.

The place the networks are

The networks being bought function below the CenturyLink identify and are in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

CenturyLink/Lumen operates each ILECs and CLECs (Aggressive Native Alternate Carriers), the latter of which typically lease traces from incumbents as an alternative of deploying their very own. The corporate will preserve the CLECs in all 36 states it operates in and can preserve the ILECs in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. CenturyLink/Lumen “will retain 3.4 million broadband subscribers, together with 687,000 fiber subscribers,” Telecompetitor wrote.

Apollo guarantees fiber upgrades

The sale might proceed a long-term pattern of DSL clients in rural areas being denied fiber upgrades whereas previous copper networks fall into disrepair. CenturyLink will not be more likely to improve networks that it is already agreed to promote however will proceed to function them for an additional yr. How a lot fiber deployment Apollo will undertake is not clear, however the firm mentioned the agency’s funding “will assist speed up the improve to fiber optic applied sciences, bringing quicker and extra dependable Web service to many rural markets historically underserved by broadband suppliers, whereas delivering best-in-class customer support.”

CenturyLink/Lumen has centered extra closely on serving massive companies lately, a method fueled partially by its 2017 acquisition of Stage 3.

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