Cable hails $75m spend for record Internet year

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Cable Bahamas says a $75m network investment over the past three years enabled its Internet business to enjoy its “best ever” year during COVID-19’s peak with subscribers hitting 56,000.

The BISX-listed communications group, in its just released 2021 annual report, said its legacy REV business – TV, Internet and fixed-line telephone – generated almost $80m in top-line revenue during the period to end-July 2021.

“Broadband remains the cornerstone of our business, and in 2021, REVNET broadband had its best year in company history, with 56,000 broadband connections – safeguarding a two- thirds share of the broadband market,” Cable Bahamas told shareholders.

“Due to COVID-19, our network experienced the largest sustained surge in residential internet traffic. However, since 2018 we’ve invested $75m in our network, which allowed us to stay ahead of demand.”

Monthly revenues from Cable Bahamas’ three legacy businesses dipped to a monthly low of $10.9m in August 2020, as COVID-19 lockdowns and associated restrictions took their toll, but this recovered to a peak for the 2021 financial year of $11.5m for May 2021.

Customer payments, too, recovered from $7.3m (VAT exclusive) in March 2020 when COVID-19 first hit to reach $10.1m in June, having peaked at close to $11m in February 2021.

Elsewhere, Cable Bahamas conceded that “declining customer satisfaction” had played a big role in plans to invest up to $85m over the next two-three years in replacing its existing 25 year-old New Providence network infrastructure with fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) technology.

“Over the last eight years we have also conducted several field trials of Fibre-to-the-Home technologies for some green field deployments, pushing our fibre access systems deeper into the network to get that much closer to our customers,” the BISX-listed group said. 

“At the end of 2021, the business was faced with some fundamental challenges driven by mounting competition, growing operational expenses in our plant and, unfortunately, declining customer satisfaction.

“We have had to stop and ask ourselves some fundamental questions, the type of questions that kept us up a night: How much more can we realistically get out of our HFC Infrastructure? What technology will we need to enable the future of telecoms in The Bahamas? And, finally, how do we continue to deliver reliable, cutting-edge, uninterrupted service to the delight of our customers?”

Unveiling the results of this soul searching, Cable Bahamas said it had “initiated the most significant transformation of its technology stack using Newco fibre as the vehicle for change”.

It added: “NewCo Fibre is being executed as a major investment being undertaken by Cable Bahamas with a value of $85m that is being treated as a capital project with its own dedicated budget and resources.

“The team has been given a very specific mandate to construct a new purpose-built fibre-to-the-home network that will provide 100 percent overlay of the existing HFC services footprint on New Providence. Within the scope of this project, we will be delivering a fibre connection for each of the estimated 80,000 homes and businesses in New Providence plus additional areas in the Family Islands.”

As for its Aliv mobile subsidiary, Cable Bahamas said its revenues and market share had risen from $13m and 23 percent, respectively, in 2017 just after it launched to $83m and a 48 percent share in its 2021 financial year. Over the same period, earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) had gone from a $45m loss to a positive $10m.

“While fixed voice continues to decline worldwide, coupled with the popularity of TRIO and the addition of two value-add TALK plans, REV has been able to increase our voice product share for a third straight year,” Cable Bahamas said.

“In spite of a competitive mobile market, our fixed voice product is currently at 47 percent market share along with increased year-over-year revenues and revenue growth units (RGUs).”

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