Report: Verizon Poised To Pounce On More Fiber, Sights Set On WideOpenWest's Network Assets

Telecom giant Verizon is in talks to acquire cable operator WideOpenWest's fiber network in the Chicago area for more than $200 million, according to a Reuters report.

Verizon has said that building out its fiber footprint will be critical in supporting its next-generation networking plans, which includes speeding the deployment of 5G.

WideOpenWest has built out about 1,200 miles of fiber in the Chicago market for a "leading wireless carrier," according to a corporate filing from the company. The Reuters report, which cited people familiar with the matter, said the carrier in question is Verizon. The sources said that Verizon is currently using WideOpenWest's fiber system in Chicago for backhaul.

[Related: Verizon's Q2 Revenues Boosted by Unlimited Data Plans, XO Acquisition]

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Matt Ellis, Verizon's executive vice president and CFO, said during the company's earnings call Thursday that the carrier will need more fiber going forward.

"The way that we're going to add that capacity will be probably through a combination of buying fiber that already exists if it's the right type of fiber," he said. "Fiber will continue to be very important the higher we build the network, not just for wireless but also various wireline applications, including smart city deployments."

Verizon declined to comment on the latest Reuters report when reached by CRN Friday.

For its part, WideOpenWest went public in May and is reportedly working with a financial adviser to explore a sale of the unit, according to Reuters.

The report said the two companies are still in negotiations, and in the meantime another buyer could potentially emerge for WideOpenWest's fiber assets.

Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Verizon has been on a fiber tear in 2017. The carrier closed its acquisition of XO Communications in February for $1.8 billion, which gave the carrier XO's fiber-optic network business. Then in April, Verizon inked a deal to purchase $1.05 billion in fiber-optic cable from specialty manufacturing company Corning. In May, Verizon signed a three-year deal with the Prysmian Group, a manufacturer of electric power transmission and telecommunications cables and systems worth $300 million.

Verizon reported its second-quarter 2017 earnings Thursday. The carrier added 633,000 wireless customers during the quarter, signaling that its unlimited data plans, which it unveiled during the first quarter, are paying off. Verizon said that the quarter marked the first time it grew its postpaid account base in the last six quarters.