Salt hails strong third quarter amid concerns over fiber optic network

Swiss operator Salt Mobile, backed by French billionaire Xavier Niel, said it exceeded 150,000 broadband subscribers in the third quarter (Q3) 2021 ?? a key step for a mobile operator aiming to become a provider of converged mobile and fiber services in the future.

Salt currently sells fiber services under Salt Home and promises speeds of up to 10 Gbps for its customers. It initially launched the service in 2018 through wholesale provider Swiss Fiber Net. Then, in April this year, Salt unveiled the next phase of its plan: it has partnered with Swisscom to access the incumbent’s fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network in the future.

The agreement would give Salt access to more than 3 million households by 2025. At the end of 2020, Switzerland had around 3.9 million households in total, with a population of around 8.67 million, according to government statistics.

However, recent events mean that Salt may have to wait a little longer than expected for this addition to its fiber network offering. Swisscom CEO Urs Schaeppi has warned that government objections could delay fiber rollout for years as Swiss regulator ComCo and the Federal Administrative Court (TAF) appear to have challenged the planned range of wholesale offers by Swisscom.

Swisscom has indicated that it will offer a wholesale Layer 1 product to Salt, as Salt is an investment partner in fiber expansion, sharing what Swisscom calls “associated business risks”. However, those who do not co-invest will have to make do with a more basic Layer 3 service, by renting space on Swisscom lines and equipment.

We do not yet know how this situation will develop. Schaeppi noted that the partnership with Salt “is currently blocked by the decision” and said that clarity is needed “as quickly as possible so that we can accelerate the expansion of the network again. It is essential that Switzerland does not do this. do not fall behind in international comparisons due to uncertain conditions.

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It is also not the first time that Salt has encountered an obstacle in its fiber network efforts: its previous joint venture with Sunrise, called Swiss Open Fiber, was dissolved following the merger of Sunrise with the cable operator UPC belonging to Liberty Global.

A spokesperson for Salt told Light Reading that “in the short term, the deployment of the fiber optic network will be delayed. This is particularly annoying for Swiss consumers. Both sides are committed to making the deal work under the new circumstances. Salt continues to experience strong growth. potential in its existing footprint, which we will exploit in the years to come. ”

Positive concentration

In the publication of the results, Pascal Grieder, CEO of Salt, simply said that with “Salt Home in particular, we are far from having fully exploited our potential. We are committed to bringing ultra-fast Internet and fiber-quality television to the greatest number of customers in Switzerland. ”

Grieder chose to focus on more positive items in the third quarter results, pointing out that operating income increased 6.8% year-on-year to 244.1 million Swiss francs ($ 263 million ), while EBITDA increased 6.3% to CHF 118.7 million. ($ 128 million), supported by growth in the number of subscribers and a resumption of roaming.

Salt added 18,600 postpaid mobile users in the third quarter, bringing the total number of subscribers to 1,359,000 at the end of September. He also highlighted the recent launches of Salt Mobile PRO, a new portfolio for SOHO companies that is expected to boost the B2B segment; and GoMo, a purely digital mobile offer.

“We get better every quarter and our customers appreciate it,” said Grieder. “This is also reflected in the growth of our turnover, which is significantly higher than that of the market. This makes us proud and confident that we can continue to grow in the coming quarters. ”

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?? Anne Morris, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading Special

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