CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Lumos Networks Corp. plans to celebrate its first anniversary in November by lighting a 100-gigabyte circuit and rolling out higher-speed services on its passive optical network system in Charleston, said Timothy Biltz, company president and chief executive officer.
"I'm focused on celebrating that anniversary with meaningful service offerings and enhancements," Biltz said in a wide-ranging interview.
The history of Lumos is intertwined with nTelos, the regional telecommunications company based in Waynesboro, Va.
Ntelos had several traditional telephone companies in Virginia, some wireline business here and a fast-growing wireless operation in both states when it bought FiberNet, a fiber optic network operator, in 2010.
The FiberNet acquisition gave the fiber network side of the business enough scale to stand alone and, on Oct. 31, 2011, nTelos split itself into two companies:
n Ntelos Wireless, a cellular business, and
n Lumos, which operates the traditional telephone companies in Virginia and a 5,800 route-mile fiber-optic network in Virginia, West Virginia and portions of four surrounding states.
Jim Nester, Lumos spokesman, said the company started with about 500 employees. Almost 200 were in West Virginia. Now Lumos has about 600 employees. The number in West Virginia remains at about 200. "We are still hiring sales, customer care and support team members," he said.
Most West Virginia employees work out of an office building on Greenbrier Street at the base of the Yeager Airport hill but Lumos also has offices in Parkersburg, Fairmont, Wheeling, Morgantown, Beckley, Lewisburg and Martinsburg.
Biltz said, "When we say, 'Our technology comes with people,' that's how we brand ourselves. My main job is to make that real."
Both Lumos and nTelos are headquartered in Waynesboro. Lumos' stock is publicly traded on the NASDAQ market under the ticker symbol LMOS. In the six months ended June 30, Lumos posted net income of $8 million on operating revenues of $102.2 million.
Biltz has headed Lumos since May, "but I'm not new to the company or our strategy," he said. "I've served on the nTelos board of directors since 2006 and oversaw the strategy of the acquisition and expansion into West Virginia and the subsequent spin off of Lumos as a stand-alone company. So I can speak as a director then and now as CEO."
"We have great respect for what the founders of FiberNet did in West Virginia," Biltz said. "I thought they did a fantastic job of being a very competitive company."
But the entire competitive local exchange carrier business, including a lot of FiberNet's business, was based on getting access from the incumbent telephone provider and reselling services to residential and business end-users, thus giving customers choices.
"Most competitive local exchange carriers, including FiberNet, were buying T-1 lines from the incumbent carrier and reselling that," Biltz said. (A T-1 line is a connection that provides data speeds of up to 1.5 megabites per second).
"For a while that was sufficient," Biltz said. "As data demand grew through the mid-2000s, you would buy multiple T-1s and bundle them to get 10-megabites per second. FiberNet did that. What you see in the marketplace, though, is demand for much greater speeds and lower prices.
"The wholesale cost of what FiberNet was buying and selling wasn't changing and retail prices were coming down," he said. "They started to build a fiber network under that, which was very smart, so you have more control of your pricing and you're not indebted to a third-party provider. We are simply accelerating that strategy."