Windstream Corporation (NYSE:WIN) is a wireline telephone and DSL Internet provider that serves rural areas in the southern and southwestern U.S. As of December 31, 2009, the Company provided service to approximately 3.0 million access lines and 1.1 million high-speed Internet customers primarily located in rural areas in 16 states. Based on the number of telephone lines it manages, it is the fifth largest local telephone company in the country. Like many other telecommunication and cable companies, Windstream has "bundled" a range of services that use its connection into a home, including local and long distance phone service, and Internet access to over 3.2 million rural households; it also offers cable television.
Traditional landline companies face stiff competition from a range of substitution technologies that could undermine its core landline telephone and Internet access businesses. In particular, voice-over-internet-protocol (or VoIP) and wireless are gaining as alternatives to long-distance calling. In addition, cable companies--including Comcast (CMCSA), Time Warner Cable (TWC), Charter Communications (CHTR)--are competing with telephone providers (that use DSL) to provide broadband Internet access (via cable). As a provider to mostly rural areas, which have lower adoption rates for these technologies, Windstream has been relatively sheltered from these trends.
In July 2006 Alltel spun off its fixed line division which then merged with Valor Communications Group, Inc to form Windstream. The company incurred around $5.5 billion of long-term debt due to the merger. Servicing this debt may become costly in the face of rising interest rates.
Windstream earns revenue primarily through its local wireline services and network access and interconnections, which include fees to connect to long distance providers and broadband and data services. A much smaller but increasing percentage of revenue comes from fees for its own long distance services and miscellaneous revenues from charges for advertising, equipment sales and rentals, billing services for long distance companies, and commissions from digital satellite TV service activations.
Windstream's 2009 revenue was $3.0 billion, a slight decline from the previous year's revenues of $3.2 billion. This decline was primarily due to the decline in access lines and declines in product sales. For the year ended December 31, 2009, Windstream had a net income of $334.5 million.
Many cable provider companies like Comcast and Time Warner package a combination of cable services like cable television, phone access, and Internet access. Windstream and other wireline providers have moved towards similar offerings. This is significant since triple play requires some sort of broadband connection; normal phone lines are not enough. Approximately 80% of Windstream's customer's have triple play capability, making them attractive potential customers.
Over 80% of Windstream's revenue comes from its wireline services. As such, it is highly susceptible to changes in demand for such services. Since Windstream operates in rural communities, it faces relatively fewer competitors but also historically lower adoption rates. The main source of competition for the company in rural areas come from cable companies like Time Warner, Charter Communications (CHTR) and Comcast (CMCSA) , as well as wireless phone providers.
As a telecommunications company, Windstream has to follow national rules set by the FCC, as well as state regulations. Such rules affect prices and rates that Windstream can charge. This limits how easily Windstream can react to changing market conditions by preventing the company from changing its rates to optimally respond to such changes. Government regulations can also affect other returns that Windstream may have.
As a wireline phone and Internet access services company, Windstream competes with a range of telecommunication companies, including other mobile telephone services such as Verizon and cable companies such as Time Warner, Inc, its parent company Alltel, Verizon, and AT&T.