Communications company expanding in Maine, into NH

Posted Nov. 08, 2010, at 10:17 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:49 a.m.

Maine-based OTT Communications is expanding both north and south, pushing farther into Aroostook County and out of state into New Hampshire markets.

This spring, the telecommunications firm started offering services in Manchester and Portsmouth, N.H. OTT is about to roll out services in Caribou and Houlton, according to Nick Winchester, senior vice president and chief information officer. And the company plans to expand to the Nashua, N.H., market soon, as well, he said.

OTT was formed from the merger of two Maine telecom companies, Mid-Maine Communications and Pine Tree Networks. Mid-Maine had been acquired by Alabama-based Otelco Inc. in 2006. When Otelco acquired Pine Tree in 2009, it decided to create an umbrella division of OTT Communications, Winchester said.

OTT is a competitive local exchange carrier, or CLEC. It uses FairPoint landlines in many cases to connect physically to customers, but also has its own switching infrastructure and fiber network in Maine — 518 miles of fiber, in fact, up from 300 miles just four years ago.

Its main market follows the Interstate 95 and Route 1 corridors, venturing east and west off those routes, as well. It serves 26 markets in Maine, from Presque Isle to Kittery, Winchester said, and sees the Maine operations as the springboard into the rest of New England. Much of New England is like Maine — geographically spread out — which offers opportunities for a company such as OTT to bring telecom services to underserved areas.

“We don’t necessarily go where everybody else will go,” he said.

Since expanding into New Hampshire this spring, OTT has secured 50 customers in the Granite State. Those are business-class customers, and could represent one phone or data line or hundreds each. In Maine, OTT has 2,500 such customers. The company’s vertical markets include the financial sector, health care facilities, higher education campuses (including the University of Maine), professional services such as law firms and accounting firms and municipalities.

The company has two main offices in Maine, one on Hammond Street in Bangor and the other at the Pineland campus in New Gloucester. Otelco has about 300 employees, and about half of them are in Maine, said Winchester. The company also is looking to hire in 2011 as it continues to push into New Hampshire and other states, he added.

The market in the other New England states is competitive, with other established CLECs already on the ground, said Winchester.

“We’re obviously coming in as the new kid on the block,” he said.

But the company has a good reputation in Maine, he said, with a strong clientele list, which gives OTT credentials as it tries to break into new markets. And the company is always mindful of acquisition opportunities, he said, which could speed growth in a market.

Winchester said the company is seeking to build a regional cluster, adding to it “in a building-block fashion.”

Otelco went public in 2004. According to the latest financial reports the company filed, it has seen revenues of $78.45 million in the first nine months of 2010, up about 1 percent from the same period a year ago. Its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization are up slightly as well, $37.9 million year-to-date compared to $36.5 million last year.

Chief Financial Officer Curtis Garner also noted that Otelco has invested about $6.4 million into the company’s infrastructure this year so far, “the lion’s share” in Maine.

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