Liberty Puerto Rico has restored 80 percent of its infrastructure, ravaged by Hurricanes Irma and María last September, and expects to be fully back online by June, after investing $130 million in repairs, company CEO Naji Khoury confirmed.
More than 90 percent of customers are back online in the island’s most populated regions, such as the metropolitan and southern urban areas. Liberty has reestablished its presence in all island municipalities except Maricao. Furthermore, Liberty’s business-to-business fiber service segment is already nearly completely restored.
“Our reconstruction process is advancing faster than our competitors. We continue implementing our recovery plan and expect to have completely restored our service within the next two months,” Khoury said.
“We currently have the capability to offer our service to about 900,000 homes around the island. We are upgrading our network in areas which had older equipment,” he added.
As part of the reconstruction, Liberty has “upgraded the network, swapped old equipment with new, replaced cables, strapped in poles, and buried as much as we could in certain areas,” Khoury said.
However, he acknowledged that despite all of the work “it would be completely irresponsible on my part to tell you that we’re 100 percent ready for the next [hurricane.]”
“We needed to reconnect our customers and we need the revenue, the income, to pay for the investment we had to do,” he said, noting that Liberty granted close to $100 million in credits to customers who were left without service after the storms.
Khoury added that Liberty is gaining new customers and many customers that had deactivated their services are coming back.
“Customers are proving that fixed Internet in homes and offices is a much better option than mobile Internet for today’s bandwidth needs. Residential and business customers have also been opting in and/or upgrading to Liberty’s new bundles with 100 Mbps Internet speeds,” he added.
“These bundles have been highly successful and have helped increase our customer base significantly,” Khoury added. “We have also noticed that many customers that have tried other providers are now coming back to us because of the quality of our Internet and video services.”
Liberty has also seen an influx of clients moving from affected rural areas to urban centers. The company has also noted another trend, which he called “household consolidation,” or people who have left their homes to move in with family.
Throughout the rebuild, Liberty Puerto Rico has received “solid support” from parent company Liberty Latin America, which reported a 3.5 percent drop in revenue during the first quarter of the to $909.9 million. The report released Wednesday showed that Hurricanes Irma and María dealt a $45 million loss to Liberty Puerto Rico’s bottom line during the quarter.
“In Puerto Rico, our team has continued to work tirelessly to rebuild the network, which is now mostly complete and contributed to our solid sequential step-up in revenue,” said Liberty Latin America CEO Balan Nair.
“Today, we are approaching 600,000 billable Revenue Generating Units, our sales are back at pre-hurricane levels and nearly all of our business-to-business customers are connected. We expect that our performance in Puerto Rico will continue to improve throughout the year,” he said.