The nation’s sixth-largest cable company said Wednesday that it will unify its regional brands under the name Astound Broadband.
Astound Broadband’s West Coast operations, which trace their roots to the founding of Wave Broadband in the Seattle area nearly two decades ago, will be known as “Astound Broadband powered by Wave.” Wave Business will become “Astound Business Solutions.”
The unified brand — which also will apply to RCN, Grande, enTouch and Digital West in other parts of the country — is part of a broader move by Astound to position itself for additional growth as it goes up against large, formidable competitors such as Verizon, Comcast and Lumen.
It comes as the pandemic fuels unprecedented demand for broadband across the country, further heating up the telecom market.
“We went through many iterations, many potential names, and ultimately settled on Astound, given its strong aspirational qualities,” said Jim Holanda, the Astound Broadband CEO, in an interview this week.
They’re not the first executive team to come to that conclusion. In fact, the Astound brand is the telecom industry’s version of “everything old is new again,” with a lineage that stretches back nearly 25 years.
The Astound brand was first small regional telecom service launched in 1998 by Seren Innovations, a think tank established by Minneapolis-based Northern States Power Co. around the time of the landmark Telecommunications Act of 1996, which reduced regulations and opened the industry to competition.
At the time, Northern States Power was looking for new ways to make money from the fixed wireless network that it used for meter reading and other internal functions.
After expanding to the West Coast, the California operations of Astound were sold in 2005 by Northern States parent Xcel Energy to Wave Division Holdings, the parent of Wave Broadband. Kirkland-based Wave was run at the time by founder Steve Weed, quietly growing into a regional giant through a series of acquisitions.
A decade later, in 2015, the company dropped the Astound name in California in favor of the unified Wave brand.
Three years after that, in 2018, private equity firm TPG Capital acquired Wave and combined it with its previously acquired RCN Telecom Services and Grande Communications in a $2.4 billion deal.
The parent company had already adopted the name Astound, the rights to which had come along with the acquisitions, but kept the regional brands intact, due to the strength of each brand in its respective market.
But as it continued to acquire regional broadband operations, the company realized that it would need to unify the brands, Astound CEO Holanda said this week. The rebranding was originally slated for 2020, but was delayed by factors including the pandemic and the process of going through the Stone Peak acquisition.
In a future phase of the rebranding, the company says it will put the Astound name on recently acquired Harris Broadband in Central Texas and WOW!’s Illinois, Indiana and Maryland markets by the middle of this year.
Even with the rollout of a unified national brand, local leadership teams will remain intact, Holanda said.
On the acquisition front, he said, the broader market has cooled off in recent months as third-quarter results across the industry caused valuations to flatten or decline.
“I think people are just taking a wait-and-see attitude, in terms of actually putting companies up for sale,” Holanda said. But despite the short-term cool-down, he said, Astound will “remain very active” in the M&A market over time.
Editor’s Note: Astound Business Solutions (formerly Wave Business) is title sponsor of the GeekWire Awards.