Lite Access Technologies (CVE:LTE) shares are coming off a strong year in 2016, the performance a natural outcome of rapidly growing interest in the company’s optical-fibre deployment technology, particularly from large customers outside the home North American market.
Demand is such that installation and manufacturing teams are running full out, with the production side having recently initiated expansion in manufacturing capacity of several critical components.
A steady stream of good news helped the stock gain 84% in 2016 to finish December at $1.86. This catapulted the company’s market capitalization to $62.8 million.
Results to come
Just how strong the financial results were should be known toward the end of the month, when Lite Access is expected to release audited statements for the full business year ended September 30. The over 1,400% year on year sales gain reported for the first nine months helped take the stock to new highs.
For those who don’t know, Lite Access pioneered modern micro-trenching, a technique whereby narrow trenches are cut into roadways, sidewalks or other surfaces to accommodate special tubing (the company’s proprietary tubing is called microduct) into which optical fibre is subsequently blown to connect the “last mile” of high-speed digital networks.
The technology is also up to the task for backbone and so-called “middle mile” projects – in essence, Lite Access can install the pathway for optical fibre and get the end-points connected on projects of almost any scale.
New global standards
It’s no exaggeration to say that Lite Access is setting new global standards when it comes to installation time (covering up to 250m per day), cost containment and minimizing the environmental footprint of such work.
And like any company at the top of its game, its efficiency in the field has inspired others to try what Lite Access makes look so easy.
None has been able to match the performance that Lite Access customers take for granted, mind you, and CEO Mike Plotnikoff isn’t surprised. “We’ve spent 11 years designing and re-engineering equipment, processes and techniques,” Plotnikoff explains. “There is a lot more to it than you might think, and there have been some big companies in various parts of the world that learnt this the hard way after announcing major fibre rollouts that did not go well.”
The United Kingdom is a perfect example. “In the UK, we know they tried this years ago but it never really took hold, as it seems there were no groups who could approximate what we were doing,” says Plotnikoff. “I remember going there and thinking we were just going to do a demonstration to prove that what we were saying was true. But once we showed that we could deliver on our promises, what we thought was merely a trial actually turned into full-blown projects.”
Lite Access kicked off 2017 with a press release detailing the first 100 days of operations for its new UK office, which saw the company hiring and training new staff, as well as investing in that additional capacity to support deployment of what it referred to as “superfast fibre to the home.”
“I am excited by the fact that so many good people want to work with us in the UK,” says Plotnikoff. “I believe we are partnered with the right people. They are forward-thinking and want to understand what we do. They acknowledge our value in providing not only a construction team and the necessary equipment, but a total integrated solution. We offer guidance on design work and other aspects of a project that saves money and reduces project times.”
Plotnikoff feels similarly about South Africa, where, he says, “we work with some very nice clients and partners. There too, with our flexible approach, we were able to design unique solutions that have proven to deliver significant cost savings.”
Closer to home, a project currently underway in the British Columbia community of Langley Township shows Lite Access once again delivering on its promises. “With the Langley project we are almost at 50% completion and we have only been working for about two and a half weeks,” says Plotnikoff. “We are in and out on projects before people know we are even there.”
Incidentally, the ongoing work is not the first it has done for Langley. Among other projects for the community was a 9.65km fibre-optic network installed to connect Langley Township’s civic operations centre with the local Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment and other users.
Looking forward to 2017
It pretty much goes without saying that Lite Access looks forward to taking more big strides in 2017. “North American business should remain really strong for us, and maintaining our relationships in South Africa and the UK is obviously important,” Plotnikoff says. “But we are also looking at new markets, including one I am visiting this month for the first time. Then later in January I will be meeting with our Asia Pacific partners to further assist with micro-trench projects within that region.”
Also in the works is a new type of education and marketing tool in the form of white papers Lite Access is preparing that outline problems, the solution delivered and feedback from the client and community.
“The white papers will show how we can come in and be done far in advance of anyone using traditional construction,” says Plotnikoff, adding that the 120km project completed on Haida Gwaii in just three and a half months during 2016 has generated a particularly large amount of interest in the company’s abilities. “Not only did we put network in the ground at an incredible speed, but we did it at a lower cost than other respondents who bid on the project,” he says.
“We provide totally integrated solutions,” Plotnikoff concludes. “We love opportunities to solve unique problems that clients face when it comes to fibre connectivity. Rather than people thinking we just sell technology, I want them to see us as a total integrated solutions provider that can easily adapt to any and all types of environments and challenges.”