Altice USA had a rough Q3, losing 43,000 broadband subscribers and posting revenue and net income which were both down year on year. But its fiber business offered a ray of hope, as the operator added 321,000 new passings and 31,000 new fiber customers. New CEO Dennis Mathew, who took the reins from former chief Dexter Goei last month, pointed to fiber as the technology of the future on an earnings call. Given Mathew joined Altice after spending nearly 18 years at cable giant Comcast, his comments didn’t escape the notice of analysts.
“What’s clear to me is that the company has made a lot of progress in setting a strong foundation for best-quality broadband through the deployment of its fiber strategy,” he said when asked to detail his views on fiber. “I’m really a big believer that fiber is the best technology that exists today.”
Altice had already set the gears in motion on the fiber front before Mathew joined, unveiling plans in February to blanket two-thirds of its footprint – or a total of 6.5 million locations – with fiber by the end of 2025. It ended Q3 with 1.9 million passings and expects to end Q4 well over the 2 million mark.
Mathew said he’s “very optimistic” about this plan but noted the keys going forward will be disciplined execution, process improvements, achieving operational efficiency and boosting the customer experience.
“I do think that there are areas where we can accelerate such as with our go-to-market strategy, aligning our product portfolio. I’m looking deeply at our packaging and our offers and how we can continue to ramp up sales and marketing machines to get us back to sustainable growth,” he said. The new CEO added it will be making “some decisions quickly.”
In addition to leaning into its new fiber offerings – including 2-gig and 5-gig products which will be available across its entire fiber footprint by Q1 2023 – Mathew said it will look at how best to evolve its fixed and mobile bundle to compete effectively in the market.
According to Mathew and Goei, Altice faced increased competitive pressure in Q3 from fiber overbuilders as well as fixed wireless access providers which contributed to higher churn and customer losses. On the fiber front specifically, Goei pointed to AT&T in the West and Frontier Communications in Connecticut to the east.
Goei said it is hustling to deploy fiber so it can compete with overbuilders on a more level playing field, but noted permitting has been an issue in its eastern territories, particularly in New York. He stated it is waiting on somewhere in the realm of 200,000 to 300,000 permits in that state alone. Its builds in the West require more organization and coordination given the disparate geographies there, so Goei said progress there is just a matter of getting its ducks in a row.
Revenue fell 7% year on year to $2.39 billion, with net income falling from $266.9 million to just $85 million in Q3. By segment, Residential revenue fell 4.4% to $1.88 billion, Business Services sales dropped 16.8% to $266.6 million and News and Advertising revenue slid 16.1% to $120.5 million.