With Q4 2022 earnings mostly in the rearview, a clearer picture of fiber build targets for the coming year has emerged, at least as far as U.S. operators are concerned.
While some operators have lowered their targets for both 2023 and their overall build plans, the industry still plans to build millions of passings this year. Fierce’s informal tally found operators are plotting to roll out fiber to between 6.5 million and 7 million new locations – at a minimum.
That figure doesn’t include the unclear number of passings AT&T plans to roll out through its fiber joint venture, Verizon’s fuzzy Fios goal or as-yet-unclear fiber targets from the more than half-dozen operators mentioned at the bottom of this story. Nor does it include deployments from the sprawling array of smaller fiber builders on the U.S. telecom scene.
There’s obviously still a lot we don’t know. But here’s a rundown of what we do.
AT&T – The operator ended 2022 with approximately 24 million fiber passings. CEO John Stankey said on an earnings call it expects to pass between 2 million to 2.5 million new locations annually from 2023 onward to hit its goal of reaching 30 million passings by the end of 2025.
AT&T also recently announced a new Gigapower joint venture with private equity company BlackRock Alternatives which aims to deploy fiber to 1.5 million locations. The expected pace of its build is not entirely clear, but AT&T executives have said it is looking to move swiftly.
Altice USA – Executives said during Q4 earnings Altice is now looking to reach 900,000 passings in 2023, a slight step down from the 1 million it added in 2022. That’s down from its original target of 1.6 million for 2023, which was supposed to include 1 million passings in its Optimum footprint and another 600,000 in its Suddenlink territory.
Bluepeak – A regional player in the central part of the country, Bluepeak reached 70,000 new locations in 2022 and is targeting more than 50,000 in 2023.
Brightspeed – Born from Lumen Technologies’ sale of ILEC assets in 20 states to Apollo Management, Brightspeed is looking to reach more than 1 million passings by the end of 2023 and 3 million within five years. Its 2023 plans include 300,000 new passings in North Carolina, 170,000 locations in Ohio, 130,000 passings in Missouri and 120,000 in Texas.
Frontier Communications – After emerging from bankruptcy in 2021, Frontier said in its original fiber build plan it would reach 1.6 million locations in 2023. That figure is now 1.3 million. While lower than planned, Frontier executives noted on an earnings call that’s still an acceleration in absolute terms from the 1.2 million it delivered in 2022.
Lumen Technologies – The company just cut its overall fiber build target from 12 million to 8-10 million and is targeting 500,000 passings in 2023. That compares to a previously expected range of 1.5 million to 2 million.
On Lumen’s Q4 2022 earnings call, executives said the decision to cut its goals is meant to ensure it’s deploying fiber deliberately rather than just for the sake of it.
MetroNet – The private company told Fierce it is striving to reach well over 500,000 new passings in 2023. A comparison figure from 2022 was not immediately available.
Shentel – Mid-Atlantic operator Shenandoah Telecommunications (Shentel) is targeting the completion of around 100,000 passings in 2023. It is also planning to build 4,000 subsidized passings but it is unclear how many of these will be fiber vs cable. That pace will mark an increase from the 72,290 new fiber locations it reached in 2022. The operator is pushing to reach a total of 450,000 fiber passings by 2026 and ended 2022 with a total of 147,000 and a substantial backlog of planned projects.
TDS Telecom – TDS Telecom is looking to ramp its rollout of new fiber passings from 133,000 in 2022 to 175,000 in 2023. The operator is aiming to hit 1.2 million locations by 2026 and ended 2022 with 582,000.
Verizon – Verizon hasn’t talked too much about Fios lately, but it seems expansion efforts are ongoing. CEO Hans Vestberg said on the operator’s Q4 2022 earnings call it “expanded our Fios footprint by over 550,000 locations in 2022, extending our Fios open for sales to more than 17 million locations. You can expect continued fiber expansion in the years ahead.”
Others – Several other operators have announced fiber expansion projects across the country, but have thus far not given concrete targets for 2023. These include Charter Communications (which is building fiber to around 1 million locations using money from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund program), Clearwave Fiber, Consolidated Communications, Lumos, Nextlink Internet, Omni Fiber, Surf Internet, WideOpenWest (WOW!) and Ziply Fiber. In Consolidated’s case, that’s because it hasn’t held its Q4 2022 earnings call yet. A company representative told Fierce it will provide details about its 2023 plans during the call on February 28.
This story has been updated to note Charter is also planning to roll out fiber.