AT&T feeling good on fiber as gains continue in Q1

AT&T deploys fiber
AT&T added 235,000 fiber customers in Q1 2021. (AT&T)

AT&T CEO John Stankey revealed the operator’s push to expand its fiber footprint was already delivering results, highlighting the success of its bundling strategy as it posted another quarter of subscriber gains.

The operator added 235,000 fiber customers in Q1 2021, up from 209,000 in the year-ago period. Fiber penetration rose to 35% from 30% in Q1 2020.

During an earnings call, Stankey said AT&T added a total of more than 1 million fiber subscribers over the last four quarters, and was on track to build out fiber to 3 million consumer and business customer locations in 2021. He previously said AT&T was aiming to roll out fiber to 2 million new residential customers this year.

Reflecting on its progress thus far, Stankey said, “I like what I see in terms of our market position. If you look at things like lives, churn, customer satisfaction and net promoter scores and the actual performance of the product, they’re all great…I’ve not seen share movement on typical products like this as rapidly as we’re able to get share movement once we deploy an area.”

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Stankey noted AT&T was having “really good success” bundling its direct-to-consumer entertainment offerings with broadband, stating “that feels to me like a new version of pay-TV with broadband.” He added it had also seen success pairing its wireless service with broadband, noting this combination was “really, really good on customer profitability and asset lives.”

In addition to eyeing expanded product integration opportunities, Stankey said AT&T is examining ways to improve broadband performance inside the home.

“Where we used to kind of wipe our hands of the problem that occurred on the other side of the network interface in many instances, [we're] trying to lean in on embracing that in a way that’s helpful to the customer and makes our product and service work better,” he explained.

Broadband funding

The CEO also shared his thoughts on U.S. President Joe Biden’s plan to allocate $100 billion to boost broadband deployments.

Stankey said AT&T was “actively involved” in discussions about the bill, contributing “our learnings and our understandings of what we think good policy would be.”

RELATED: Biden targets $100B for universal broadband access in $2T plan

“I think vast parts of the U.S. broadband market are actually performing incredibly well,” he said. “I think we have an issue that needs to be dealt with on certain degrees of low-income subsidy…I do believe we have some rural areas the bill needs to deal with that, if the policy is done right in a technology agnostic way, that we could participate in and grow in. That clearly is going to take some additional discussion and policy formation to get it to that place.”

Regardless of whether it gets a piece of the funding, “we have a lot of opportunity for growth on broadband. This would be icing on the cake,” Stankey added.

Consolidated revenue of $43.9 billion was up 2.7% year on year. Business Wireline revenue fell 3.5% to $6 billion, while Consumer Wireline revenue was flat at $3.1 billion. Total broadband net additions stood at 46,000, up from a loss of 73,000 in the year-ago quarter.