Comcast’s cable division significantly ramped capital spending in Q2 2021, investing in scalable infrastructure to accelerate network upgrades as broadband net additions continued to climb.
Cable Communications capex of $1.7 billion was up 16.8% year-on-year in Q2, accounting for 10.6% of the division’s revenue compared to 10.1% of revenue in the year-ago period. In addition to investments in scalable infrastructure to increase network capacity, Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh said on an earnings call the money was spent on broadband CPE and line extensions.
“We have decided to move a bit faster to the next phase of DOCSIS using very cost-effective technology,” he said.
CEO Brian Roberts noted the company has been trialing gigabit and multi-gigabit symmetrical speeds since October 2020 “to great success.” While upstream traffic comprises only 10% of broadband usage on its network and “we don’t really have a consumer use case” for symmetrical speeds yet, “the strategy for our network is to plan ahead,” he said.
“We’re investing in architecture that allows us to go beyond where consumers are, and we can do all of this in a way that won’t affect the capital intensity ratios we currently enjoy,” he added.
The operator’s Cable Communications unit added 294,000 customer relationships, driven by broadband net additions of 354,000. Both figures marked the best Q2 results on record. It also added 280,000 wireless lines in the quarter, a quarterly record result, but lost 399,000 video subscribers.
New Street Research analysts noted broadband net additions were “well above estimates,” noting it had previously forecast gains of 253,000 and the market consensus estimate was 270,000. Cavanagh said the operator is now expecting total broadband net additions for 2021 to be up in the “mid-teens” compared to the 1.4 million net adds it posted in 2019.
Consolidated revenue of $28.5 billion grew 20.4% year-on-year, with net income attributable to Comcast up 25.1% to $3.7 billion. Sales for the Cable Communications business increased 10.9% year-on-year to $16 billion.
Within that, broadband revenue was up 14.3% to $5.7 billion, video revenue increased 2.6% to nearly $5.6 billion, business services revenue increased 9.9% to $2.2 billion and wireless revenue jumped 70.4% to $556 million.