Full year 2022 earnings are in for AT&T, Charter, Comcast and Verizon, all of which recorded increases in capital expenditures (capex) mainly related to network expansions. Here’s a breakdown of how much each major wireline operator spent on capex in 2022 and their financial expectations for the year ahead.
AT&T spent a total of around $19.6 billion in capex in 2022, compared to $15.5 billion in 2021.
Including $4.7 billion in cash paid for vendor financing, capital investment for 2022 totaled $24.3 billion, which marked an “all-time high” as AT&T continued to invest in fiber and 5G, said CFO Pascal Desroches on a Q4 earnings call. On the fiber front, AT&T is striving to reach 30 million locations by 2025, and in 2022 saw more than 1.2 million net adds for its fiber service. The company has boasted its fiber business offers a “meaningful uplift” in its wireless penetration.
AT&T in its earnings report didn’t provide an estimate for capex in 2023, but it anticipates its capital investment to remain “consistent with 2022 levels” at around $24 billion.
The operator aims to continue its fiber buildouts at a good clip in 2023, with the help of its Gigapower joint venture. CEO John Stankey said in January AT&T plans to build out at a rate of 2 million to 2.5 million passings per year, whereas for the JV it aims to hit an initial 1.5 million out-of-footprint locations.
Charter’s capital expenditures increased from $7.6 billion in 2021 to $9.4 billion in 2022, which included $3 billion in line extensions.
According to the company, the capex increase was primarily driven by Charter’s rural construction initiatives. Charter in the past year has scored a sizable chunk of grant money – roughly $334 million – to deploy broadband in underserved areas across the country.
The $9.4 billion number also “reflects the timing of more accelerated equipment inventory receipts in December than expected,” said CFO Jessica Fischer during the operator’s Q4 earnings call. Charter in December unveiled plans to fully upgrade its network to DOCSIS 4.0 by 2025, aiming to do so at a $100 cost per passing.
In 2023, Charter expects capex to range between $6.5 billion and $6.8 billion, excluding line extensions. It noted line extensions could add as much as $4 billion to that tally.
“Excluding line extensions, we expect a small increase year-over-year in capital spend by the acceleration of network evolution spending and partly offset by declines in other areas,” Fischer stated.
In 2022, Comcast reported it spent $10.6 billion in capex, up from $9.2 billion in 2021. Capex for Comcast’s cable unit totaled $7.6 billion, which the operator said represented increased investment in line extensions, scalable infrastructure, support capital and CPE.
Speaking on Comcast’s Q4 earnings call, Comcast Corporation President Michael Cavanaugh said, “In 2023, we expect capex intensity to stay at around 11%, similar to 2022 levels, as we aim to accelerate our homes passed growth to about 1 million and continue to transition our entire broadband network to DOCSIS 4.0 over the next few years.”
Comcast didn’t provide a figure for expected capex spend in 2023, but the company previously disclosed that it anticipates a cost per passing of around $200. According to Comcast Cable’s Chief Network Officer Elad Nafshi, that number reflects upgrades for mid-split architecture as well as DOCSIS 4.0.
Verizon’s capex spend increased from $20.3 billion in 2021 to $23.1 billion in 2022. It’s unclear how much of that amount went towards Verizon’s wireline business, but CEO Hans Vestberg noted during Q4 earnings that Verizon’s broadband plans “are supported by our deep fiber position and ongoing fiber investments.”
“Approximately 50% of our sites are now served by our own fiber, up from 45% last year,” said Vestberg. “We believe we are the only provider serving the level of its wireless network with its own fiber.”
On the broadband side, Verizon recorded approximately 1.3 million total broadband net additions for 2022. The company is also working on building out fiber backbone with its One Fiber initiative.
For 2023, Verizon predicts capex will fall to somewhere between $18.25 billion and $19.25 billion, as the company winds down its C-band related capital spending. And in 2024, Vestberg said he expects Verizon’s capex to total around $17 billion, which would “represent the lowest capital intensity in over a decade and among the lowest in the industry.”