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AT&T CEO: It's the middle innings for fiber build out, but the pace is picking up

Date: 2021-01-30
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Despite the pandemic (or maybe because of it) AT&T added more than 1 million AT&T Fiber subscribers for the second year in a row in 2020. During AT&T's fourth quarter and year-end earnings call, AT&T CEO John Stankey said the telco plans to build around two million fiber residential locations this year as the pace of its fiber builds accelerates. AT&T targeted one million homes passed last year.

'That's kind of what we've got the team tasked to do, and it gives you some sense of what that (fiber) increase will be,' Stankey said. 'It's two million this year. If the team executes well, we can do more than two million and start to ramp that up.'

In the fourth quarter, AT&T Fiber added 273,000 subscribers, driven in part by the 1-Gig service that comes with HBO Max as customers migrated to faster speeds during the pandemic. AT&T currently has a fiber market penetration of 34% across its footprint. In addition to the engineering teams' ramping up their fiber deployments, AT&T Chief Financial Officer John Stephens said on the earnings call that the telco was increasing its sales capabilities this year.

AT&T CEO: It's the middle innings for fiber build out, but the pace is picking up

'Fiber is a long term game, and we've gone through the process many times and feel very good about the long term returns, and the efforts,' Stephens said. 'So we'll have some ability to manage there. The next piece, though, is we will see an increase in the fiber build and the opportunity to add some more sales opportunities to that inventory.'

Stankey compared AT&T's fiber build-outs to a baseball game. The initial innings of the fiber deployments targeted the low-hanging fruit of the customer base several years ago.

'That is part of the customer base that you cut your teeth on, get your processes squared away on, get the vendor community at the first part of the cost curve,' Stankey said. 'It's like a no brainer economically. I would say we went through that first third in the investment we've made over the last several years.'

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