AT&T won’t stop its fiber buildout at 14 million homes and can shift to a more opportunistic approach to expanding the company’s fiber reach, John Donovan, AT&T’s CEO of Communications, said Thursday.
As a condition of its DirecTV acquisition, AT&T has an FCC commitment to reach 12.5 million new fiber customer locations by mid-2019, but had previously set an expanded goal of 14 million homes in that time frame.
Hitting 18 million fiber locations today when including businesses, the telecom giant doesn’t intend to quit there.
“We won’t stop at 14 million,” Donovan said, speaking at AT&T’s Investor Day. “We’re going to continue to grow fiber.” He noted that the company continues to densify its network as the result of new enterprise customers, as well as small cells needed for 5G.
After hitting the 14 million benchmark, Donovan said it’s a matter of shifting modes from a more capital intense “purely incremental and measured in homes passed,” approach to an opportunistic strategy.
Continuing to succeed in enterprise business is important, Donovan said, noting that the migration from copper to fiber in enterprise is providing a much lower incremental cost.
AT&T plans to allocate capital into greenfield builds and is also looking at what the company can do out of region. The company is considering areas where it doesn’t currently have a traditional footprint, Donovan said.
“We’ve started the process of looking at certain cities like Minneapolis and Phoenix where we haven’t had a traditional footprint [in order to] get more fiber there to defend our position in satellite because there’s a marked difference in churn where you’re naked in satellite and where you have integrated broadband,” Donovan explained.
Wells Fargo Senior Analyst Jennifer Fritzsche thinks more fiber makes sense for AT&T.
“With 50% penetration in its fiber markets, why wouldn’t T keep pushing? Having a modernized pipe on which its customers will consume the content which T just bought gives T significantly more control over its own density in our view,” Fritzsche wrote in a Friday research note to investors.
Turning to content, executives also announced its WarnerMedia direct-to-consumer offering will have three different service tiers. Expected to launch in late 2019, the first tier will focus on movies in the WarnerMedia library, while a second tier will offer “blockbuster movies.” A third, and potentially the most expensive, will combine content from the other two, as well as feature original series and additional content licensed from third parties.