With AT&T Fiber Penetration on the Rise, CEO Questions Rural Fiber Viability

Coverage Type: 

AT&T added over 1 million new fiber subscribers in 2020, with 273K net adds in 4Q20 alone. AT&T fiber penetration now stands at 34%, up from 28% a year ago. That’s a 21% year-over-year improvement in AT&T fiber penetration, with the company now counting 4.9 million total FTTP connections. With this momentum, the company also announced plans to increase homes passed with fiber by an additional 2 million locations in 2021. While AT&T fiber penetration is on the rise, its legacy DSL and VDSL base is a drag on the company’s overall broadband numbers. When you add these legacy broadband customers into the mix, AT&T actually lost 2K broadband subscribers in 4Q20 and 19K for all of 2020. 

While AT&T is bullish on fiber penetration, don’t expect the company to extend its fiber footprint into rural markets, even if regulatory subsidies encourage it. AT&T CEO John Stankey commented that he doesn’t see fiber as viable in rural markets to reach the remaining third of subscribers who don’t have great broadband options. As a result, AT&T is not likely to extend fiber to its rural markets, Stankey said. This view of rural fiber probably contributed to AT&T’s absence in the recent RDOF auction. “I actually believe, candidly, even if there was subsidy put in, it would be a better use of taxpayer money to do something that was more hybrid oriented in the technologies that are applied and not exclusively lean on fiber in that space,” Stankey said.

With AT&T Fiber Penetration on the Rise, CEO Questions Rural Fiber Viability AT&T CEO: It's the middle innings for fiber build out, but the pace is picking up (Fierce)