Charter adds 76,000 broadband subs in Q1, notes progress in rural deployments

Charter Communications boasted positive broadband subscriber growth in Q1, as it continues its work on rural buildouts and network enhancements in preparation for DOCSIS 4.0.

The operator added 76,000 broadband customers in the quarter, a year-over-year decline from 185,000. Still, Charter fared better than cable competitor Comcast, which ended Q1 with 5,000 broadband net additions.

On the company’s earnings call Friday, CFO Jessica Fischer said market activity levels “remain low,” as total churn in the quarter was “slightly higher” than last year. But she asserted churn was “still near record lows and well below pre-pandemic levels.”

Charter executives touted progress on rural broadband deployments. CEO Chris Winfrey said Charter activated 44,000 subsidized rural passings in Q1, with 20,000 of those passings reached in March. The operator remains on track to reach 300,000 subsidized rural locations in 2023.

“Keep in mind that a lot of our builds are taking place in places like Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin…in January and February it’s a little harder to get around, whether you’re going on poles or whether you’re going underground,” he pointed out. “Nothing that we haven’t expected.”

“These rural customers are purchasing products beyond internet, including mobile, video and wireline voice,” Fischer commented, noting Charter also saw a sequential decline in total capex associated with its rural buildout, due to purchasing “a significant amount of rural construction equipment.”

Winfrey added rural penetration “continues to exceed [Charter’s] expectations” with rates of around 40% after six months. If Charter gets the pole permit support it needs, it can complete its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) build commitments two years ahead of schedule.

Network upgrades

Charter in December disclosed a three-year plan to overhaul its network and eventually deploy DOCSIS 4.0. Winfrey said Charter implemented high split architecture in two additional mid-sized markets for the quarter, increasing network capacity in those markets to 1.2 GHz.

The 1.2 GHz spectrum allows Charter to offer speeds of 2 Gbps downstream and 1 Gbps upstream.

“We’re launching the same CMTS-based 1.2 GHz high split to an additional six markets,” said Winfrey. “These DMAs represent about 15% of our footprint.”

At the same time, Charter’s gearing up for the second phase of upgrades, which involves the deployment of distributed access architecture (DAA) to enable 5X1 Gbps speeds. That expansion aims to cover 50% of Charter’s footprint.

The third stage, occurring in late 2024, will see Charter launch extended spectrum DOCSIS 4.0 and 10X1 Gbps speeds in the remaining 35% of its footprint.

“We’re enhancing the spectrum availability of our network, which improves contention on the upstream as well as higher both downstream and upstream capabilities, which gives us marketing claims in the marketplace,” said Winfrey. “But it also signals to competitors that they’re not going to have that marketing claim with us.”


Consolidated revenue for Q1 totaled $13.7 billion, a 3.4% year-over-year increase driven by growth in residential revenue, mobile device sales and commercial revenue. Internet revenue rose 4.9% to $5.7 billion.

Capital expenditures totaled $2.5 billion in Q1, up from $1.9 billion in the year-ago quarter. Charter primarily attributed the increase to $890 million spent on line extensions as well as rural buildouts. Net income attributable to Charter shareholders dropped to $1 billion from $1.2 billion in Q1 2022, mainly due to higher interest expense and other non-operating costs and expenses.