Comcast CEO says it plans to get more aggressive on broadband expansion this year

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts revealed the operator will step up efforts to grow its broadband coverage in 2022, as it posted a year-over-year slowdown in net additions in Q4 2021.

The company gained a total of 212,000 broadband customers in the quarter, including 194,000 residential subscribers and 18,000 business customers. The figure marked a steep drop from the 538,000 net additions it posted during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in Q4 2020. It was also below the analyst consensus, which predicted Comcast would add 248,000 broadband subscribers in the quarter.

On an earnings call, Comcast Cable CEO David Watson said it hasn’t really seen a notable shift in competitive activity from either fiber or fixed wireless players despite there being plenty of overbuild work happening. He insisted it continues to add penetration even in areas where it competes with fiber and non-fiber alternatives. Instead, Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh attributed the weaker net add figure to lower marketplace activity, including move activity among consumers, compared to historical levels.

Roberts said the operator expects broadband market conditions to continue to be impacted by Covid in 2022. To juice growth, he said it plans to “evaluate every opportunity to increase our serviceable passings, even moreso than we have in the past.”

The operator ended 2021 with 60.5 million homes and businesses passed compared to 59.7 million at the end of 2020 and 58.7 million at the close of 2019. Broadband penetration stood at 52.7%, up from 51.2% at end-2020 and 48.7% at end-2019.

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“We will take advantage of the natural progression of new household and business formation as well as the potential subsidies from the federal, state and local governments to expand into underserved areas,” he stated without specifying how many passings it is looking to add. “We will also compete for market share through our strategy of bundling products around broadband.”

Watson noted its Xfinity Mobile product will play a key role in its bundling strategy, stating it is working to bring a wireless offer to every broadband segment it serves. “The way we look at it, every single broadband home is an opportunity, and every single broadband home should have at least a couple of lines. So to me, the addressable market expands as we continue to build out and add more homes,” he explained.

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In addition to expanding its network, Roberts said Comcast is also ‘moving aggressively on the path to 10G” and has already rolled out higher upload speeds in some markets. It will continue to expand this capability in 2022 and beyond, he added.

Consolidated revenue of $30.3 billion was up 9.5% year on year, while net income attributable to Comcast fell 9.6% to nearly $3.1 billion. Cable Communications sales rose 4.5% to $16.4 billion, with Broadband revenue up 8.5% to almost $5.9 billion.

Comcast attributed the jump in broadband revenue to an increase in the number of residential broadband customers and an increase in average rates.