AT&T will expand its fiber footprint to 3M additional locations this year

AT&T is making a big push to increase its fiber footprint this year. During the company’s annual investor event last week, Jeff McElfresh, CEO of AT&T Communications, said that in 2021 the company will deploy fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) to an additional 3 million locations across more than 90 metro areas.  And the company will continue its aggressive fiber push in 2022 when it plans to add 4 million locations.

AT&T’s big investment in fiber is notable as the company only added 1 million FTTP locations in 2020. As recently as January 2021 company executives said it only planned to increase its fiber footprint to 2 million additional locations this year.

During the company’s meeting with investors, McElfresh said that these locations are “adjacent” to the company’s existing fiber footprint, which means that they in areas where AT&T already has fiber deployed, such as in a neighborhood. Now AT&T will expand that and deploy FTTP.

AT&T’s fiber footprint currently surpasses 14 million customer locations and at the end of 2020 the company said its customer penetration rate was 34%. In addition, AT&T said that 90% of all of its broadband customers subscribe to speeds of 100 Mbps or more. As of year-end, more than 3 million AT&T Fiber subscribers were getting 1-Gig speeds.

McElfresh said he expects to see an increase in fiber subscribers particularly toward the last six months of year after the initial fiber expansion is completed.  

AT&T isn’t the only telco expanding its fiber footprint. Verizon also is aggressively deploying fiber,  but its goal is to mainly use that fiber to backhaul its wireless traffic from cell sites. In the company’s annual investor meeting last week, Verizon said that in the next three years it plans to have more than 50% of its 4G and 5G cell sites on Verizon-owned fiber rather than using a third party’s fiber network. The company also plans to resell capacity on its fiber network to its enterprise customers and others.

Verizon executives have said that the company’s capex for 2021 will be similar to that of 2020, which was $18.2 billion.  AT&T executives said that the company’s 2021 capex will be in the $18 billion range as well.