AT&T will launch the “next rendition” of a fixed wireless access (FWA) product in the market later this year. CEO John Stankey mentioned this new FWA product during the company’s Q4 earnings call today but provided few details. He said that AT&T will offer FWA in areas where it doesn’t currently have fiber deployed such as less densely populated markets.
Stankey also hinted that this new FWA product will be primarily sold to business customers, noting that there are “a lot of businesses in those [densely populated] areas where this is a perfectly acceptable product.”
In a follow-up call on the company’s Q4 earnings, AT&T said that the new FWA product will use the company’s mid-band spectrum.
AT&T already offers FWA services (both a point-to-point service and a point-to-multipoint service) and last February Chris Sambar, AT&T Executive Vice President of Technology Operations, told FierceWireless that the company has more than 500,000 FWA subscribers. At that time Sambar said that the majority of AT&T’s FWA customers were outside of its LEC footprint.
AT&T has been less bullish on FWA than competitors Verizon and T-Mobile, which both tout FWA as a viable alternative to fiber broadband and offer their FWA service in many markets nationwide. “Fixed wireless has a place in the portfolio,” Stankey said, but added that he doesn’t believe it is a good long-term alternative in dense metropolitan markets or populated suburban areas.
In its Q4 results, AT&T said that it added 656,000 postpaid net phone adds for the quarter, a decline from the 708,000 postpaid net phone adds it reported in Q3. Nevertheless, AT&T was upstaged by T-Mobile, which earlier this month reported that it added 927,000 postpaid phone net adds for the quarter. Verizon, meanwhile, is in third place with 217,000 postpaid net phone adds for Q4.
New Street Research said in a research note that once again AT&T benefited from its FirstNet public safety network because its subscribers added 377,000 net adds in the quarter, up from 300,000 net adds in Q3. New Street noted that some of FirstNet’s net adds are tablets but said that it believes that FirstNet accounted for close to half of AT&T’s postpaid phone net adds in Q4.
AT&T also reported postpaid phone churn of just 0.84% for Q4, which New Street Research said is the lowest postpaid churn of the big three U.S. wireless operators.
On the prepaid front, AT&T reported a loss of 13,000 prepaid phone net adds in Q4, which is the first quarterly prepaid loss for the company after 10 quarters of growth. The company also reported prepaid churn of less than 3%.
For full-year 2022 AT&T added nearly 2.9 million postpaid phone net adds and 404,000 prepaid phone net adds, this is slightly down from 2021 when AT&T added 3.2 million postpaid phone net adds for the year.
AT&T said that its mid-band 5G network now covers 150 million people and is on track to cover 200 million people with its mid-band network by the end of this year. Stankey also noted that in AT&T markets where it’s deployed its mid-band 5G about 25% of its wireless traffic is running on that mid-band network.
AT&T Mobility 2022 revenue was $21.5 billion, up from $21.1 billion in 2021. The company said this was primarily due to higher service revenues. Service revenues were $15.4 billion, up 5.2% year over year.
Looking ahead to 2023
AT&T’s capital expenditures for 2022 were $24 billion and the company expects its capex to be around the same amount in 2023. AT&T executives also said that they expect 4% growth in wireless service revenue in 2023 and adjusted EBITDA growth of 3%.
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