AT&T Q4 results reveal wireless customer, profit gains

AT&T CEO: ‘2022 was the most profitable year ever for our mobility business’

AT&T ended 2022 in a good position. The carrier reported that wireless service revenues went up 5.2% in the last quarter, while consumer broadband revenues increased by 7.2%.  The carrier also added 656,000 postpaid phone subscribers during Q4, bringing the total postpaid phone subscription adds to 2.9 million for the full year.

“We finished 2022 with strong momentum of growing customer relationships,” said CEO John Stankey on the company’s earnings call. “As you can see from our profitability trends, we’re growing them in the right way.”

He also said that the company “met or surpassed all of our profitability targets for the year.”

Operating income for the wireless segment was up 13% year-over-year. In terms of consolidated results, the company reported an overall operating income net loss of $21.1 billion and a net income loss of $23.1 billion, due to a $29.4 billion pre-tax charge that the company said was due to a combination of asset impairments and abandonments, an actuarial loss on benefit plans and other items.

Stankey added that the company’s 2022 Q4 churn results, which showed that postpaid phone churn was 0.84% versus 0.85% in 2021 Q4, signaled improvement: “We consider this yet another data point highlighting that our comprehensive approach to improving the entire customer experience is working.

When it comes to its mobility business, Stankey claimed that 2022 was “the most profitable year ever.” The carrier now has 150 million mid-band 5G POPs, which is more than double its initial 2022 year-end target. “Our goal remains to deploy our spectrum efficiency and in a manner that supports traffic growth,” said Stankey, adding that where mid-band 5G is broadly deployed, 25% of AT&T’s traffic already takes advantage of this spectrum.

AT&T also reported 280,000 fiber net adds for the quarter, bringing its 2022 total fiber adds to more than 1.2 million. At a press roundtable, execs reiterated the carrier’s goal of hitting more than 30 million fiber locations by the end of 2025

At the same press event, AT&T responded to Verizon’s perspective that while enterprise and private 5G is certainly promising, adoption has been slower than expected. Chris Sambar, executive vice president of AT&T Network acknowledged that 5G does offer an edge over LTE in the enterprise space; however, shared that Verizon may have jumped the gun: “There are opportunities for private 5G, but I think our competitor really blew that up as a great use case and great growth opportunity for them and they are having to back off on that a little bit now because they are seeing the reality of the market,” he said.

For the full year, AT&T expects wireless service revenue growth of 4% or higher and broadband revenue growth of 5% or higher. The company also stated that capex should start to ease after 2023.

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