Comcast turned in another big quarter for broadband, tacking on 515,000 residential subs in Q4 2020, improving on year-ago gains of 424,000, and extending its grand sub total to 28.35 million. Comcast added 1.97 million residential and business broadband customers for the full year.
"Broadband is the cornerstone of what we do," Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said on Thursday's call.
Comcast Cable CEO Dave Watson said the almost 2 million net broadband customer adds in 2020, a year marked by the pandemic, was "a unique moment." He believes Comcast can still grab more market share and grow the business this year. Analysts, though, expect the rate of broadband subscriber growth to slow down in 2021
Roberts also weighed in on the postnatal regulatory impact of the Biden administration, which is widely expected to direct the FCC to pursue the re-instatement of network neutrality rules that were rolled back under the Trump administration.
"Our view is ... strongly felt that the long-standing light-touch regulation has worked," Roberts said. "We do believe in net neutrality; we're not going to discriminate, block, throttle … If there's a way to codify that and perhaps put this issue into permanence, a more consistent place, that's certainly a possibility."
Mobile gains amid new Verizon MVNO deal
Comcast added another 246,000 Xfinity Mobile lines in Q4 2020, ending the year with 2.82 million lines. The Q4 2020 total trailed year-ago adds of 261,000, but handily beat the 187,000 lines added in Q3 2020. Wireless Q4 revenues climbed 35.8%, to $505 million, in the quarter. Comcast added 774,000 mobile lines over the full year.
The company attributed the sequential subscriber improvement to the ongoing integration of mobile into the core cable operation and reprioritizing mobile in its sales channel.
Comcast is also eager to take advantage of a revised MVNO agreement with Verizon that will enable Comcast to broaden its range of offerings and acquire customers more profitably. Comcast, which today offers unlimited data and By-the-Gig plans for Xfinity Mobile, did not elaborate on how it might alter its pricing and packaging options under the new MVNO deal.
"The piece parts are in place and we have momentum, and [mobile] is a strategic part of the bundle," Roberts said.
Watson shed a bit more light on Comcast's plan to use the CBRS spectrum it recently won at auction. The plan, he said, is to build on the Verizon MVNO and Comcast's Wi-Fi network with a "third layer" of wireless infrastructure that could supplement coverage in dense, high-traffic areas.
Comcast also participated in the just-completed C-band auction (and has already conducted some tests in the C-band), but the FCC has yet to announce the winners.
The erosion of Comcast's pay-TV sub base continued as the company lost 227,000 residential video customers, widened from a loss of 133,000 a year ago, to end the quarter with 18.99 million. Comcast lost 1.29 million residential pay-TV subs for all of 2020.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading
A version of this story first appeared on Light Reading.