Comcast fends off Verizon, AT&T encroachment, ramps Wi-Fi

The company in the fourth quarter added 465,000 net video, Internet and voice customers, up 12.3 percent from a year ago.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Comcast executives said they are fending off Verizon and AT&T in core cable markets and ramping a wireless volley.

The cable and media giant reported strong fourth quarter results, boosted its dividend and said it will buy back more shares. Needless to say, these developments have Wall Street pretty stoked about Comcast today. Comcast's results topped expectations.

Indeed, those results happen because Comcast is winning customers. The company in the fourth quarter added 465,000 net video, Internet and voice customers, up 12.3 percent from a year ago. On the video front, Comcast stemmed customer losses in the fourth quarter and surged in broadband editions.

Now this Comcast vs. Verizon vs. AT&T battle gets interesting. Neil Smit, CEO of Comcast's cable unit, said on an earnings conference call that the company is benefiting from customer service improvements as well as product enhancements. Meanwhile, Comcast's business is normalizing since Verizon and AT&T are slowing their video buildouts.

Smit said:

I think we are focused on product innovation and better customer service, and I think we have seen kind of sustainable results from those two areas of focus. The other factor that I would mention is that the RBOC overbuild has slowed. In 2011 it was about 1.1 million homes versus 2.5 million in 2010. We are getting more flexibility in our programming agreements, as you have seen, so we are offering more content to more devices. So we are staying focused on product innovation and better service and more to come there.

Meanwhile, Comcast is looking toward wireless to take aim at Verizon and AT&T. Smit detailed Comcast's Wi-Fi buildout, which now has 4,000 access points. The focus is on data access and "we will be building out more markets," said Smit.

CFO Michael Angelakis said that Comcast is spending on improving its Internet speeds. He said:

We also increased our investment in network infrastructure to enable product enhancements, including increasing Internet speeds to our customers, to reinforce our product leadership in high-speed Internet. We successfully raised speeds on our flagship product from 12 to 15 megabits and raised speeds on our Blast! product from 20 to 25 megabits. In addition, we introduced our 50 megabit service and our EXtreme 105 megabit service to virtually all of our markets.

Are these gains sustainable? Comcast CEO Brian Roberts thinks so:

We added 336,000 high-speed Internet customers in the quarter, a 15% increase, and marked the sixth year in a row of adding more than 1 million high-speed data customers. I really believe these improvements are sustainable because they are the result of our scale and our intensified focus on service and innovation, all of which come together in our wonderful XFINITY brand message of product innovation and a better customer experience. Our major technical initiatives of DOCSIS 3.0, All-Digital, a content delivery network that works on all platforms is now complete and we have leveraged these investments to deliver more innovation faster than ever before.


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