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AT&T Inc. (T) Q4 2017 Earnings Conference Call Transcript

By Motley Fool Staff - Updated Jan 31, 2018 at 10:58PM

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T earnings call for the period ending December 31, 2017.

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AT&T Inc. (T 1.67%)
Q4 2017 Earnings Conference Call
Jan. 31, 2018, 4:30 p.m. ET


  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the fourth quarter 2017 earnings call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, we will conduct a question-and-answer session. Instructions will be given at that time. If you should require assistance during the call, please press * then 0. Also, as a reminder, today's teleconference is being recorded.

I would now like to turn the conference over to our host, Michael Viola, Senior Vice President, Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

Michael J. Viola -- Head of Investor Relations

Thank you, Tony, and good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to our fourth quarter conference call. As Tony said, I'm Mike Viola, Head of Investor Relations for AT&T. Joining me on the call today is Randall Stephenson, AT&Ts Chairman and CEO; and John Stephens, AT&T's Chief Financial Officer. Randall is going to provide an overall business update and cover our 2018 business initiatives, and John's gonna cover results along with the 2018 outlook. And then we'll follow with our normal Q&A.

As always, our earnings materials are available on the Investor Relations page of the AT&T website. That includes our news release, our 8-K, investor briefing, and a variety of other associated schedules.

Before I begin, I need to call your attention our Safe Harbor statement. It says that some of our comments today may be forward-looking. As such, they're gonna be subject to risks, uncertainties, and results may differ materially. And additional information is available on the Investor Relations website.

And so now, I'd like to turn the call over to AT&T's Chairman and CEO, Randall Stephenson.

Randall Stephenson -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Okay, thanks, Mike. What we'll do is start on page four of the deck, and I just want to take a moment and reflect on 2017 because by any measure 2017 was a remarkable year. It was remarkable for our country, for our industry where we operate and for AT&T. And it's been a long time since we've seen so many-what I would call-major public policy achievements compressed into a single year like we saw last year, and we're calling these achievements because the combined impact from these is going to be growth. It's going to be growth in US investment, in jobs, and in wages.

And all of this began early in 2017 as regulations across all industries were being rationalized. In our industry specifically, the FCC returned us to a light-touch regulation of the internet, and this was the approach that up until 2015 had allowed the internet to flourish and the US tech sector to lead the world in innovation. So, we, obviously, believe this was a step in the right direction, but this regulatory pendulum is gonna keep swinging back and forth unless Congress steps forward and writes new laws to govern all internet companies and to protect the consumer. We believe that we need clarity. We need a long-term predictability on the rules of the internet and on customer privacy. So, we're calling for an internet bill of rights, and you can expect us to take a leadership role on this as the discussion progresses.

But unquestionably the biggest development that came out of Washington last year was around tax reform. Our public policymakers pulled the greatest lever they had available to them to stimulate capital investment and job creation and wage growth. That lever was giving US companies a competitive tax system, one that levels the playing field with the rest of the world. We're very early in the process, but you've seen it. Company after company is already announcing increased investment, hiring, wage increases, and employee bonuses. And we were first out of the gate. We announced bonuses for more than 200,000 frontline employees and a voluntary medical plan contribution for a total of $1 billion. And we also increased our 2018 capital expenditures by another $1 billion.

So while public policy stole a lot of the spotlight, we did make a lot of progress on several strategic initiatives last year. The most important is FirstNet, winning that FirstNet bid, and this is gonna prove to be the foundation for taking wireless network performance to a completely new level. What we're doing is building a nationwide network with the latest technology. It's designed, and it's hardened for America's first responders. And then that will be our foundation for broad, 5G deployment. We're well under way with the build including new sites in unserved or underserved, rural parts of the country. We plan to deploy 40mhz of fallow spectrum that we've accumulated over the last few years along with the spectrum from FirstNet. And we'll also be deploying the millimeter wave spectrum from our fiber tower purchase, and this is gonna give us a quantum leap in both capacity and performance.

The move to Mexico, I'm really pleased with how the team is executing. They're doing so well. We added 3 million customers in 2017. We also made great progress leading the industry in terms of software-defined networking. 55% of our network is not virtualized, and as a result, you're seeing our networking and our IT cost structure falling significantly. We also made progress moving our base of our high-value customers into multiproduct bundles, saving them money, driving down churn, and earning more of their overall spend. And you can see the fruits of the strategy in our strong wireless performance this quarter, and DirecTV Now's terrific first year in the market. Our fiber build continued to go strong. We now reach more than 7 million customer locations and expect to double that in the next 18 months.

So that's a look at 2017, and what I want to do now is move forward to 2018 and talk about our priorities this year, and that's on slide five. And it's no surprise. Our top priority for 2018 is closing our deal to acquire Time Warner. We were obviously surprised when the government decided to try and block the merger because it is a classic vertical merger between two companies that don't even compete with one another. With 50 years of legal precedent, it's the type of business combination that the government has consistently approved with appropriate conditions. Now, while we remain open to finding some reasonable solutions to address the government's concern, we do expect this case will ultimately be litigated in court. The trial date is set to begin March 19, and we remain very confident that we'll complete this merger.

We're also gonna be laser focused in 2018 on building the world's premiere gigabit network. And, again, FirstNet, combined with our fiber and our 5G deployment is giving us a powerful platform to accelerate our move into a gigabit world. I got to tell you. I love our position here. We expect to be the first US company to launch mobile 5G service by the end of this year, and our fixed 5G trials are also going very well. We're learning a lot. We're gaining great insights into making this product a very strong, commercial offering.

And then last week the FCC issued an order that cleared the way for us to move forward with our acquisition of FiberTower and the vast majority of its millimeter wave spectrum licenses. This is what's required for 5G. So, we get from FiberTower an average of nearly 360mhz of nationwide spectrum. And, again, millimeter wave, it's critical for our 5G strategy, and we'll be putting this spectrum to work later this year.

In video, we're gonna launch our next generation platform this spring. This platform will add cloud DVR capabilities. It'll give us a third stream to DirecTV Now, and it'll have a lot of further enhancements to the user interface. Now, I've been using this thing recently, and I gotta tell you. I think our customers are really gonna like this. The experience is very good. And so then before year-end, we plan to launch the next-gen product in a home-centric configuration with a very thin hardware client. And just think about it this way. It's a very small, inexpensive streaming device plugged into your TV, and then you connect it to any broadband service. It will be a voice-controlled, user interface with an integrated search feature. And it will allow you to search across any streaming video service that you subscribe to. So, it can be DirecTV Now, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, or even YouTube. It also gives you a premium, live video experience in your home with the flexibility and the ease of use-what you would expect out of an OTT service.

We're also ramping up our advertising and analytics business. This is being led by Brain Lesser, who joined us last quarter. I think he's one of the best minds in ad-tech. We're really excited about this opportunity because advertisers have made it really clear to us that they're looking for a trusted option in premium video advertising-looking for an alternative to the current, digital ad duopoly that can bring advertisers scale, and deliver results that are transparent and brand safe.

Once Time Warner closes, we'll be well positioned to be that alternative. We think the entire industry-advertisers, publishers, and consumers-are more than ready for this alternative. And with Time Warner, we believe we'll have the right data, the right content, and the right talent to build an automated advertising platform that can transform premium video and TV advertising.

2018 we're also gonna be focused further on Mexico. Our business there's gonna continue to scale. We continue to move toward profitability. We have great momentum in the market, nearly doubling our subscriber base in the last two-plus years, and our LTE build in Mexico is almost complete.

And then finally, our industry-leading cost structure has proven to be a significant competitive advantage. We obsess over delivering the lowest cost per megabyte in the world, and we still have a lot of room to go. So, that's kind of a synopsis of what we'll be focused on in 2018. What I'm gonna do now is hand it off to John to give you a report on the fourth quarter and our outlook for 2018, so, John.

John J. Stephens -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Randall, and thanks for joining us on the call. Let me begin with our financial summary, which is on slide seven. The positive impact of tax reform led to some significant changes in both our reported fourth quarter and annual results. This impacted our balance sheet and fourth-quarter earnings. It also led to us making some important decisions that impacted our fourth quarter cash flows. We'll walk through these impacts as we discuss the results.

Revenues were essentially flat year over year as a strong quarter in wireless equipment and in our international operations mostly offset declines in legacy, wireless, and video services. Adjusted consolidated operating margins in the quarter were down year over year due to healthy increases in wireless sales and expenses from our entertainment group, offsetting that solid growth in our international operations. But for the full year, operating margins were up 40 basis points.

In the fourth quarter, our adjusted EPS was $0.78 including a $0.13 positive impact from tax reform. Essentially, our ability to fully expense capital spending in the fourth quarter generated most of this benefit. Remember. Tax reform expensing provisions were effected retroactively to September 27th of 2017. We also made a number of other decisions with tax reform in mind, including the $200 million in bonus payments to our frontline employees, an $800 million funding of our employee and retiree medical trusts, nearly $100 million funding of our AT&T charitable foundation and a number of other steps.

Adjustments for the fourth quarter include these special items: a $20 billion gain from our preliminary estimate on net deferred tax liability reductions generated by the new tax law, asset write-offs in our copper plant as our consumer fiber footprint continues to expand and we continue to serve new customers with those fiber capabilities, and additional storm and national disaster impacts. And in the fourth quarter, those are primarily from Puerto Rico. Other adjustments include our annual mark-to-market pension plan remeasurement and merger and integration costs, amortization and some other adjustments.

Free cash flow was up for the quarter and was $17.6 billion for the year even with the $1 billion of benefit payments made in connection with tax reform. Capex for the full year also came in on target at just under $22 billion.

Let's now take a look at our operations starting with mobility, where the team turned in outstanding customer growth. Those details are on slide eight. AT&T's domestic mobility operations, as you know, are divided between the business solutions and customer wireless segments. For comparison purposes, the company is providing supplemental information for its total US wireless operations, and that's what I'll discuss today.

First off, we added 329,000 postpaid phone customers in the quarter, a significant increase on both the year over year and sequential basis. Postpaid smartphone net additions were even more at 400,000. Altogether, we had more than 2.7 million new subscribers with gains in postpaid, prepaid, and connected devices. And looking at the full year, we added more than 2 million of our most valuable, [ran bid] smartphone subscribers to our base. One big reason for this success is reduced churn. Postpaid phone churn continues to run at record levels dropping to 0.89% in the quarter.

Revenues were up the quarter thanks to strong smartphone sales. These sales also had an impact on margins. We had a year over year increase of 700,000 gross adds and upgrades in the quarter as our customers kept coming back and getting new phones. Our BOGO offer was also successful and helped drive this volume increase. This growth impacted margins but with record low postpaid phone churn, these customers will provide financial benefits years into the future. With these and many other efforts, we expect service revenues to improve throughout the coming year and turn positive for the year.

We take a disciplined approach in building our customer base. We'll continue to be keenly focused on cost management but also look for efficient opportunities to reinvest in our customers and continue growing.

Now, let's take a look at our entertainment group results. Total video customers, IP broadband connections, and bundles all grew. DirecTV Now had a tremendous customer growth in its first year of operation. With 368,000 net adds in the fourth quarter gives us nearly 1.2 million customers in the service, and we believe the best is yet to come. As Randall mentioned, we're close to launching our second-generation platform. We're excited about the improved customer experience the platform will bring and the new revenue opportunities that will come along with it. These will include the cloud-based DVR, and additional video stream to the two we offer today, and a more robust video on demand experience.

You're also seeing us turn the corner with our broadband business. IP broadband gains continue to be robust even as the conversion of DSL customers to IP slows as the consumer DSL customer base dropped below 1 million. We added nearly 600,000 IP broadband customers during 2017. Broadband penetration rates and our fiber footprint where we have marketed our fiber service for more than 24 months are nearing 50%. Last year alone we doubled the number of IP broadband subscribers in our fiber footprint. A big part of our subscriber success can be attributed to the integrated offers that we have. We continue to increase the number of bundled customers. The number of households who take both video and wireless increased by 160,000 in the quarter or about 700,000 more wireless customers who bundle with video. That's significant because the churn rate of our DirecTV customers who have our wireless service is nearly half that of stand-alone satellite subscribers.

At the same time, we continue to work through the ongoing transition of the paid TV industry. This transition pressure revenues and margins. We will manage this transition as we have managed other transitions over the year, but expect the pressure to continue throughout 2018. Now let's look at business solutions results on slide nine.

Wireless drove growth in our business solutions segment, but we also a had sequential improvement in our wireline revenue trends. Wireless revenues were up 6% on the strength of smartphone sales, while service revenues were essentially flat. Wireline revenues were down 3.5% year over year, an improvement over previous quarters, and up nearly 1% sequentially. We now have 1.8 business customer locations connected with fiber. That means more sales opportunities for the team. We also expect increased business activity following the passage of tax reform. Margins felt the impact of increased smartphone sales, but wireline margins were up significantly to 37.8%, something like 270 basis point increase, as we continue to drive hard on cost management initiatives.

A big part of these cost savings come from our move to a virtualized network. More than 55% of our network functions were virtualized by the end of '17, and there is still more opportunity as we drive toward our goal of 75% of these functions virtualized by 2020.

Our international business also turned in another strong quarter. Those results are on the bottom of slide nine. We had growth across our operations. Revenues were up 16% as both DirecTV Latin America and Mexico showed strong revenue and subscriber gains. EBITDA also was up significantly thanks to strength in Latin America and improvement in Mexico. Subscriber growth continues to be strong in Mexico. The 1.3 million net adds in the quarter pushed our full-year growth to more than 3 million and our total subscriber base to more than 15 million. And our Latin America satellite operations added 139,000 customers thanks to the strength in their prepaid products. The business continues to be profitable and generate positive free cash flow.

Our business unit's turned in a great fourth quarter, but we've also done an excellent job managing our balance sheet during the quarter. Those highlights are on slide ten. We take pride in the disciplined management of our balance sheet. We see it as a competitive advantage and value generator for our shareholders. It's the foundation our company is built on and gives us the strength and flexibility we need to invest and to grow. That foundation became even stronger in 2017 thanks to tax reform and thoughtful measure we undertook.

First, we de-risked the existing debt portfolio by extending maturities primarily beyond 10 years as we prepare to close the Time Warner deal, and we did it cost effectively without significantly increasing our interest rates. Our weight average of maturity is now 14.5 years at a weighted average interest rate of 4.4%, and we've diversified our portfolio with about a quarter of the debt denominated in foreign currency. This gives us ample near-term liquidity to meet the demands of the business and provide solid, long-term returns to our shareholders.

Second, our terrific cash flow generation enabled us to invest in growth, improve leverage ratios and improve dividend coverage for the payout ratio of 68% in 2017, and with the passage of tax reformed, received a significant boost to our balance sheet reducing $20 billion of liabilities and increasing shareholder equity by a like amount. This reform significantly improves our net debt-to-equity ratios as well as free cash flow and dividend coverage in future years.

We also are in excellent shape with our pension plan. Our pension plan assets returned over 14% for the year, and we are nearly fully funded with no significant cash contributions required for at least five years. This is the case even with a historically low discount rate. If you apply the average five-year discount rate to our plan, it is essentially fully funded, and at the average 10-year rate, it's actually overfunded. Coming from this strong position, we plan to increase our investment allocation to fixed-income assets and lower our expected return on pension assets down to 7% from the current 7.75% assumption.

All these measures have a profound impact on our financial position, and I would expect the rating agencies will take notice and begin updating their models. It certainly has changed our outlook on capital budgeting, improving the returns of a whole range of products. As promised, we'll increase 2018 capital investments by $1 billion with tax reform. Even with that, we expect significant free cash flow growth in 2018 and going forward with our dividend payout ratio improving into the high 50% range this year. And we are committed to deleveraging after Time Warner closes with plans to return to historic levels by the end of 2020 if not before.

Our management team has worked hard to build and maintain a strong balance sheet. We also know the job is never done, but 2018 brings tax reform, FirstNet, and a new accounting standard that will affect our financial results. Let's talk about 2018 on slide eleven.

First, let's look at immediate impacts of changes in the tax law. Tax reform provides immediate benefits. It is allowing the additional $1 billion in incremental investments in 2018, much of that targeted for fiber deployment. The lower tax rate is also expected to increase operating cash flow by about $3 billion this year compared to pre-tax reform expectations. We're also confident that as other businesses increase investments, there will be a potential uplift in demand for our services. We can't predict exactly when, so we didn't assume a significant increase in GPD trends in our guidance. But we are optimistic that it'll come, and we'll be watching this closely.

We expect our 2018 effective tax rate will be in the 23% range. The full year's impact of tax reform is expected to be about $0.45 of EPS help. FirstNet will have an impact on our 2018 financials. We plan to move quickly with the buildout, and the timing of FirstNet reimbursements could impact our 2018 free cash flow. For example, we may have FirstNet related expenditures this year that aren't reimbursed until 2019. We planned FirstNet reimbursements against the capital and operating expenditures to which they relate. So, there'll be no revenue impact. We estimate that 80% of the reimbursements will offset capital expenditures with 20% offsetting operating expenses. We expect to expense sustainability payments as paid, net of any recoveries, for FirstNet-approved projects. We will see a $0.05 per share expense impact from our sustainability payments and other operating expenses from our buildout and FirstNet operations.

Additionally, we will see a $0.05 a share expense impact from increased interest expense in 2018. This comes from placing our AWS and WSC spectrum in service and no longer capitalizing the carrying costs related to owning inactive spectrum. And we'll see a $0.04 expense increase from the lower expected return on pension assets that we previously discussed.

In 2018, we will see a $0.06 a share benefit from reduced depreciation expense. That will be generated by the copper abandonment that we recorded in the fourth quarter of '17.

And, finally, the new revenue recognition accounting standard will have a positive impact on our near-term financials. Several items will be impacted, but the biggest of these is deferral of commission expenses, which will increase profits in 2018; recharacterization of some service to equipment revenues for equipment that was provided with multi-year service contracts, this is expected to have an impact on service revenues but not a material impact on total revenues or on profitability; and a netting of universal service and other regulatory fees against the related expense-this is expected to significantly reduce both revenues and expense but have little impact on profit.

We still have work to do on revenue recognition, but our initial estimate is $0.10 to $0.15 per share of positive EPS impact in 2018. Our results will differ from others because of our extensive NEXT program as well as our adoption of deferred installment accounting, contemporaneous with our 2015 acquisition of DTV. Look for more detailed disclosures in the near future. The impacts of tax reform, FirstNet, copper plan abandonment, and rev rec are reflected in our 2018 outlook and the details on our slide 12.

On a stand-alone basis, excluding Time Warner, we expected adjusted EPS in the $3.50 range, as I said, inclusive, of the items previously discussed. We also expect organic growth in the low single digits driven by continued profitability, improvement in Mexico, wireless service revenues growing in the second half of the year, cost structure benefits from virtualization and automation. And those offset by continued transformation of our video business and legacy services.

Free cash flow growth will be strong. We're expecting about $21 billion of free cash flow for the full year, which approximates our expected adjust net income. And we expect capital spending to approach $25 billion or about $23 billion net of expected FirstNet reimbursements. That includes $1 billion of incremental tax reform investment.

That's it in a nutshell. We ended the year with an exclamation point thanks to customer growth, tax reform, and FirstNet. And we're very excited about the year ahead. With that, Mike, I will turn it back to you for Q&A.

Michael J. Viola -- Head of Investor Relations

Thanks, John. Tony, we are ready for the questions.

Questions and Answers:


Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, if you do have a question, you may queue up at this time by pressing * then 1. Once again, for your questions, please press * then 1 at this time.

We'll take our first question from Phil Cusick with JPMorgan. Please, go ahead.

Philip A. Cusick -- JPMorgan Securities LLC -- Analyst

John, that was a big nutshell. So, if I can, one for John or for Randall. First, John, have you talked to the rating agencies about what the appropriate long-term leverage target looks like given the lower tax rate? And then Randall, sort of following up on things that John said and I know it's early, but what have you seen from customers in terms of investing in their telecom services post tax reform? Probably more conversation so far than orders but how can that impact AT&T trends going forward? Thanks.

John J. Stephens -- Chief Financial Officer

So, Phil, thanks for that, and one clarification. Mike's in here with me. I want to make sure I said this right. We expect to get to more traditional, history levels by 2022 or earlier. I apologize if I said 2020. The correct number is 2022, which is consistent with the advice we've been giving every time we talk about the deal.

Philip A. Cusick -- JPMorgan Securities LLC -- Analyst

That makes a little more sense.

John J. Stephens -- Chief Financial Officer

Phil, we have been in discussions with the rating agencies, but we haven't come to any conclusions. We are still in the give and take in that process and will continue that. So, I expect that this will impact their models. I also understand that they are also waiting for us to close the Time Warner deal and to update their models with the new Time Warner information. So, no answer yet, working on it, and we look forward to kinda continuing those conversations with the rating agencies.

Randall Stephenson -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Phil, on the capital spending and investment, and you said specifically in telecom, but we track with just gross fixed investment. If you look at business gross fixed investment anywhere in the world, our services tend to track with that. Fourth quarter was like a number we hadn't seen in quite some time-gross fixed investment. I think it was over 6%. It was a very, very strong number. Around here, we do high fives when we see those kind of numbers because that's usually an indication of general spending because when business spend more capital, they generally hire more people. When they hire more people, they spend more capital. And so specifically, you'll see businesses adding people, and those people have to have computers. They have to have machinery. They have to have broadband connections. They have to have mobile services. They have to have data connectivity. And so that is a metric we watch closely.

The anecdotal evidence-and it's purely anecdotal other than the gross fixed investment-is strong. People are talking about investing more. You've see announcement after announcement of companies saying they're intending to invest more capital as a result of tax reform. And so that is our expectation. I think history is a very good indicator of this, and when you see Apple talking about investing in more facilities and manufacturing in the United States, for a company like AT&T and anybody in our sector, that's a good thing. So, we have pretty good expectations that the B to B side of our house, our enterprise business side, could catch some tailwinds. We don't have that built into the guidance we've given because it's just too early right now, but I'm very optimistic that we are going to overachieve most economic assessments of 2018.

You're finally starting to see some economists get out there and very bravely talk about 2.7% growth. I think that is very low, and if we don't have a three handle on economic growth this year, I'll be sorely disappointed and surprised.


Thank you. Our next question will come from Amir Rozwadowski with Barclays. Please, go ahead.

Amir Rozwadowski -- Barclays Capital, Inc. -- Analyst

I wanted to touch base a bit on the video industry at this point. How do you think about the status of the linear video market? It does seem as though one of your competitors seems to be taking a more selective or focused approach in terms of their subscribers. How should we think about your go-to-market strategy for that business going forward? And then, John, you had mentioned there are some ongoing pressures through this transition. How do you think about the margin profile of that business going forward? Clearly, you folks are investing in some of these next-generation products. Given that those are still subscale but growing but in investment mode for now, how should we think about the progression of returns in that business going forward?

Randall Stephenson -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Okay, Amir, I'll go first. I'll talk a bit about the video industry and how we think about it. But since the day we bought DirecTV, we assumed that traditional, linear video would be in a declining mode, just kind of the nature of it. OTT and the ability to consume video on mobile devices we believe would be the trend and the wave of where things went. We wanted to be in the leadership position in facilitating that kind of consumption of premium video on mobile devices, and we have been in the leadership position in that. We have made it an objective to ensure that we can transition. We run these transitions all the time. Right? When you have technology transitions or business model transitions, whether it's fixed phone service to mobile, whether it's a private line kind of service for business to VPN-you can kind of go down the list of whether it's feature phones to smartphones-we run these transitions. And we think we're pretty good at them.

As it relates to video, we are standing up a video product that we are convinced will give us growth in the video platform for the next few years, and that's our DirecTV Now. So, as traditional linear declines, DirecTV Now we think can offset that, and not only that but our traditional linear video will be repurposed. You heard me talked about a next-gen platform that is home-centric, a very thin client into the home. That'll actually drive cost structure of the traditional video product down so that you can preserve margins in the tradition linear video as you grow in the over the top applications and in videos services.

So we're very bullish on video. As we look at the numbers, our consumers are consuming more video than they used to, not less. They're consuming it on different devices. They're not just consuming it in the home. They're consuming it on tablets and smartphones, and that's where we want to be. And so we're rather bullish on that, Amir.

John J. Stephens -- Chief Financial Officer

Amir, with regard to the legacy or the linear TV product, think about it this way. First of all, a key strategy is the bundle. When we are bundling with wireless or when we're bundling with broadband, we're seeing significant improvements. We mentioned that we've got another 170,000 homes this quarter that we got bundled with wireless and another 700,000 wireless customers that were bundled with our satellite TV product. That bundling allows us to have profitability from that combined account. It also creates higher value, lifetime value, for each of those customers.

When you see us bundling with fiber, what we are seeing is a church rate that's about half the stand-alone satellite or video product churn. So, as we expand the fiber to 14 million over the next two years, you'll see us have tremendous opportunities to bundle with video. So, that is great. In addition, we expect to pick up whatever video losses we have and more than that with DirecTV Now, and Randall just spoke about the aspects of that: the opportunities to improve the revenues, profitability and the reach of that.

And the last thing I'll tell you is that with regard to our satellite product, we're gonna continue to serve what you might consider nonurban or non-suburban America, rural America. We're always gonna have an ability to do that on a combined basis with our great wireless service and with our satellite TV products such that we can continue to provide those who live outside the city limit, so to speak, great quality, great choice. That's how we're thinking about the business, but as we've shown over the last two and half years, that's all based on a relentless obsession with cost management and continuing to improve the cost structure. And while the advertising opportunities are there for DTV Now, they're clearly also there for our traditional, linear TV products.

So those are all the things we're working on. Is it going to be easy? It'll be challenging, but as Randall said, we've been through this kind of transition many times before, and we feel up to the task of working through it.


Thank you. Our next question in queue will come from John Hodulik with UBS. Please, go ahead.

John C. Hodulik -- UBS Securities LLC -- Analyst

This is Batya Levi for John. Two questions, one, just following up on the bundling strategy, can you talk about how bundling has started to improve sub trans-growth on the video and voice phone side and if we can expect that to continue into '18? And how will you balance that sub growth with profitability? Do you expect wireless margins, which were kind of flat this year, can they start to improve? And the entertainment profitability has been coming down. Can we see a stop at that decline? Thanks.

John J. Stephens -- Chief Financial Officer

Batya, it's good to hear from you. With regard to the impacts on bundling on wireless churn, I can't give you a number of basis points. A precision amount of basis points is there. What I can point to is if you look at specifically postpaid phone, which is where the majority of our really value-focused bundling is done, we're getting record levels of low churn. And we attribute at least part of that to the bundling aspect. So, what we're seeing is working. That's the first thing.

Secondly, we're also seeing what was a very high level, 700,000 increase year over year, in smartphone growth adds and upgrades, and it continued significant level of BYOD devices. So, what we're seeing is with this bundling opportunity, customers are continuing to come back to us that have been with us a while, and new customers are coming to us. That's what resulted not only in the great subscriber gains for the quarter but, in some of that if you will, impact on cost and margins. But when you look at the total profitability, we're very pleased with that, and when you look at the churn impacts of that for years to come, you can understand why we'd make that lifetime value investment. So, that's how we're seeing that.

With regard to the video products, we're seeing similar. Once again, I can't point directly as a measurement for basis points, but as I mentioned specifically with fiber, it's cut in half on the bundling. But on wireless we're also seeing lower churn. So, that's being, if you will, very helpful to the overall business. And then when you put those multiple products together-and it's not only the reduction in service cost with regard to billing and administration and so on and so forth, but it's also with that total customer and the ability to track dollar services-we do see a long-term path to greater value creation. That's how we're thinking about that bundling strategy not on a day to day basis. For example, when you look at churn on that longer-term basis, churn at these levels is implying 100 month and more lives for these smartphones: tremendous, tremendous, opportunity. So, that's what we're looking toward.

Lastly, we're gonna be able to continue to cut costs, and as we continue to cut costs through virtualization and automation, we're gonna be able to continue to maintain. We have been on a path for the last four quarters of setting records in wireless service margins, and we chose this quarter to reinvest in our customer base. When you got churn at those sub-90 basis point levels, it seems like the right thing to do, and with tax reform and the other things that are going on in our business, we feel very comfortable that it is the right thing to do.

Randall Stephenson -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

I'd add to that, Batya, that there's probably no more powerful driver of margins in our industry than low churn. And so you think about what drives low churn. There are two big drivers. Customer sat. is the number one driver of low church, but the second is multiproduct bundles with our customers. The more relationships they have with us of different products, the more powerful this driver of churn is. And so that's why we relentlessly focus on both of these, but the multiproduct services are the second biggest driver of church improvement that we have.


Thank you. Our next question will come from David Barden with Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Please, go ahead.

David Barden -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

I guess I'm that guy this quarter again. So, John, just doing the math on kind of that long series of EPS adjustments, kind of taking out the hurts and putting back the helps, it kinda gets to kind of low, single-digit EPS growth 2.98 to 3.03 from the 2.92 this year.

John J. Stephens -- Chief Financial Officer

Let me say this. Those single digits, if you want to pick 1%, 2%, 3%, I'll let you do that, and $0.08 of those items that I talked about, when you add them all together, those items are a total about $0.08 of net pressure: $0.06 a benefits from depreciation; the other three were $0.14 of pressure; and net $0.08 of pressure that we're absorbing so just to be straightforward with that.

David Barden -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Okay, good, thanks. But on a net basis, it still seems to suggest something is still moderating from 2017. I think we saw about $1 billion of EBITDA pressure in '17, and I was wondering if you can kinda talk about in '18 kinda how that EBITDA versus non-EBITDA, below the line stuff, is getting you to that EPS number. And then the second piece of it is last quarter I asked just about the enterprise business flattening out. You said that there were some green chutes emerging in the pricing environment. You've actually had a pretty stable enterprise wireline business for the whole year now. And with the CenturyLink, Level 3 merger kind of consolidating the space, is stable the new outlook, or are we kind of turning a corner here?

John J. Stephens -- Chief Financial Officer

A couple of things with the enterprise business. We did not, as I mentioned on our guidance and our basis for our guidance, we didn't assume a dramatic shift in the GDP. We certainly expect continued investments as Randall mentioned. We expect that to turn into orders. We just didn't know when, and so we haven't modeled that in. With regard to the most recent activity, we did see through some management actions the team took, we saw some improvement in our trends on our legacy revenues and some continued, positive growth on our strategic services. If that continues and we can continue to push that through the year along with some tax reform initiated demand, there's an opportunity for us to do better than what we've modeled, better than what we've given in guidance. So, we are hopeful, and we're watching. But we're gonna be careful with that.

With regard to the items, David, with regard to 2018 and the operational side, improvements in Mexico, continued strong performance in Latin America, we'll continue to see some pressure from legacy revenues like wireline voice. And then some early challenges with wireless service, as we lap the first year of unlimited and then the movement toward voice service revenue improvement and growth, those are the things that are going on in the business. One thing I will point out. Remember, about $0.05 of the pressure for next year, it's gonna be an interest expense. That's a below-the-line item. That's from no longer capitalizing the interest expense with regard to the spectrum we're gonna put into service with FirstNet. That was part of that $0.08 that I was talking about. So, while we're not giving specific guidance on margins or on EBITDA levels, I want to make sure I gave you as much color as I could to your question.

David Barden -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Thanks, John. Just to kind of take away, is the EBITDA kinda trajectory still pretty much in the same zip code, or are we seeing that improve and that's kinda helping that EPS story?

John J. Stephens -- Chief Financial Officer

I'll just say it this way. You have to have good, solid performance of the business to overcome those pressures and to still come in that low-single digit EPS growth. You have to have strong performance of the business, and the biggest item that is not that EBITDA or two big items that we talked about is, one, depreciation, which we've laid out, and then, two is the interest expense. Those go in large margin to offset each other.

Randall Stephenson -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

David, I'm probably on the optimistic side of business spending as you heard my answer to Phil's question, but as you just kinda look at fourth quarter up and down the business segment, it wasn't just concentrated in one area. It was multinationals all the way down to small business. We're just showing signs of improvement, and so I find myself getting somewhat optimistic the business spending is really going to accelerate as we work through 2018.


Thank you. Our next question, that will come from Simon Flannery with Morgan Stanley. Please, go ahead.

Simon Flannery -- Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC -- Analyst

Great, thanks. Good evening. Randall, you touched a little bit on 5G, and you put out a couple of press releases here. It was obviously in the news the last couple of days. Can you just talk about where you are or what you've learned from the trials so far, and what should we be looking to you at AT&T for 2018 and 5G? What are the use cases that get you most excited? And then, John, just coming back to the ASC 606, the $0.10 to $0.15, I think Verizon had said that by 2020 that would sort of wind down to kind of a neutral impact. Is that the same amount for you?

John J. Stephens -- Chief Financial Officer

Randall, let me take the 606 first. And, yes, over a period of years, it will balance out as the contracts lap each other. So, yes, that's a common thought, and as I mentioned, the other item is with us and compare us to others, we did adopt deferred installment accounting. That's commonly used in the cable industry. We adopted that with the DirecTV merger, so a lot of the items along with our next accounting that we've already been using will to some people give an impression that our numbers are not as much as they otherwise might have expected. Randall.

Randall Stephenson -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

On 5G, Simon, the use case I get most excited about is the opportunity to have nearly a nationwide, broadband footprint. And it could be fixed-line replacement. The capacity is there. The performance is there. It's gonna be full, gigabit throughput, and so I get very energized on the opportunity over the next few years to actually build out a nationwide capability for broadband for both business as well as consumer. And so those are the ones, by the way, the technology is probably the easiest to scale and so forth.

But as you begin to think about mobile solutions, we will be deploying mobile solutions in 2018, and it's going to be in 12 markets is what we'll be doing. Think of this as a puck because really the thing that's going to cause 5G to go slow more than anything else is just availability of handsets. We're getting the equipment manufacturing moving. We're getting the supply chains moving. We're doing the cell site acquisition. We're doing all the build type work, but getting handsets at scale, penetrated into the market, will slow things down. So, that's why we're going to be deploying pucks in the first part of our deployments in these 12 markets. So, it is a mobile solution, but it's not going to be a handset because there aren't going to be that many handsets available. We'll be pushing the vendors to make that happen faster, but we know how long these things take and how long it takes them to penetrate the market.

As you think about other applications, the easy ones that we all talk about is autonomous cars. And, in fact, I just don't think those use cases work without 5G technology. It's all about low latency. People say 5G, and you're thinking about speed. And speed and throughput is important, but the most important element is latency and having low latency. 5G is the first technological innovation that truly gets us to low latency, and as we think about a distributing cloud environment, we think we're in a unique place to begin distributing the cloud capability into our infrastructure. Think of all the nodes, all the access points that we have in our network distributing cloud. At that level, we can take latency to a lower level than we think virtually anybody else, but it will be a competition. It'll be a race, and we'll see who gets there first.

But the latency is exciting. The latency is also critical for, as you think about, super IOT, connected devices, and connecting everything. It's going to be important for virtual reality and augmented reality applications. So, we're taking this to your point, use case by use case, and that is what's determining our deployment and our build plans, our use cases. And it's centered around predominately these areas that I just articulated to you.


Thank you. Our next question, that will come from Amy Yong with Macquarie. Please, go ahead.

Amy Yong -- Macquarie Capital -- Analyst

Thanks, and following up on the entertainment group, you exited 4Q with really solid video trends. Do you still think you can grow the video pie and maybe even outpace the traditional paid TV environment? And I think previously you've updated us on the mix of DirecTV Now subscribers. Can you give us the mix of cord cutters and where they're coming from? That'd be helpful, thank you.

John J. Stephens -- Chief Financial Officer

So a couple of things, we would expect to continue to grow video customers with our DirecTV Now outpacing our linear customer counts in the sense of net additions. So, we do expect that. Secondly, I would suggest to you that the mix hasn't changed much. We're still getting around 50% of them from cord nevers and around 50% of cord cutters or cord shavers. Secondly, we are getting a disproportionate amount of those customers being multiple dwelling units, millennials and others. Well, specifically those two groups and we're excited about that. So, as we move through the process, we'll continue. We still haven't seen a dramatic uptick in customers that are shifting from our full-value product to the DTV Now, but we continue to watch that carefully and continue to come up with different ways to make sure we can prove that out and track that. But in kind of a total video customer base, we do believe we have the opportunity to continue to grow just like we did in the fourth quarter.

Randall Stephenson -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

That's exactly our plan, Amy. We will grow our TV customer base is the expectation. And as we continue to mature the DirecTV Now platform, we think we can actually do better. The new DirecTV Now platform has a lot more functionality, so once you get cloud-based DVRs and you can put a third stream, now all of a sudden you're entering a new marketplace with those as well, get new functionality. We think we get higher penetration. So, we're actually very bullish on DirecTV Now. We're convinced the economics will continue to improve as we move over the next couple of years.


Thank you. Our next question, that will come from Matthew Niknam with Deutsche Bank. Please, go ahead.

Matthew Niknam -- Deutsche Bank Securities, Inc. -- Analyst

One on capital allocation, with the significant cash savings you're laying out from tax reform, are there any areas of the business you're looking to potentially accelerate investment in beyond fiber? And on the fiber topic, does this change at all how you think about that 14 million fiber homes task target beyond mid-2019? Thanks.

Randall Stephenson -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Look. Tax reform changes everything as it relates to capital allocation, Matthew, if I understand that as well as anybody, but when you're suddenly looking at your after-tax returns improving by 20% roughly, it just changes how you think about your investment thesis. It changes the profitability equation on fiber as well as 5G and how you think about rural and how you think about FirstNet. And so it gives us the ability to consider starting to push our fiber deployments faster and further, and it's early. It's hard to say what it will mean as you own a media and entertainment company. But how does it affect the decision-making as it relates to investment in premium content as it relates to direct-to-consumer distribution and how fast you go in those regards? We've been planning for this for quite some time, but now that it's here and it's real, we're going through, and we're digging in and ask what are these projects that we want to be investing in and these initiatives we want to be investing in that can continue to drive growth over the next five or six years? Let's take advantage of it.

John J. Stephens -- Chief Financial Officer

Matt, we are expecting to spend more money on fiber, to accelerate the process and achieve our goals, and then we'll have the opportunity to look to expand. Secondly, we are, if you will, excited about-and I think the team's working very, very hard-to achieve the FirstNet goals and even exceed the goals set out by the FirstNet authority. That's a really positive thing for us, and while we were interested in doing that for some time, tax reform and the cash savings aspect to that provide us that opportunity, provide the flexibility to go after that even more. Those are two of the areas where I think you'll really see us utilize the benefits of the new tax laws.

Michael J. Viola -- Head of Investor Relations

Hey, Tony, this is Mike. We'll take one more question.


Thank you, sir. That will come from Scott Goldman with Jefferies. Please, go ahead.

Scott Goldman -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Maybe, Randall, if you could just talk a little bit about the wireless competitive environment. Obviously, it's still very competitive, but it seems like we've been operating in a more rational environment of late. And that's driven some better results in fourth quarter. Just wondering how you think about or what you're embedding in your outlook in terms of the competition in 2018? And maybe just a quick one follow-up with John on that same question, how do you think about the put intakes on ARPU based on the expectations for competition in 2018? Thanks.

Randall Stephenson -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

You bet. My outlook for wireless competition is that it will continue to be intensely competitive. We don't see that changing. How people are competing has changed somewhat, and how we're competing is changing quite a bit. I'm not going to go into a lot of details because we made some moves in the fourth quarter, and you're going to see those continue into the first, second, and third quarter. We think they're gonna be very effective and have been very effective in the marketplace, but I'll call it smarter competition, smarter way at approaching our customer base and in accessing new customers. We believe very strongly that combining video with our mobile product is a really important element, and you will see us continue to do that but actually probably take it to new and different levels because it's proving so powerful in churn. But we're also getting to a place-we've learned enough-that it's becoming very powerful as it relates to customer acquisition. And so combining video with wireless is a really important driver, and you've seen some of the industry begin to make moves to mimic that, which is usually an indication that you're having success. And so you'll see more and more of that, but it'll remain competitive. But we feel really good about how we're set up, what we're doing in the marketplace and that we'll continue to even take that a step further as we move through 2018.

John J. Stephens -- Chief Financial Officer

Scott, on the ARPU side, let me first make sure we're clear. With regard to rev rec and the adoption of it, it's an unusual accounting change in that it's a flash cut. So, a couple of the changes include regulatory fees, which we count as service revenue today, and then also in the expense line, they'll be netted. So, ARPU will come because we'll be pulling that out. And, secondly, there will be some of the service revenue-it's called service road today-will get allocated to equipment revenues in the future for that small number of situations where we still subsidize equipment. Once you take that into account, you'll have comparable ARPU, and I just want to make sure everybody knows that.

With regard to the aptitudes for ARPU, I think about it in a total profitability situation not just in an ARPU situation. So, we certainly are looking to do as strong as we can on ARPU and as many services. As Randall said at the beginning, we're relentless on this lowest cost per megabit provider, and as we get to that, we can be very successful with things like prepaid or other alternative levels of ARPU. My only point is though, while we bundle with regard to video and broadband wireless together and we get great ARPUs from those, there will be situations where we will look to accept lower ARPUs like in prepaid and because of a very low-cost structure, because of no billing your general administrative cost, because of opportunities to maybe get data analytics value out of it, we'll be able to still be profitable. Or we'll be able to expand the base of customers and be able to make more total profits that way.

So that's one of the reasons why we're not giving EBITDA margin guidance is because we want to focus on this total cash, total profitability position. So, while ARPUs will continue to be measure relentless and we'll continue to analyze them in the same way, I want you to understand that we're really focused on that total service revenue growth, total revenue growth, total profitability, um, as opposed to just any one aspect.

Randall Stephenson -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Very good. Thank you, Scott, and listen. I want to thank everybody for joining us today. 2017 was a truly unique year for America business, US business. And I think 2018 is gonna prove to be a really good year for the realization of the implications of what was done in 2017, and I think the consumer is going to be better off. I think wages are gonna be higher as businesses invest more. And as a result, AT&T being a very US-centric company, we think we're gonna have a good year ahead of us as well. So, again, thank you for joining us and look forward to talking to you next time.


Thank you very much, and ladies and gentlemen, that does conclude our conference call for today. We do thank you for your participation and for using AT&Ts executive teleconference. You may not disconnect.

Duration: 67 minutes

Call participants:

Michael J. Viola -- Head of Investor Relations

Randall Stephenson -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

John J. Stephens -- Chief Financial Officer

Philip A. Cusick -- JPMorgan Securities LLC -- Analyst

Amir Rozwadowski -- Barclays Capital, Inc. -- Analyst

John C. Hodulik -- UBS Securities LLC -- Analyst

David Barden -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Simon Flannery -- Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC -- Analyst

Amy Yong -- Macquarie Capital -- Analyst

Matthew Niknam -- Deutsche Bank Securities, Inc. -- Analyst

Scott Goldman -- Jefferies -- Analyst

More T analysis

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