Analysts: AT&T's 2015 wireless capex likely will be down 21% from 2014

AT&T (NYSE: T) CFO John Stephens, speaking earlier this month at the Morgan Stanley European Technology, Media & Telecom Conference, said the company plans to invest $9 billion in capital expenditures into its wireless network this year, which, he said, while down from elevated levels of spending in 2013 and 2014, is still significant.

In a research report, Evercore analysts Jonathan Schildkraut, Robert Gutman, Justin Ages and Michael Hart said that in the first half of 2015, AT&T had $3.99 billion in wireless capex spending, and they estimate that AT&T's wireless capex outlay fell slightly to between $2 billion and $2.1 billion in the third quarter, "implying 4Q capex of nearly $3.0B (which seems like a lot to ask)."

"Notably, $9B of wireless capex would represent a 20.9% Y/Y reduction in spending -- far worse than our initial expectations after T announced a reduced capex outlook roughly a year ago," they added. 

"We have probably more macro towers in service in the United States than any of the carriers. For a number of years it caused some pressure because of the operating expenses associated with those macro towers on our margins," Stephens said at the conference. "But now it's become our advantage. Specifically with our spectrum position, we've been very attentive to our spectrum needs."

Indeed, AT&T has started deploying its 2.3 GHz WCS spectrum in some urban markets but has not said how widespread that deployment is or will become.