Fibre, 5G form future for AT&T

Leading US comms provider reveals near-term growth strategy following pending close of WarnerMedia transaction

Leading US comms provider AT&T has laid out its updated strategy and financial expectations through to 2023, and the clear message is a return to core communications with investment particularly weighted towards fibre and 5G mobile networks.

At the heart of new strategy is the anticipated closure of the pending WarnerMedia transaction with Discovery, Inc. in the second quarter of the year, a move that AT&T chief executive officer John Stankey said leaves the company “near the starting line of a new era”, while it stood at “the dawn of a new age of connectivity”.

Explaining just how the divestment of assets from the mega merger with Warner would leave the firm, Stankey added: “The transformation we’ve undergone over the past 18 months while delivering outstanding operational results has brought us to this point. We will be a simpler, more focused company with the intent to become America’s best broadband provider.

“We plan to ramp up investment in our key areas of growth – 5G and fibre. And at the same time, we will retain our focus on growing customer relationships, continuously improve our execution to enhance the customer experience and deliver growth and returns for our shareholders … we are ready to deliver as new business models requiring pervasive, high-performance connectivity continue to emerge.”

The stated ambition is to meet the challenge of rivals such as Verizon and become “America’s best broadband provider”. It says it will achieve this ambition by a best-in-class network with fibre at its foundation, and by owning and operating both fibre and wireless, its brand of what it calls “owner economics” will provide better flexibility to deliver high-quality broadband in more places for businesses and consumers.

Going forward, AT&T plans to double its fibre footprint to 30-plus million locations, the growth figure based on customer locations as of the second quarter of 2021. This includes increasing its business customer locations by two times to five million. In doing so, the company expects to add 3.5 million to four million customer locations each year.

The company also expects to enhance the its 5G network by deploying 120 MHz of mid-band spectrum to cover more than 200 million people in the US by the end of 2023. The mid-band spectrum will enable faster speeds, increased capacity and lower latency, and complements the company’s existing 5G footprint, which covers more than 255 million people in more than 16,000 cities and towns.

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The company also sees opportunity being driven by its ability to deliver symmetric offerings for consumers and businesses, and expansion into the under-penetrated small and mid-size business customer segment. It said such customers want reliability, speed and simplicity, and is confident that it can provide all three: reliable fibre and 5G networks with the fastest fibre speeds in the US and a simplified experience with straightforward pricing.

AT&T is also developing software offerings on top of its connectivity, collaborating with partners to develop new services for businesses. These include Network Edge services through alliances with Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud; private 5G services offering businesses, universities and the public sector private cellular networks that seamlessly integrate with its nationwide macro network; and offerings to provide safe, secure connectivity in today’s hybrid work environments.

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