attnewAT&T plans to deploy fixed wireless technology to meet Connect America Fund broadband deployment requirements, said AT&T President of Technology Operations Bill Smith at a financial conference yesterday. The company will use the technology in areas where it is “uneconomical to build wireline” said Smith of AT&T fixed wireless plans in a question and answer session at Pacific Crest Global Technology Leadership Forum in Vail, Colorado, which was also webcast.

The AT&T fixed wireless deployments apparently will use licensed spectrum, as Smith noted that the company typically buys spectrum covering geographic areas that include rural areas and that in rural areas, the spectrum is “somewhat underutilized.”

Smith expects the AT&T fixed wireless service to support speeds of 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream. That’s the minimum speed that Connect America Fund dollars will support. There are “few applications that can’t be supported,” at those speeds, Smith said.

The news about AT&T fixed wireless plans came the same day the industry learned that Google Fiber may be pursuing a fixed wireless solution for planned broadband deployments in the San Jose, California area. Google Fiber reportedly is delaying plans to deploy fiber-to-the-home in the area, and some industry observers believe the company will deploy fixed broadband using expertise and technology it gained when it acquired wireless broadband provider Webpass recently. That technology supports speeds considerably higher than 10 Mbps but the Webpass high speed deployments have been in metro rather than rural areas. (story continues below)

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Some carriers, including Verizon, also are eyeing 5G wireless technology as a means of delivering fixed broadband.

According to Smith, AT&T is conducting 5G testing and has found that it can support speeds as high as 14 Gbps. Smith said he doesn’t expect to see large scale 5G deployments until 2020.

An Integrated Carrier
Smith made his comments the same day that a different AT&T executive – CFO John Stephens – answered questions at a different financial conference. A key theme for Stephens was AT&T’s unique position as an “integrated” carrier offering wireless and wireline services, as well as satellite video and business services.

“We’re a solutions provider,” said Stephens at the Oppenheimer Technology, Internet and Communications Conference, which was also webcast. Stephens argued that “no one else is as well positioned” to capitalize on opportunities involving the Internet of Things.

Stankey also said AT&T has “the most extensive” backhaul network of any carrier, which should be an advantage when 5G – which relies heavily on backhaul infrastructure — is deployed.

Also of interest, Stankey noted that when AT&T deployed fiber to support its Project VIP network upgrade, the company brought fiber to shopping centers and wireless towers or “made sure it would be very easy to connect when the time came.” In some cases, distributed antenna systems also were installed in office buildings when connectivity to those buildings was upgraded.