AT&T is “largest fiber provider in the U.S. and we are adding more than anybody else,” said the company’s chief financial officer, Pascal Desroches, at an investor conference today.
Just a few months after Desroches foretold the fall of fixed wireless access (FWA), arguing that “the customer is ultimately going to reject it,” Desroches was less negative about the technology today.
FWA makes sense for some rural communities where there is a lack of a business case for other technologies, Desroches said. The technology also may make sense for connections to businesses that don’t need to support video traffic.
“Where it becomes really hard is if you put it out where you have a significant wireless footprint,” Desroches said, in a reference to the company’s mobile network.
In that situation, AT&T would have to invest in its wireless network to support the fixed offering, and that’s not the best technology in which to invest, he said.
“To the extent we have excess capital, let’s invest in fiber,” said Desroches.
Desroches touted fiber’s benefits, including an attractive maintenance profile and lower power consumption.
AT&T can offer fiber broadband “at a meaningful discount to cable,” he said, and the company expects to “move up the ARPU [average revenue per user] stack” with its fiber offering.
In addition, he said fiber expansion will allow the company to offload more wireless traffic onto fiber. And he cited the preference for fiber in government broadband funding programs that could help further fiber expansion.
Desroches touched briefly on the company’s Gigapower joint venture with BlackRock to deploy fiber outside AT&T’s local service territory. He reiterated plans to build initially to 1.5 million locations and added that “If we’re successful, there’s no reason we would stop there.”
Finally, Desroches noted that broadband margins will improve as the company closes out copper network infrastructure.
“We’ll be the only company with an at-scale mobility and an at-scale fiber business,” he boasted.
Desroches made his comments at the Bank of America C-Suite TMT Conference. A replay is available at this link.