data centerAT&T said today that it will sell 31 data centers to Brookfield Infrastructure. The AT&T data center sale encompass 18 U.S. data centers and 13 data centers outside the U.S.

Although today’s press release stopped short of describing the transaction as an outright data center sale, instead referring to it as a “transfer” of “data center colocation operations and asssets,” a company spokesperson confirmed that the company is selling the entirety of the 31 data centers.

The 31 data centers do not represent the company’s entire data center holdings, however.

“AT&T is selling the data centers that serve the specific purpose of commercial colocation services,” the spokesperson explained in an email to Telecompetitor. “AT&T will continue to run the Enterprise Data Centers that are strictly for our use.”

Brookfield Infrastructure owns $75 billion worth of utilities, transport, energy, and communications infrastructure worldwide.

AT&T gets $1.1 billion in the deal, which it will use to pay down debt. The transaction is expected to close within six to eight months.

AT&T said it will continue to deliver network services to its customers at the 31 data centers and will become an active sales channel for those data centers. The carrier offers colocation services at more than 350 data centers worldwide as part of what it calls a “colocation ecosystem program” and the 31 data centers will be part of that program.

AT&T Data Center Sale
The AT&T data center sale is the latest example of a telecom service provider divesting data center assets but continuing to offer data center services from the divested data centers. Other service providers that have made the same move include CenturyLinkVerizon, and Windstream.

Telecom providers began building or acquiring data centers 10 to 20 years ago but more and more of them seem to have determined that while it is important to offer data center services such as colocation, it is not necessary to own the underlying assets. And as providers’ wireless and wireline businesses continue to demand upgrades to remain competitive, the providers seem to have determined that network investment is a higher priority.

Previous ownership of data center assets may provide valuable insight to the carriers that divested them – although in the fast-changing data center business, those insights are likely to be increasingly less relevant moving forward.

Image courtesy of flickr user Bob Mical.