AT&TWith the announcement of South Bend, Indiana as its latest AT&T fiber market, the carrier says they now reach 9 million locations. South Bend was also announced as a fixed 5G trial market, one of four, which leads to a bit of mixed messaging from the communications and media conglomerate.

Availability of AT&T Fiber to these 9 million locations is spread across 71 metro markets nationwide. Thirteen of those metro markets, including Hattiesburg, Miss., were also announced today, with AT&T stating fiber broadband will soon be available to them. AT&T plans to eventually reach 14 million locations across 84 metro markets by mid-2019.

This expansion has a business services focus as well, with AT&T now claiming they are “[t]he nation’s largest provider of fiber for business services.” AT&T says they now cover 1.8 million business locations with fiber broadband.

AT&T Fiber

AT&T Fiber Map (Source: AT&T)

The carrier recently revamped their fiber broadband speed tiers. They now offer three speeds of 100 Mbps, 300 Mbps, and 1,000 Mbps, or 1 gig. Unbundled pricing starts at $50/month for the 100 Mbps service with an annual contract, and subject to a monthly data cap of 1 TB. Unbundled gigabit service is offered at $90/month and provides unlimited data. Bundling other services usually reduces monthly fees by $10.

Mixed Messages on Fixed 5G
AT&T also highlighted fixed 5G service in South Bend, which is one of their four trial markets for fixed 5G service. In a company blog post, the carrier says residents in the fixed 5G trial are getting home broadband speeds of near 1 Gbps with latency rates of less than 20 milliseconds. Additional fixed 5G trial markets include Waco, Tex; Kalamazoo, Mich.; and Austin, Tex.

AT&T is continuing these fixed 5G trials, but the company is not exactly openly embracing the concept of fixed 5G. At an investor conference last month, AT&T Senior EVP and CFO John Stephens didn’t exactly endorse fixed 5G as a viable option. Rather, he suggested AT&T may not be that interested in the technology.

Speaking specifically about fixed 5G, Stephens said “In a general residential broadband solution, the economics for us don’t seem to work.” He pointed to the fiber investment needed for fixed 5G backhaul as a real hurdle to an acceptable fixed 5G business case.

Perhaps AT&T is looking for some middle ground on this. Markets where they are already investing in fiber broadband may alleviate these cost concerns allowing them to layer fixed 5G access on those fiber networks. Such an approach could extend the reach of a ‘fiber broadband like’ experience in these markets to additional homes and businesses, without having to bring fiber all the way to every premises.

Verizon on the other hand, appears to be taking a somewhat opposite and more aggressive fixed 5G approach. Verizon says they intend to offer fixed 5G to a market of about 30 million homes, most of which are outside of their incumbent Fios FTTP markets.