AT&T may look to WiMAX to provide broadband in rural markets, according to their CTO John Donovan. “WiMAX could come in handy in some U.S. markets, particularly rural areas where it’s becoming prohibitively expensive to maintain copper,” quotes the USA Today in an interview with Donovan. It’s somewhat puzzling to hear AT&T talk about WiMAX, when they’ve committed to LTE for their 4G migration. But, they also already have WiMAX operating in Alaska and in some old Bell South territories. It’s conceivable for them to use LTE as their primary 4G technology, while using WiMAX to fill in gaps, particularly as a wireless DSL product in more rural markets.
Should AT&T find success in offering WiMAX in rural territories, what might become of their copper networks in these territories? We all know that U-Verse isn’t coming to too many rural markets, and if AT&T can provide a wireless local loop, will they need a copper infrastructure at all in these “non-strategic” markets? We could be witnessing early planning of a coordinated rural market divestiture strategy by AT&T. Serve rural consumers wirelessly with both a mobile product and a wireless DSL product, and give up (i.e. sell) that costly wireline infrastructure entirely. What do you think?