AT&T said today that it is launching a new fixed wireless service, dubbed Internet Air, in parts of more than a dozen markets. The service will be delivered over the company’s cellular network using an approach that has had considerable success for mobile service rivals T-Mobile and Verizon.
The offering, which will sell for $55 a month plus taxes, will use “available network capacity in areas that are less densely populated while still providing a strong connection,” said Erin Scarborough, AT&T president of broadband and connectivity initiatives, in a blog post.
The move is an “about face” for AT&T, whose executives have spoken disparagingly of fixed wireless in the past.
For example, six months ago, AT&T Chief Financial Officer Pascal Desroches told investors that fixed wireless was “not a great product” and predicted that customers ultimately would reject it” because performance would suffer as traffic increased.
In an email to Telecompetitor, an AT&T spokesperson said the new launch wasn’t such a big change of heart but rather she called it a “bridge to the future.”
“In regard to comments we’ve made publicly about fixed wireless, nothing has changed,” the spokesperson said. “Let me underscore that we believe that fiber is best-in-class and will continue to expand our fiber footprint. It’s the best fixed option where it is readily available and economically feasible, however, fiber is capital intensive and takes a long time to build.
“Our goal is to make fiber available as broadly as possible. Until then, in areas where fiber is not yet available or feasible, AT&T Internet Air is a viable solution that can deliver reliable connectivity to communities across the country. It’s a great bridge to the future.”
As T-Mobile and Verizon continue to rack up broadband subscriber gains driven by strong fixed wireless growth, however, perhaps AT&T couldn’t resist taking the plunge.
AT&T’s product positioning emphasizes the Wi-Fi aspect of the device, along with its “sleek and modern look that seamlessly blends into any design aesthetic.” The company also offers Wi-Fi extenders, the blog post notes.
According to the blog post, customers will be able to self-install Internet Air in five steps and can be up and running in less than 15 minutes. Customers will scan a QR code to access a step-by-step installation guide. The company’s Smart Home Manager app will help customers find the best spot in the home to position the device, the company said.
Markets that will get the service first include Los Angeles, CA; Philadelphia, PA: Cincinnati, OH; Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Las Vegas, NV; Phoenix (Prescott), AZ; Chicago, IL; Detroit, MI; Flint-Saginaw-Bay City, MI; Hartford-New Haven, CT; Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN; Portland, OR; Salt Lake City, UT; Seattle-Tacoma, WA; and Tampa-St. Petersburg (Sarasota), FL.
Additional markets will be launched in the future, AT&T said.
Updated with comments from an AT&T spokesperson