AT&T Group President and Chief Strategy Officer John Stankey today offered additional details about the fixed wireless broadband offering that the company previously agreed to make available in some rural areas if the company’s plan to purchase DirecTV is approved by regulators. Stankey made his comments at an investor conference that was also webcast.
Perhaps the most important new information that Stankey revealed at the conference is that AT&T’s plans call for deploying the service in areas where the company has fallow licensed spectrum and that the service is expected to support sustained peak data rates of 10-20 Mbps.
AT&T Fixed Wireless Broadband
Spectrum license boundaries are “not neatly drawn,” said Stankey. While AT&T might only want spectrum for metro areas, licenses for metro area spectrum sometimes include areas outside the metro where AT&T doesn’t need the spectrum for its mobile operations. The carrier would like to put this spectrum to use to support a fixed wireless broadband service based on 4×4 MIMO technology and using different power levels and antennas than for traditional wireless offerings, Stankey said. He noted that DirecTV technicians would handle installations.
AT&T envisions its fixed wireless offering being sold as part of a double play that would also include DirecTV video service, thereby helping to minimize churn. The carrier also would expect to sell targeted advertising.
About 25% of the people in the areas that AT&T would target for the service currently have no terrestrial broadband offering, while 30% or less have only low-speed DSL, Stankey said. Others have the option of cable modem service delivered over non-upgraded cable plant, he noted.
Stankey declined to provide details about where the new wireless broadband offering would be made available. But he said the company estimates that about 10 to 12 million U.S. households could be targeted for the fixed wireless offering.
That doesn’t quite match the 15 million households that the company talked about serving with fixed wireless broadband when it announced the plan to purchase DirecTV, so perhaps the company has another fixed broadband wireless offering up its sleeve that would be based on different parameters.
Stankey argued that the AT&T/ DirecTV deal would be good for customers because it would help the merged company to keep the cost of service down. Additionally he said it would enable the merged company to grow its video offerings beyond current linear services.
Symmetrical Broadband, LTE-A, Multicast Plans
Stankey made his comments just one day AT&T announced that it will bring its gigabit broadband service based on fiber-to-the-home infrastructure to Miami, making Miami the latest in a string of new gigabit markets that AT&T has announced recently. At the financial conference, Stankey revealed one of the key reasons the company has taken such a strong interest in gigabit service.
AT&T’s GigaPower offering offers symmetrical service, which he said will give the company an edge over cable companies, whose latest DOCSIS technology will support gigabit speeds downstream but not upstream. Upstream traffic is growing at a faster rate than downstream traffic, Stankey said, also noting that upstream traffic sometimes exceeds downstream traffic at concerts and sporting events as spectators share videos and other content using social media.
Other interesting information from Stankey at today’s conference included:
- Today the average AT&T wireless customer is three miles from the place where his or her transmissions are handed off to a wireline network. Stankey envisions that distance decreasing to two miles to support LTE-A – and even less in the future. Moving forward, he envisions GPON networks being tapped to support mobile backhaul.
- AT&T expects to begin offering mobile video using multicasting in early 2015. The company could support as many as 15 channels, he said, depending how aggressively the company uses compression technology.
- More than 60% of AT&T’s U-verse base has been upgraded to support speeds of 45 Mbps or higher.