AT&T technician working with cables on a utility pole.
Enlarge / An AT&T technician engaged on a fiber mission.

AT&T as we speak stated it can deliver fiber Web to a couple million extra properties and companies by the top of this 12 months. “In 2021, AT&T plans to extend its fiber footprint by a further 3 million buyer areas throughout greater than 90 metro areas,” AT&T stated. This may elevate AT&T’s fiber deployment to about 18 million properties and companies.

AT&T offered an inventory of the 90 metro areas right here. The overwhelming majority of them have already got AT&T fiber entry, as seen on this AT&T fiber map.

This doubtless means the three million new areas will primarily include properties and companies near AT&T’s present fiber installations as a substitute of properties and companies in totally unserved areas. We requested AT&T for extra particulars on the deliberate fiber deployment and can replace this text if we get extra data.

The fiber announcement is a little bit of a turnabout from mid-2019, when an AT&T government stated, “We’ll proceed to put money into fiber, however we’ll do it primarily based on the incremental, financial case. We’re not working to any family goal.”

Most of AT&T territory nonetheless lacks fiber

Whereas 3 million areas is a considerable buildout, there are tens of hundreds of thousands of properties with out fiber in AT&T’s 21-state wireline service space. There have been 52.97 million households in AT&T’s home-Web service space and 14.93 million of them had fiber-to-the-home entry, the Communications Employees of America (CWA) union instructed Ars in October 2020 when AT&T introduced the discontinuation of legacy DSL providers over copper cellphone strains.

Of the 38 million households in AT&T territory that didn’t have fiber-to-the dwelling at the moment, 22.6 million had entry to VDSL (aka fiber-to-the-node), and 13.9 million had the older DSL expertise that’s not provided to new clients, the CWA stated. Poor folks have been disproportionately excluded from AT&T’s high-speed Web upgrades, analysis by the Nationwide Digital Inclusion Alliance has discovered.

AT&T was required to deliver fiber to 12.5 million areas by mid-2019 below circumstances imposed on its buy of DirecTV and ended up hitting 14 million across the similar time as that deadline.

Community neglect

AT&T has let its copper cellphone community deteriorate via neglect over the previous decade, leading to poor service high quality and prolonged outages, a report commissioned by the California state authorities discovered. AT&T clients in low-income areas and areas with out substantial competitors fared the worst, the California report discovered.

AT&T has been quickly shedding staff the previous few years regardless of promising to make use of a company tax reduce to create jobs. AT&T had 230,000 staff as of January 31, down from 268,000 two years beforehand. The layoffs are one huge motive that AT&T has didn’t correctly keep giant parts of its copper community or improve extra of that community to fiber.

AT&T’s deliberate fiber-to-the-home upgrades this 12 months will apparently goal areas that not less than have the semi-modern fiber-to-the-node community, leaving folks in different components of AT&T territory with outdated expertise.

“We have the chance to transform our VDSL… to fiber-to-the-home” in areas the place AT&T already has fiber within the neighborhood, AT&T CFO John Stephens stated at an investor occasion a couple of days in the past (see Searching for Alpha’s transcript).

AT&T fiber has been standard with clients in areas the place cable firms beforehand provided the quickest service. Whereas cable and fiber each present quick obtain speeds, cable networks are nonetheless far behind fiber on add speeds. “In areas the place AT&T has deployed its fiber community, the corporate has 10 % greater market share than its rivals,” AT&T stated as we speak. However in lots of areas the place AT&T does not face a aggressive menace from cable broadband, the corporate has been much less keen to improve its community.

At year-end 2020, AT&T had 4.95 million fiber-to-the-premises Web clients, 8.74 million fiber-to-the-node clients, and 407,000 legacy DSL clients.

Wi-fi plans

Fiber builds are vital each for wired Web and for backhaul to AT&T’s wi-fi community, Stephens famous. In the present day’s announcement from AT&T spent extra time on AT&T’s HBO Max and 5G cellular plans than on the fiber-to-the-premises building. In a latest spectrum public sale, AT&T submitted profitable bids for nationwide entry to 80 MHz of “C-Band” spectrum within the higher a part of the three GHz band.

“The corporate plans to start deploying the primary 40MHz of this spectrum by the top of 2021,” AT&T stated as we speak. “AT&T expects to spend $6-8 billion in capex deploying C-band spectrum, with the overwhelming majority of the spend occurring from 2022 to 2024.”

AT&T’s capital expenditures have been $15.7 billion in 2020, down from $19.6 billion in 2019 and over $21 billion yearly in earlier years. AT&T stated it plans “capital expenditures within the $18 billion vary” in 2021.

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