John Stankey, AT&T president & COO, was upbeat about the FirstNet build and its impact on the network as a whole and the carrier’s progress building 5G. at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in San Francisco.
FirstNet now has 1.1 million first responders subscribing to its network and AT&T is building more towers to fill in coverage,
“We’re hitting on all cylinders in our FirstNet deployment,” Stankey said. “We are increasing the number of cell towers that we have in place to fill in where maybe we had some weak spots. That will further enhance that network value proposition.”
AT&T finished February with 80 million POPs covered for 5G and expects to be nationwide by the end of the second quarter of this year.
“We feel pretty good about how we’re going about doing that. And in our case, the vast majority of it is by laying up new spectrum that’s set up on 5G, and that’s probably the purest and best way for us to do that,”
Stankey admitted that the sub-6 deployment does not represent a big increase in the speeds at the handset, but the 5G Evolution speeds, in many cases, are competitive to other 5G deployments because of the depth of the carrier’s spectrum depth.
AT&T plans to increase ARPUs selling higher value unlimited plans, whic include improved performance of the wireless service and access to the HBO Max movie service. Look for Christmas holiday promotions.
“The launch of HBO Max and our ability to promote that into the wireless segment will be another driver that will drive interest in the market,” Stankey said. “So we expect we’re going to see some momentum flow through on that as well.”
Stankey sounded confident about AT&T’s current spectrum position and its ability to secure new spectrum at the Citizens Broadband Radio Service and C-band auctions “And we stand today, we have a spectrum portfolio that we can run the plays we need to run on and we can be very deliberate around what we want to do in the forthcoming auctions and not feel like our back is against the wall on timing.”
AT&T’s fixed line infrastructure in key markets, including fiber optics, will provide the foundation for it to move on the 5G+ or millimeter wave deployments that it thinks take will take it to the next level, Stankey said.
“We are running those plays right now. We were running those plays a year ago. And we’re going to continue to run those plays. And I think it’s that market momentum that you’re seeing as a result of that.”