FirstNet deployment is off to a strong start with expected $2 billion capex in 2018, John Stephens, AT&T chief financial officer, said yesterday at the Cowen Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in New York.
“We got our build plans in the first quarter, so from the standpoint of network specifics we’re just getting started,” he said, according to a transcript from SeekingAlpha. “With regard to building the network core, building the software, we have been doing that all year long, throughout last year and into this year. So we have been doing a lot of work.”
AT&T plans to touch more than 10,000 towers by year-end and to complete one/third of its overall FirstNet build by the first quarter of next year. Stephens said the company’s aggressive approach may even surpass those goals.
“I would expect we would not only hit that but beat [those goals],” he said. “Our network guys are focused like a laser on this. We would much rather get it done quicker. It makes sense as long as we can do it efficiently.”
The FirstNet network consists of a 2X10 megahertz 700 Band 14 spectrum overlaid on top AT&T’s existing spectrum with a dedicated network core that will provide relentless preemption for firefighters, police, EMTs, and other first responders. The key to efficiency for the FirstNet buildout is to include AWS 3 and WCS spectrum.
“So, we are going to get three bands of spectrum up, with one tower climb, and it is going to be really, really efficient, especially when the government is paying you for their people to the FirstNet reimbursement program,” he said.
When it won the FirstNet contract, AT&T received 20 megahertz of 700 MHz spectrum effectively at no cost for 25 years, plus $6 billion dollars to build it out. The carrier will make sustainability payments of $100 million annually.
“We committed to provide another $15 billion of investment into the network over those 25 years,” Stephens said. Particularly as you see 5G and we will have 6G and even more, that is a very reasonable commitment to make.”