At J.P. Morgan’s 49th Annual Telecom, Media and Communications (TMC) Conference, a virtual experience held May 24-26, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg, T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert and AT&T CEO John Stankey talked about the role that fixed wireless will play at their companies. The CEOs spoke during separate company forums, either interviewed by analysts from J.P. Morgan and queried by company shareholders, at the event.
Verizon’s Vestberg said that the convergence between fixed wireless and mobile presents no risk for his company. “We don’t see it as a risk — we see it as a huge opportunity, “he said. “I mean, of course we have broadband in our Fios footprint which is doing extremely well at the moment because broadband is a necessity in our society. Now outside that footprint, we can now actually get broadband business which is basically for us, yes net new revenues. So, I see it as a great opportunity rather than a risk. I see it is an opportunity also that I have so many customers on wireless and knows my brand and know how well we’re performing, and that also will be extremely interesting in our fixed wireless access.
“We have now been working for two and a half years with our portfolio on fixed wireless access, all the way from the network, from the devices, from how to self-install, to the building, to the pricing, to the offerings on top of it,” Vestberg said. “And I said, this year we’re going to go for 50 million households a combination of 4G, the 5G mmWave and C-Band, so we’re opening up open for sale right now and that side is a great opportunity rather than any risk at all.”
Speaking at his company’s forum, T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert said his company’s rural plans not only include mobile, but also fixed wireless. The company last month made 5G Home Internet fixed wireless available to 30 million U.S. households, including 10 million in rural areas.
T-Mobile made a wide range of commitments involving rural areas as a condition of regulatory approval of the Sprint merger, which means that the company’s focus on rural areas is not discretionary but mandatory. At that time, the company also launched what it calls T-Mobile Hometown — an initiative that will bring T-Mobile retail stores to hundreds of small towns over the next two years. Sievert noted that T-Mobile’s competitive position varies from one rural market to another, however. “We class every location” based on the extent to which “we have a full license to win,” he said.
AT&T’s Stankey said that fixed wireless will play a larger role in the company’s future — a strategy that differs from Verizon’s take at the same conference. AT&T appears to be looking to fixed wireless as a way to retire DSL in its non-fiber markets, rather than go on the offense in urban areas. The company has already stopped taking new orders for DSL. Asked by a J.P. Morgan analyst when an AT&T fixed wireless product would be ubiquitous across the operator’s footprint, Stankey pegged the 2023 timeframe for covering most people in the United States.
“You know, we’re not as robust in our point of view on what fixed broadband can do in urban and highly attractive suburban areas, but what we do believe is that fixed wireless plays a role in other parts of our footprint,” Stankey said, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of his interview. “There’s no question where we’ve had lower speed, you know, DSL . . . that a fixed wireless solution in the outer reaches of what used to be ILEC footprint, could be a good solution for us, and for those customers.”
Mike Harrington is a contributing editor.