& cplSiteName &

AT&T Banks on Broadband, Cries for Spectrum

Sarah Thomas
1/26/2012

Despite the $6.7 billion hit AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) took for its breakup with T-Mobile US Inc. , the carrier's mobile broadband growth leaves little doubt it will bounce back. (See T-Mobile Breakup Causes $6.7B Q4 Loss for AT&T .)

AT&T had its best quarter yet for mobile broadband growth, and CEO Randall Stephenson used its conference call on the results to reassure investors that growth will continue -- provided it's allowed to acquire more spectrum.

AT&T sold 9.4 million smartphones in the quarter, of which 80 percent were iPhones, as Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s record-breaking quarter seems to have rubbed off on its first partner. (See Apple: the Numbers Behind the (Huge) Numbers and AT&T Predicts 'Blockbuster' Wireless Q4.)

"Our mobile broadband sales were nothing short of incredible," said John Stephens, AT&T's senior EVP and CFO, breaking it down to 100,000 devices sold for every single day of the quarter, nearly twice as many as it sold in the third quarter and twice as high as its previous record.

The stellar smartphone sales helped AT&T increase its post-paid average revenue per subscriber (ARPU) for its 12th consecutive quarter. At $63.76 per month, AT&T says its ARPU is $6 higher than the nearest competitor, and Stephens promised it will continue to drive more from its recent data price increases and smartphone sales. (See Wi-Fi Usage Drives AT&T to Raise Prices.)

In total, AT&T added 717,000 wireless postpaid subs, its largest increase in five quarters, and 2.5 million total net wireless subscribers, including 571,000 branded computing devices like tablets and air cards. AT&T finished out the fourth quarter with 5.1 million total subscribers, up nearly 70 percent from last year.

AT&T didn't spend a lot of time talking up its nascent Long Term Evolution (LTE) network, but Stephenson said the carrier would move forward aggressively. It has turned on 26 markets, and he said he expects AT&T will double its LTE coverage in 2012 with continued improvements in capacity and enhanced backhaul. (See AT&T Promises Superfast 'Blended 4G' and AT&T Turns Up 11 More LTE Markets.)

More T-Mobile fallout
The one big limiting factor to all this growth, Stephenson said, is spectrum. He told investors that AT&T has the most robust backhaul infrastructure in the industry, but can't put it to use without more spectrum.

The CEO did a lot of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) bashing on the call, saying the government agency wants to pick winners and losers, rather than let the market do it. AT&T's biggest issue for 2012 is that it cannot keep growing without more spectrum, he said, even suggesting that it's one reason AT&T has to make moves like data caps, raising prices and throttling as a result. He also said that AT&T cannot cover rural America without T-Mobile's spectrum. (See AT&T: What It Loses Without T-Mobile.)

“It’s clearly time for Congress and the FCC to step up,” Stephenson challenged. He said AT&T has enough spectrum for LTE through 2013, but will need more after that. And, he knows where to get it, but not who the FCC will allow it to buy from and how much it can buy, he added, noting that the FCC evaluated the T-Mobile deal with different spectrum cap limits from the ones it used for the Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) spectrum buy. (See AT&T Gets Approval for Qualcomm Deal.)

"Our issue is not identifying what spectrum we go after, but finding out what the rules are and who we can do business with," he said.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

(9)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
joset01
joset01
12/5/2012 | 5:44:27 PM
re: AT&T Banks on Broadband, Cries for Spectrum


Remember that leaked letter that said that it would cost AT&T around $3.8B to upgrade its LTE network to 97% coverage in the US? So, is there *really* no way AT&T can build beyond an 80% coverage footprint?


DJ

gtchavan
gtchavan
12/5/2012 | 5:44:26 PM
re: AT&T Banks on Broadband, Cries for Spectrum


My understanding of CDMA phones is that when they are close to the base station, the base station tells them to tramsit quietly with less power.  Don't GSM and LTE phones have the same feature?  If they do, they why can't these clowns just install a ton of small cells stations closer to thier customer and use up the spectrum the have more efficiently and stop complaining and blaiming their problems it on the government? The technology is here already and it is so stupendously cheap.

jggveth
jggveth
12/5/2012 | 5:44:26 PM
re: AT&T Banks on Broadband, Cries for Spectrum


They need to stop complaining and start building networks and services that people want to buy. That and an iPhone that can make a phone call, please.


The spectrum issue is a red herring.


All I see AT&T do is throw tantrums and delay investing in technology.


It a microcosm of all the corrpution and cronyism that pervades everything. 


And when they believe that the Gov't is not giving them the special treatment they are acustomed to they cry like newborns with colic. 

kaps
kaps
12/5/2012 | 5:44:24 PM
re: AT&T Banks on Broadband, Cries for Spectrum


Even small cells or DAS antennas usually require some kind of city-level approval for tower siting. AT&T had to jump through some serious hoops to get a small DAS deployment in and around Palo Alto.


Not saying this in their defense, since I think smaller cells and DAS make sense. But it's not as quick a fix as people may think. And, it only sort of solves the problem because you are still adding way more devices asking for way more bandwidth than their networks were designed to handle.


So they are happy to sell you a new phone... while they jack up the data prices and blame the government. And yet -- people still line up for the phones. That's equally hard to figure out.

kaps
kaps
12/5/2012 | 5:44:24 PM
re: AT&T Banks on Broadband, Cries for Spectrum


Even small cells or DAS antennas usually require some kind of city-level approval for tower siting. AT&T had to jump through some serious hoops to get a small DAS deployment in and around Palo Alto.


Not saying this in their defense, since I think smaller cells and DAS make sense. But it's not as quick a fix as people may think. And, it only sort of solves the problem because you are still adding way more devices asking for way more bandwidth than their networks were designed to handle.


So they are happy to sell you a new phone... while they jack up the data prices and blame the government. And yet -- people still line up for the phones. That's equally hard to figure out.

FoWutItsWorth
FoWutItsWorth
12/5/2012 | 5:44:23 PM
re: AT&T Banks on Broadband, Cries for Spectrum
Then you have Enron to thank for that. Prior to Enron's collapse, California Governor Gray Davis spent the last California California Budget Surplus on purchasing the electrical grid from various power utilities.

Sounds to me like California needs a re-alignment over it's citizen-owned power grid, to ensure it's properly used, and can provide return on investment to it's citizens.

Too much analysis, and public input over an antenna on a utility pole doesn't make much sense.
fgoldstein
fgoldstein
12/5/2012 | 5:44:23 PM
re: AT&T Banks on Broadband, Cries for Spectrum


It depends on local and state laws.  DAS often goes onto an existing phone pole.  If the state is one where pole attachments are subject to FCC rules, then piole attachments for antennas are allowed, under the latest pole rules.  California, on the other hand, regulates its own poles, and makes life difficult for everyone. Utterly crazy stuff has gone on out there around pole attachments.

fgoldstein
fgoldstein
12/5/2012 | 5:44:21 PM
re: AT&T Banks on Broadband, Cries for Spectrum


The problem's much older than that.  Califunny looks at every pole attachment as a major environmental risk.  Drill an oil well, frack a gas field, build an oil refinery, stick a tube of fiber on a pole, they're all the same thing.  Hey, the pole is treated with hazardous chemicals to make it not rot!  So every screw must be a Grave Risk. I am a strong supporter of good environemntal controls, but I know nutty when I see it.


Back in 1998 when I was at  GTE, they had a central office fed by two copper T1s. No fiber, no microwave.  They couldn't do microwave because the hills were too sensitive or something.  They couldn't trench the road to add fiber because that would be too disruptive.  I think there were poles, but even using them was not allowed.  It was insane.  I now have a client who foudn a mountain 30 miles away that saw a rooftop in that town, so he put in OC-3 microwave, and he provide the DSL, not VZ.


Going back to 1977 or so, "single message rate timing" was the big controversy -- should telcos time local (0-12 mile) calls?  The CPUC supported it on grounds that it would save trees!  After all, longer calls meant they'd need more trunks, and more trunks meant more wire on the poles, and that would mean cutting more trees to add poles, right?  (They hadn't heard of this funny invention called a "mux".  This was just before fiber optics came out.)  Hey, I can't make this stuff up.

gtchavan
gtchavan
12/5/2012 | 5:44:18 PM
re: AT&T Banks on Broadband, Cries for Spectrum
There is nothing here that can't be resolved by greasing a few local politicians. Crying to the fed is barking up the wrong tree.
Sandpaints
Sandpaints
12/5/2012 | 5:44:10 PM
re: AT&T Banks on Broadband, Cries for Spectrum


Explanation: AT&T says it can't continue growth without acquiring spectrum. Then there are smaller companies that hope to continue growth by willingly leasing out useful spectrum at wholesale prices; Clearwire and others. By opportunity, AT&T has identified some spectrum that they believe should not be auctioned from the FCC, but rather the tax payers should be forced to give it up for free, or AT&T should go to the front of the line. Either way political insiders could free up stimulus to AT&T's bank accounts allowing AT&T to not buy spectrum readily available in the current market and increase the advantages AT&T already enjoys.


Time to set a public example it seems. And I think the current chairman of the FCC is citizen enough to stop this, corporate free load and bully too, mindset.


Free enterprise does not mean turning to the government for freebies and/or high privileges. Time for the FCC board to tell all business to get back to doing business. And any politician who passes the silver cup for AT&T on this better think about packing a suitcase, preferably not filled with tax payer money, for early retirement.


AT&T already shows it will try to convince anyone otherwise if possible.

Featured Video
Upcoming Live Events
November 5, 2019, London, England
November 7, 2019, London, UK
November 14, 2019, Maritim Hotel, Berlin
December 3-5, 2019, Vienna, Austria
December 3, 2019, New York, New York
March 16-18, 2020, Embassy Suites, Denver, Colorado
May 18-20, 2020, Irving Convention Center, Dallas, TX
All Upcoming Live Events