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AT&T: Getting Up to Speed for Gig & 5G

Alan Breznick

Eric Boyer spends a lot of time focusing on ways to bring wired and wireless broadband customers up to speed.

That's because Boyer, senior vice president of wireless and wired product marketing for AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), runs the marketing for both the company's wireline and wireless products. This includes leading the marketing charge for rolling out AT&T Fiber, AT&T's recently launched umbrella brand for its broadband services over fiber lines, and the carrier's plans for 5G service over its nationwide wireless network.

Boyer took on this dual role after previously serving as senior vice president in charge of AT&T U-verse Internet service, the company's fiber-to-the-node (FTTN) predecessor to its 100% fiber network. Only three years after AT&T started offering symmetrical broadband speeds over the all-fiber network, it is now available in 40 metros, with more on the way. The company now plans to extend AT&T Fiber to 45 metro areas by the end of the year, with plans to reach at least 67 markets in total.

"We've continued to gain momentum in the second half of 2016," said Boyer in a phone interview with Light Reading. With more than 3 million homes and businesses now passed by its all-fiber network, he's looking to increase the availability of fiber dramatically to 14 million customer locations nationwide, easily surpassing the 12.5 million-location target set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in approving AT&T's buyout of DirecTV last year.

Boyer is also looking to increase the penetration rate of products marketed under AT&T Fiber, which is now swiftly expanding its market reach three years after the service's inaugural launch in Austin. While declining to say how many people have signed up for AT&T’s fastest internet service, he claimed that its penetration rates are steadily rising, with both existing AT&T Internet subscribers and new customers flocking to it.

"We've doubled penetration in many of the areas we've built out over the last 12 months," he said, noting that almost 50% of subscribers on the fiber network have been new customers for AT&T. "We're very pleased with the response."

Besides looking at household penetration rates, Boyer said that company executives measure AT&T Fiber’s success by how many gigabit customers add or upgrade to video, home automation and other new digital services. In addition, they monitor the impact of products marketed under AT&T Fiber on customer satisfaction levels and churn rates.

With nearly 70 major markets ultimately targeted for AT&T Fiber service, the company will go a long way toward leading the deployment of ultrafast gigabit connections at a time when competitors are ramping up their efforts as well. For instance, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is pursuing dual deployments of its Gigabit Pro all-fiber service and DOCSIS 3.1 service over cable's standard hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) networks while Google Fiber Inc. is rolling out gigabit service over both fiber lines and exploring the use of wireless networks.

"We’re watching the market response to AT&T Fiber," said Boyer, noting that AT&T is focused on the 14 million-premise total for now. "It’s too early to tell where our next deployments will be."

As it rolls out AT&T Fiber on the wireline side, AT&T is also looking to boost data transmission speeds over its wireless networks. “We expect that customers will see wireless speeds measured in gigabits per second, not megabits,” said Boyer.

In fact, Boyer said, AT&T is expecting the future rollout of next-gen, 5G service to deliver wireless speeds up to 100 times faster than today’s average 4G LTE connections.

As previously reported by Light Reading, AT&T is now conducting its first 5G fixed wireless trial in Austin. In addition to its 5G test-bed and trials in Austin, the carrier is also conducting system and software architecture lab work in Middletown, N.J., Atlanta and San Ramon, Calif. (See AT&T Adds Nokia to 5G Trials.)

"We're getting ready for 5G," Boyer said. He's expecting to see field trials delivering wireless connectivity to fixed locations in Austin by the end of the year.

This blog is sponsored by AT&T. It is the seventh part of a ten-part series titled "Behind the Speeds," examining next-generation broadband technologies and what it takes to keep customers connected.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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10/26/2016 | 12:07:41 PM
new users...
""We've doubled penetration in many of the areas we've built out over the last 12 months," he said, noting that almost 50% of subscribers on the fiber network have been new customers for AT&T."

Yet they're seeing a net loss in overall broadband subscribers for several consecutive quarters now?
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