If AT&T's proposed acquisition of DirecTV is approved, the company plans to start bundling a new fixed wireless broadband service with satellite TV packages as soon as next year.
Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference (transcript provided by Seeking Alpha) late last week, Ralph de la Vega, President and CEO of the Mobile & Business Solutions division at AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), said his company is looking at dedicating spectrum in rural areas to the new broadband offering. With one service call, he said, AT&T could then install a satellite dish on a customer's property that would receive satellite TV signals and "have the outside antenna that is needed for fixed wireless local loop."
DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) already partners with a number of Internet service providers to offer TV and Internet bundles around the country. In rural areas, those partners are often satellite broadband providers; companies that could get squeezed out of a relationship with DirecTV if the deal with AT&T goes through.
On the performance front, de la Vega suggested that AT&T could deliver top download speeds of 15 Mbit/s and above with fixed wireless broadband. He noted that speeds would be "significantly higher than what you're seeing today on LTE, because it will be dedicated spectrum." De la Vega did not, however, address the issue of data caps, which are typically a problem for consumers with wireless broadband services. Many satellite broadband providers cap monthly data plans at 10GB and under.
De la Vega was also asked about the possibility of offering an over-the-top video service using wireless broadband, a reference to Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)'s plans to launch an OTT video package. The AT&T chief didn't make any commitments, but he did allude to his company's joint venture with The Chernin Group to develop and support original web content. (See AT&T Joins OTT Video Parade, AT&T's OTT Venture Buys Creativebug, Calls Itself Otter Media and AT&T to Launch WiFi Calling in 2015.)
"And the beauty about having DirecTV as part of the portfolio," said de la Vega, "is we can take that unique content and spread the cost over a large customer base that allows us to deliver content to wireless in a unique way like it will be very difficult to do for others that don't have the scale."
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading