5G and Beyond

AT&T CEO: mmWave 5G Will Be Fixed Broadband Alternative in '3 to 5 Years'

AT&T's CEO said on the operator's Q4 earnings call Wednesday that he expects 5G to be a suitable wireless replacement for fixed broadband in three to five years.

"Over a three-to-five-year timeframe," CEO Randall Stephenson said, 5G will serve as "a true replacement opportunity" for fixed broadband services, particularly as AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) continues with the deployment of high-band millimeter wave spectrum in the US.

Stephenson says that the operator intends to be "mobile first" with its 5G deployment in 2019 and into 2020. AT&T launched 3GPP-based mobile 5G NR with a "mobile puck" hotspot late in December 2018. The operator is expecting seven more millimeter wave markets to come online this year. (See AT&T's 5G Switches On in 12 US Cities, but Only for 'Early Adopters' and 5G in the USA: A Post-CES Update.)

AT&T executives noted that they couldn't talk about the 28GHz or 24GHz 5G auctions yet because of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) "quiet period." (See The FCC Closes First 5G Auction With $703M in Bids.)

Meanwhile, AT&T says it is rolling out "5G-ready" low-band radios as part of its "FirstNet" first-responder nationwide network, which is around 40% deployed. This will serve as a low-band 5G network, which will launch in 2019, and go nationwide in 2020. (See AT&T's New Nationwide, Mobile 5G Timeline.)

Stephenson noted that the first Samsung smartphone supporting both AT&T's millimeter wave and low-band 5G spectrum will be out this year. AT&T has said it should be out in the second half of this year. (See AT&T Low-Band 5G to Arrive With Samsung Phone in 2H19.)

AT&T's "mobile first" 5G approach is in direct contrast to Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)'s early "5G Home" fixed wireless offerings. However, both operators are planning to have smartphones that support mobile 5G out this year. (See Verizon CEO Expects Standard 5G Phones First, '5G Home' CPE to Follow in 2019.)

In fact, three major mobile carriers in the US are planning fixed wireless or home broadband offerings for consumers or business customers for 5G. AT&T will offer LTE-Advanced (as a stepping stone for 5G) to enterprise customers, while T-Mobile US Inc. and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) plan to deliver 5G-based home broadband services under their proposed merger. (See T-Mobile: 5G Lets Us Take Broadband Across America.)

Meanwhile, for the quarter, AT&T added 134,000 wireless phone subscribers, missing estimates of 208,000, according to research firm FactSet.

AT&T reported total revenue for the quarter up 15.2% to $47.99 billion. Net income was down to $4.86 billion, compared to $19.04 billion in the same period last year, when the operator benefited from US corporate changes.

AT&T shares were down 3.71%, at $29.56 each, in Wednesday morning trading.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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