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open RAN

AT&T preps for hiring spree, open RAN deployment

BIG 5G EVENT, DENVER – AT&T is preparing to hire thousands of new workers this year as it embarks on an expansion of its 5G and fiber networks.

Concurrently, the company said it is also laying the groundwork to introduce open RAN equipment into its wireless network, but will do so at a very modest pace.

"It is an incredibly frothy time to be in our industry," Mo Katibeh, AT&T's senior VP of network infrastructure and build, said Wednesday in an in-person keynote presentation here at the Big 5G Event. As Light Reading previously reported, Katibeh is the AT&T executive in charge of handling the operator's C-band spectrum buildout for 5G as well as the operator's ongoing fiber network expansion.

Katibeh discussed AT&T's network strategy at this week's Big 5G Event.
Katibeh discussed AT&T's network strategy at this week's Big 5G Event.

Katibeh called for the industry to create an educational system that would focus on the skills and training necessary for network installation in order to ensure AT&T and other companies have the workforce they'll need to upgrade their networks.

Hiring for the network

"What that means is jobs... we are literally hiring thousands of people this year," he said. "This is a jobs creation story... Fiber and 5G are at the heart of it."

It's worth noting though that, overall, AT&T has cut more than 50,000 jobs in the past five years, or about 18% of its headcount as of the end of 2015.

Katibeh explained that AT&T's new hiring plan is related to the dramatic increases in traffic on its wireless and wireline networks.

Katibeh showed slides illustrating the traffic increases on AT&T's network. Click here for a larger version of this image.
Katibeh showed slides illustrating the traffic increases on AT&T's network. Click here for a larger version of this image.

To address that demand, AT&T plans to build fiber connections to 30 million locations by 2025 and midband 5G C-band connections to 200 million people by the end of 2023.

"AT&T's mission [is] very simple, we're going to be the best broadband company in America," Katibeh boasted.

Open RAN ambitions

Further, open RAN technology may be a part of that effort, according to another AT&T executive who spoke here at the Big 5G Event. However, AT&T's Brian Daly offered a relatively restrained view of open RAN in general.

"More work needs to be done to ensure O-RAN can meet our complex feature set," Daly said during a virtual presentation on the topic. He said AT&T expects the open RAN industry to resolve AT&T's deployment concerns "over time," but that "it won't be an overnight transformation."

Nonetheless, Daly said that AT&T plans to be "gradually introducing open RAN."

He said the company would focus first on in its indoor networks and, later, in its outdoor networks. He also said the company would first launch open RAN in rural areas and then would bring it into dense, urban areas. "You don't just go 'full open,'" Daly suggested on one of his slides.

AT&T's approach to open RAN appears similar to Verizon, which has said it plans to introduce open RAN-capable equipment this year.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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