AT&T plans to add eight more metro areas to its AT&T Fiber service, reaching at least 75 major metros with the fiber-to-home, gigabit per second service.
AT&T now markets gigabit connections to 4.6 million locations across 52 major metros. AT&T expects to add two million locations in 2017, and plans to reach at least 12.5 million locations by mid-2019.
Some critics will point out that the deployment is neighborhood by neighborhood, and not a “ubiquitous” deployment. That is a simple case of selling gigabit connections where there is enough demand to warrant the investment. Even Google Fiber, which did build in the same way, found insufficient demand to continue. AT&T expects its deployments to be sustainable.
Some observers characterize AT&T fixed network investment plans as “running away” from that business. Some of us would disagree. AT&T, it is undoubtedly true, will not drive most of its future revenue growth from its U.S. fixed network. That will tend to come from international expansion, mobile services related to new 5G services and internet of things (connected car and other verticals) and consumer video delivered using wireless networks (satellite and mobile).
The issue is how to target capital investment to drive financial returns, obviously. In that regard, using DirecTV to deliver linear video nationwide has worked far better than ubiquitous fiber to home or fiber-to-the-neighborhood in making AT&T the market leader in linear video, nationwide.
Some would say AT&T is targeting its capex to use a range of platforms--fiber, mobile, fixed wireless, satellite--to produce the best mix of financial returns, without abandoning its traditional access business, in region, but also without stranding capital in assets that do not product revenue.