AT&T’s John Stankey says enterprises want private infrastructure

AT&T’s CEO John Stankey has said in the past that private wireless networks lack recurring revenue. But in an interview at the J.P. Morgan analyst conference yesterday, Stankey said, “When I'm visiting large enterprise customers that we deal with, more often than not that conversation gets back to some degree of private infrastructure that they need within their operation.”

But he said it's more than just private infrastructure. It’s also about marrying that with the wide area network (WAN), so that communications also work as employees leave the building or the office park.

He said over time it will be important for enterprises to have “high performance mobile compute.”

Interestingly, Dell’Oro Group today said it’s lowering its forecast on the multi-access edge computing (MEC) market by more than 20% because the market has failed to materialize as expected.

Over time, enterprises will probably need more compute on their premises. But at this time, standalone private networks have garnered more attention and emphasis than MEC, according to Dell’Oro.

But perhaps it’s all just a question of semantics in terms of whether people prefer to talk about MEC or private wireless.

AT&T cost cutting

In March 2020 AT&T set out a cost-cutting target of $6 billion. Stankey said it just passed the $5 billion mark and will reach $6 billion by the end of this year. 

AT&T is trying to back away from “legacy historic products in the legacy captive infrastructure that served us well,” said Stankey. In other words, it’s trying to move beyond its traditional telco copper footprint.

He said, it “adds a degree of complexity and drag into the business," and AT&T is starting to sunset central office products.

The company emphasized that at a conference with media last fall, where it gave a tour of off a central office in Dallas that showed the migration from copper to fiber in the fixed realm and from switchboards to cloud-based software in the wireless realm.

He said, “A lot of the stuff that comes along with maintaining that and operating that and having to worry about that drops away, and you get a more and more focused business moving forward.”