AT&T CEO says fiber rollout is an all hands on deck effort

AT&T is enlisting employees across the organization to make its fiber rollout to 30 million homes by 2025 a success, taking an all hands on deck approach to ensure it pushes penetration rates up as quickly as possible to get a return on its hefty investments.

Speaking at a J.P. Morgan investor conference AT&T CEO John Stankey said its initial focus for the build has been filling in a patchwork of earlier fiber deployments in metropolitan areas to enable it to advertise in a more efficient fashion. When an entire area is covered, that means it can advertise more broadly to raise awareness about its products rather than having to tailor its efforts to coverage zones that look like Swiss cheese.

He added that by focusing all its employees on a common goal, it has been able to ramp up a formidable construction and marketing machine.

“The company is really focused and committed to this right now and it’s not a hobby. And when things aren’t a hobby, it doesn’t matter whether you’re the person in marketing who’s responsible for building top of funnel or you’re the technician in a garage,” he said. “We now have every technician leaning into this. And when they finish an installation at one house they walk up five doors to the right and five doors to the left and leave door hangers or they talk to people who stop them in the neighborhood and they sell and move the product.”

Stankey continued “We’ve gotten really good as we’re deploying building the pre-90 day before ready for service, the 30 day before ready for service, the day of service, the 30 days after. We have a machine on this right now, and it's working far better than it ever has and it allows for that far more rapid penetration.”

The push to ramp penetration comes as AT&T looks to reap returns on its investment in fiber. During its Q1 2022 earnings call, CFO Pascale Desroches said the operator expects to spend around $24 billion annually on capital investments in 2022 and 2023, with around $4 billion of that going to vendor financing payments.

At the time, Stankey said its fiber offering was already gaining market share from broadband rivals “in a way that I’ve never seen a product move in my career.”

During the investor conference, Stankey added it’s looking to extend its fiber focus to more than just its fixed products. “Everything starts with fiber,” he said. “If you’re truly going to get the benefits of 5G and distributed deployment, every wireless access point needs fiber on the back side of it.”

The CEO said it’s already moving rapidly with its fiber build but said it’s possible it could move even faster with government funding in hand. He acknowledged it’ll have to contend with a wide variety of state-by-state requirements to get its share of the funding, but said he believes its scale, experience and relationships with worker unions will give it a leg up.