AT&T: Despite vendor comments, our fixed wireless build-out remains on track

AT&T said its build-out of fixed wireless internet technology remains on track, and the company is meeting its previously established build-out goals. AT&T ultimately plans to use fixed wireless technology to reach 1.1 million locations in 18 states by 2020.

AT&T’s comments, in response to questions from FierceWireless, come shortly after one of AT&T’s fixed wireless vendors reported a slower-than-expected rollout of its products with AT&T.

“Revenue is forecast to grow 15-20%,” wrote Australia’s NetComm Wireless in its recent annual financial report. “This forecast growth is dampened due to a slower than expected rollout of the nbn FTTC project (as flagged by nbn) and a slower rollout of the AT&T Fixed Wireless project. This revenue has not been lost, rather it is deferred to future periods.”

NetComm sells fixed wireless equipment to the likes of NBN in Australia as well as AT&T in the U.S.

But AT&T, for its part, said its own fixed wireless rollout remains on track. “In 2015, we promised to make high-speed internet available to more than 1.1 million homes and small businesses in hard to reach locations across 18 states,” wrote an AT&T representative in response to questions from FierceWireless. “In June 2017 we committed to meeting 40% of our goal that year, and in January 2018 we announced that we met that commitment, bringing high-speed internet availability to 440,000 homes and small business locations, many that previously lacked internet availability entirely.”

AT&T said it is currently using standards-based LTE equipment in its WCS Band 30 (2.3 GHz) spectrum for its fixed wireless services, though the company has acknowledged it may also supplement that spectrum with 3.5 GHz CBRS spectrum when that band becomes available. (Interestingly, the company also said its fixed wireless signals can reach up to 20 miles if the conditions are right.)

AT&T added that it's using multiple vendors for the build-out, but it didn’t disclose the identities of those vendors. AT&T’s Wayne Purboo, the carrier’s senior vice president of mobility and entertainment, is leading the build-out.

AT&T offers fixed wireless download speeds of at least 10 Mbps and upload speeds of at least 1 Mbps. The company charges $70 per month for the service, though that drops to $60 per month if a customer subscribes to either AT&T’s DirecTV service or its mobile service. AT&T offers further discounts if customers sign up for service with a one-year contract. AT&T's plan provides 170 GB of data per month, though it's offering double that to select locations, and customers can purchase additional data for $10 per 50 GB up to $200 per month.

AT&T isn’t alone in the space; players ranging from Midco to C Spire to Windstream to Rise Broadband are deploying fixed wireless services in urban and rural areas, and the technology promises to create an alternative to the wired internet offerings sold by Comcast, Charter Communications and AT&T.

Indeed, T-Mobile has promised to join the fray in a big way if regulators approve the company’s merger with Sprint. Specifically, T-Mobile has promised to offer in-home internet services to 52% of the zip codes across the county by 2024 if it is able to merge with Sprint. The company said it expects to gain gain 1.9 million in-home wireless broadband customers by 2021 and 9.5 million customers by 2024, making it the nation’s fourth-largest in-home ISP by 2024.