AT&T CEO: Convergence, it's what's happening

  • AT&T's CEO says that convergence is now king

  • The operator continues apace with fiber and 5G replacing older services

  • Even satellite-to-cell could become a convergence factor in the future, Stankey stated.

AT&T’s CEO highlighted the operator's progress of combining 5G, fiber and other forthcoming elements like direct-to-satellite communications in an early morning fireside chat at the J.P. Morgan technology conference Tuesday.

“Converged is now the opportunity” CEO John Stankey stated. “That’s going to be one of the key areas for us to get to 40 or 50% [market penetration rates],” he added.

Last month, AT&T CFO Pascal Desroches said during Q1 earnings the operator had 40% penetration among its fiber base, with some markets "well above that level." However, Stankey on the call mentioned wanting to ramp penetration in certain mobility markets and with small and medium businesses. 

At it’s top level, this goal requires providing customers with internet access no matter where they are, Stankey opined at the conference. “I actually think if you walked in and said, ‘hey, my job is keep you on the internet wherever you go.’ That’s a fairly compelling value proposition,” Stankey said.

This convergence includes fiber, as it was noted that AT&T is on track to reach its goal of 30 million fiber locations passed by the end of 2025. “I think the fiber business is a classic example...It just progressively is getting better every year across all aspects of what we’ve been doing,” he said, while noting that “it has been a challenge with the inflationary dynamics going on.”

Building at the level AT&T does, he noted, has, however, allowed the operator to work with vendors and suppliers in a preferred position “to mitigate some of those aspects.”

The converged landscape also includes 5G. Stankey noted that AT&T’s older products that “have served us well” – by which we guess he means traditional copper landlines and the like – “are being replaced by 5G and fiber.”

In the end, Stankey said, it will even include aspects like non-terrestrial networks (NTN). “Why last week did we announce and do what we’re doing in the satellite space?” the CEO asked. “Because I think customers don’t want to drive off a network.”

The CEO noted that even AT&T cannot blanket the entire nation with fiber. In fact, there will be many areas in forests and the remote spots of national parks where 4G and 5G can't reach. With a combined patchwork of cellular, fiber and satellite, however, there may soon be no area where you can be free from connectivity of some kind. 

Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Kinda depends on your point of view.