AT&T technician splices cable.
Ethernet and IP-based services have been a saving grace in AT&T's (NYSE: T) wireline-based business portfolio.
AT&T's connection with Ethernet over Copper (EoC), while not surprising given its status as an ILEC, has become a key part of its broader mid-band Ethernet portfolio that includes both copper and fiber-based solutions for businesses.
Much of AT&T's EoC plan became more solidified when it purchased BellSouth in 2006, which along with Qwest--later acquired by CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL)--was an early adopter of EoC as a way to extend Ethernet services to business customers in areas where it could not make an initial business case for fiber-based Ethernet.
Offered as an entry point Ethernet service, AT&T offers a mix of its switched metro Ethernet Optical Ethernet Metropolitan Area Network under its mid-band Ethernet banner.
Customers can subscribe to the OPT-E-MAN service and Metro Ethernet in speed increments of 2, 4, 8 and 10 Mbps. These lower speeds complement its broader Ethernet portfolio can scale from 5 Mbps to Gbps speeds.
Reliability is one of the key selling points AT&T uses to market EoC service. While copper may be a different medium, AT&T offers EoC with the same SLAs it gives customers over fiber. With a T1 service, if the T1 circuit goes down, the entire circuit goes down. But if an Ethernet over Copper pair goes down, the customer connection continues to, if at least one copper pair remains operational.
"AT&T just reuses what it bought from BellSouth," said Roopashree Honnachari, program manager, business communication services at Frost & Sullivan. "They are not pushing Ethernet over Copper, so if there's nothing else there and they can't justify using fiber they'll use Ethernet over Copper, but the end customer does not care and they will figure out the best way to provision the circuit over either copper or fiber."
Even though it did not break out the specific growth patterns of mid-band Ethernet or EoC, AT&T's Ethernet services along with VPNs, hosting and IP service revenues grew 16.4 percent in Q4 2011 over the same period last year.