AT&T enhances Ethernet reach, installation times with copper U-verse offering

AT&T (NYSE: T) has set fiber as a key element of its Ethernet strategy, something that was clearly reflected in the fiber-to-the-building (FTTB) initiative within its Project VIP program. However, while AT&T will continue to roll out fiber to new business building sites, the question becomes how the telco will serve business customers whose needs don't require fiber.

Rick Hubbard, senior VP of networking product management for AT&T Mobile & Business Solutions, told FierceTelecom that by extending Ethernet to its copper-based U-verse footprint it can address customers that want lower speed services that don't need a fiber connection.

"Historically all of our Ethernet services have been delivered over fiber, but in 2015 we Ethernet-enabled our U-verse footprint," Hubbard said. "For people that want low-speed 2 or 4 Mbps connections or you're okay with an asymmetrical service we can do that on our U-verse footprint without pulling fiber into your building."

At the same time, the service provider has created an arsenal of different network termination equipment (NTE) platforms.

In serving a small customer that needs a 20 Mbps Ethernet connection, AT&T can install a small NTE at that location which would be enough to serve their needs.

"If go into a building and the customer wants a VPN endpoint at 20 Mbps and they're the only tenant, I can put in a small NTE in that building and know that there's one customer, one NTE, and one drop," Hubbard said.

However, if that one business customer resides in a multi-dwelling unit (MDU), AT&T will install a larger NTE or Ethernet Mux so it can attract other potential customers to its Ethernet service.

"If that same customer happens to be sitting in a multi-tenant building, and even though the first one to order in, our installation guys will say 'there's 50 other customers in the building so put in a shareable NTE or an EMUX,'" Hubbard said. "That way when the next customer in the building orders service, the cycle times are dramatically faster."

Additionally, AT&T aligned its Ethernet and managed VPN product lines to develop what it calls "express offers" to more effectively battle cable operators that continue to win share in the small to medium business market.

"We took our VPN portfolio and dedicated Ethernet portfolio and created express offers," Hubbard said. "For down market where we were seeing pressure from cable and others it's orderable on an iPad by a sales person and [you can] really look at what those down market folks need that you can replicate over and over again."

Hubbard added that by combining those express offerings "with an expansive base of fiber deployment, we have internet cycle times that are unbelievably quick for dedicated Ethernet."

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