AT&T on track to reach 22M business and residential premises with fiber by July 2019

Length of fiber thread used to install AT&T GigaPower in MDUs - screencap
AT&T has set an ambitious goal to reach a total of 22 million locations with fiber by the middle of next year. (Image: AT&T)

AT&T is moving forward with its fiber build with a goal to equip over 20 million residential and business locations with new wires by next year.

John Stephens, CFO of AT&T, told investors during the at the Deutsche Bank Media, Telecom and Business Services Conference that the fiber build is “critical” to the future of its wireline and wireless business segments.

Stephens AT&T
John Stephens

“We’re taking a lot of fiber out to the consumer premises and a lot of fiber out to business locations,” Stephens said. “Currently we have about 15 million locations connected with fiber and by July 2019 we’ll have about 22 million.”

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Out of this mix, AT&T will have connected 8 million businesses and 14 million consumer locations. If the telco reaches this goal next year, AT&T will surpass its commitment to the FCC to build out FTTP to 12.5 million locations. The 12.5 million location goal was part of the agreement it made with the FCC to get its DirecTV acquisition approved. 

As of the end of January, AT&T claimed it delivers FTTH services to 7 million locations across 67 metros with plans to reach at least 12.5 million locations by mid-2019.

Business, backhaul also benefit

AT&T’s ongoing fiber drive is not just about residential broadband alone.

The builds will also enable it to better address business customers that are transitioning off legacy TDM circuits to Ethernet. By having a greater amount of businesses connected to its own fiber network, AT&T can better control the experience it provides to business customers versus what it can provide over leased Type 2 circuits from other providers.

On the business side, the AT&T reaches nearly 400,000 business buildings with its own lit fiber facilities. As of the end of January, the service provider now covers over 1.8 million U.S. business customer locations. The telco said it is “adding thousands more buildings each month.”

AT&T has over 1.1 million global route miles of fiber. The service provider said that it has 8 million business customer locations nationwide are either on or within 1,000 feet of its fiber.

By having a greater amount of what is called near-net fiber, which means that a service provider may have fiber passing by or nearby a building that has multiple businesses, AT&T can also more economically address businesses.

But being a service provider that offers wireless and wireline services, AT&T can also use the same fiber network it is putting in for consumer and business services for backhauling wireless 4G and upcoming 5G traffic.

“Fiber is a key not only in delivering to a home or a business, but for the backhaul support,” Stephens said. “If you’re an integrated carrier like us and building this fiber to the home, you’re going to pass a tower, pass a business location, shopping mall and build out to those.”

Leveraging existing fiber assets

While AT&T will continue to build out fiber throughout it network territory where it can prove a business case, the service provider can also leverage and extend the existing fiber assets it has in its local ILEC territories as well as AT&T’s long-haul fiber assets.

Stephens said that having these existing fiber assets in tow gives AT&T a leg up on its wireless competitors from a wireless backhaul perspective.  

“We have a bit of different situation than our competitors because of the extensive fiber footprint we have that comes out of our legacy businesses,” Stephens said. “We have extensive fiber from our 20-state local exchange assets and ample opportunity to have backhaul as well as an extensive fiber footprint from AT&T being a legacy long line carrier.”

Stephens added that because of these assets “we’re in a unique position to do the backhaul cheaper build cheaper and more efficiently, especially when you layer on the ability to build FirstNet on top of those assets.”