Video consumption trends informed AT&T network capacity planning
Speaking this week at the Goldman Sachs 28th Annual Communicopia Conference, AT&T Communications Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson, in a wide-ranging discussion, highlighted the confluence of internal and external trends he sees as giving AT&T a differentiated, advantageous market position.
In the 5G era, Stephenson said winning the FirstNet contract was instrumental in the company’s broader network plans. Construction of the dedicated nationwide public safety LTE network is ongoing and, by virtue of having to touch every tower to deploy FirstNet, “We’re deploying 5G,” and putting additional spectrum into service. “By virtue of FirstNet, spectrum aggregation, 5G, we’re climbing these cell towers one time and accomplishing three purposes.”
To be relevant, Stephenson said a service provider needs a dense cell grid, the right mix of spectrum, the ability to deploy (FirstNet) and the balance sheet to fund the whole thing–all of which AT&T has, he said adding that these upgrades will result in nationwide 5G availability in mid-2020 and a 50% network capacity increase.
And that capacity increase fits with consumer patterns in video consumption and AT&T’s ambitions for the mega-acquisition of Time Warner, now called Warner Media, which encapsulates HBO, the Turner networks and Warner Bros. studios, among other content-centric properties.
“In terms of the strategy,” Stephenson said, “it’s premised on a couple really basic ideas or beliefs. Belief one is we believe people are going to spend more and more of their day watching premium content over the next few years. As a result we are absolutely convinced people are going to consume and expect and demand more bandwidth, more connectivity, to watch that content. We kind of think those two beliefs are maybe unassailable.”
That’s why it makes sense to vertically integrate content and distribution, he said. “We think a company that can put together premium media content creation and production with networks would have a significant strategic advantage. And that’s the play we’re running here.” Expect an announcement around the HBO Max platform, a new service offering bundling various Warner Media properties, in October.
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