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AT&T chases strategic fiber opportunities outside its footprint

AT&T CEO John Stankey said the operator is keeping an open mind as it works to double its fiber coverage to a total of 30 million locations by 2025, weighing strategic opportunities to deploy outside its traditional footprint.

Speaking during a UBS investor conference, Stankey expressed regret that AT&T didn’t pursue fiber more aggressively over the last decade or so, stating “I would have liked to have maybe been further along than 15 million fiber homes.” However, he added “we are where we are and we’re now scaling quite rapidly.”

Echoing comments made late last month by AT&T communications CEO Jeff McElfresh, Stankey noted its fiber deployment pace is quickly accelerating. “We’re moving past the three million range,” he said of its annual build rate. “We're going to be doing things to kind of scale ourselves from three to four and I think four to five.”

As part of its plan, Stankey said AT&T will strategically chase “non-traditional” deployments “where there are opportunities for us to go and build fiber that helps both our wireless network and allows us to gain access to traffic from the business community and from consumers. And that may well be an MDU in the middle of New York that wasn't part of our attractive franchise territory from the past.”

The CEO also talked up the potential for AT&T to capitalize on broadband deployment projects fueled by the recently passed U.S. infrastructure bill, which allocated $42.45 billion to help states fund such work. He noted state governments will need “reputable scale partners” to work with which are both capable of making multi-year commitments to projects and can offer the right plans necessary to connect underserved consumers.

“I think we’re going to be in a very unique position to help states do that,” Stankey said.

“We're a scaled business. We know how to do these things. We've run large civil works projects, probably more so than any other company in the telecommunication space. I think this is part of our DNA. And as we get our flywheel going around these things, we can be better at it than anybody else,” he concluded.

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