AT&T Should be Able to Look Ahead by Mid-2022

AT&T will continue to cut costs next year by around $3 billion, but the restructuring of WarnerMedia should be completed in the first half, John Stankey, CEO, AT&T, told John Hodulik, UBS Telecom and Cable Analyst, during the UBS Global TMT Virtual Conference 2021, held this week. 

Ever since he took over last year, Stankey has been busy restructuring the asset base of AT&T Communications and WarnerMedia (merging it with Discovery) and spinning off DirecTV. When WarnerMedia’s restructure is complete mid-year, Stankey said the AT&T “management team can focus on what we want AT&T to be moving forward. Hopefully, our attention will be entirely on the future, and not on what we need to do to reposition or restructure the business.”

Speaking about the carriers in general, Stankey said he expects they are about ready to invest at record levels. “In 2022, my suspicion is we’re going to see that through a combination of investment spectrum and new air interfaces, that this is going to be a phenomenal year in terms of reinvestment back into infrastructure in the United States on behalf of the industry in total,” he said. 

Stankey pointed to the Biden Administration’s $65 billion investment in broadband infrastructure as a cornerstone for the wireless industry in 2022. “What that does is open up more robust wireless networks. I think that’s an exciting opportunity for growth for many people to bring more folks onto the network and also bring them on to higher value products and services that drive revenue growth,” he said. 

Stankey said that he feels good about the growth of private 5G networks in the enterprise sector and sees it as a validation of 5G technology’s uniqueness and performance compared to WiFi networks. “And the capabilities that have been built into the software and the infrastructure allow for unique opportunities to grow these businesses,” he said. “We’re at the frontend of an investment cycle that I think everybody’s mindful of.”

When asked about new competition in the wireless space, Stankey said he was not concerned about the planned incremental wireless builds by cable companies and the build out of DISH Wireless. “I don’t think somebody building around a network with CBRS spectrum and a thin spectrum portfolio and regionally-oriented networks is going to be good enough over time,” he said. “I really believe we are seeing the reason you need a strong national network, you need strong fiber capillaries to be able to pair it with.”

Concerning the C-band deployment, Stankey said he had no concerns about interference with aircraft radar altimeters, noting that U.S. spectrum guard band separation is more conservative than in other countries around the world. “We know that that C-band is up and running in other parts of the globe, without incident and there’s planes flying and landing every day,” he said.

By J. Sharpe Smith Inside Towers Technology Editor

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