April 25, 2017–AT&T, Inc., is hoping to convince all states, territories, and the District of Columbia that they should allow the company to build radio access network (RANs) for the nationwide public safety broadband network rather than using other parties, AT&T Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer John Stephens said today. “Our target is all 56: Fifty states, five territories, and the District of Columbia. We want to win them all, and that’s our goal,” Mr. Stephens said during a conference call with analysts this afternoon to discuss AT&T’s first-quarter 2017 financial results.
Last month, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) awarded AT&T a 25-year contract to build the nationwide network (TR Daily, March 30). Mr. Stephens said AT&T plans to work hard to convince states “that opting in is the right answer.”
Mr. Stephens said that if states opt out, they will not get the benefit of the $6.5 billion that AT&T is receiving from FirstNet as part of its contract with the government that calls for spending by the carrier of about $40 billion. “If the states choose to go it alone, they take the risk of any project cost overruns,” he also said. “They have a huge catchup to do with a company like ours.” Mr. Stephens said that state plans will be released in June, opening up the opportunity for states to decide to allow AT&T to build RANs. In fact, FirstNet confirmed today that it plans to deliver draft state plans in June, with final state plans expected to be ready in the fall.
Mr. Stephens also said that AT&T doesn’t expect its contract with FirstNet to have a significant financial impact on the company this year, saying that states likely won’t make their RAN decisions until the fourth quarter and that deployment of the 20 megahertz of 700 MHz band spectrum for the system isn’t likely to begin until late this year or early next year.
Mr. Stephens and AT&T Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson stressed that the carrier will realize efficiencies when deploying the public safety network by leveraging activities such as tower climbs to also benefit other spectrum it plans to deploy only for commercial purposes.
Mr. Stephenson also said he is pleased that the Republican-led FCC plans to use a light regulatory touch, and he highlighted actions, expected actions, or planned inaction on business data services, set-top box rules, broadband privacy, and net neutrality as positive for the industry and investment. “We do continue to support fundamental tenants of net neutrality, and we remain committed to open Internet rules that are fair and equal to all players,” Mr. Stephenson said. But he added that it’s “illogical” to use outdated rules to regulate the Internet. He also said that AT&T’s planned acquisition of Time Warner, Inc., is still on track for approval by the end of this year. —Paul Kirby, email@example.com