On Wednesday, AT&T (NYSE:T, news, filings) unveiled a new network expansion and upgrade spending plan that covered a lot of ground. I’m afraid I skimmed it and thought LTE, no surprises there… But as a reader pointed out to me today, it’s actually got a blockbuster fiber-to-the-business component:
Fiber to Multi-Tenant Business Buildings. AT&T plans to proactively expand its fiber network to reach an additional one million business customer locations – 50 percent of the multi-tenant business buildings in its wireline service area. AT&T expects the proactive fiber deployment to increase business revenue growth, accelerate provisioning and facilitate the installation of distributed antennas systems and small cell technology to help offload wireless network traffic.
That’s 1 million business customer locations and the plan is to hook them up by the end of 2015, or three years from this New Year’s… Parsing that a little bit, they probably don’t mean 1 million separate on-net buildings, since each multi-tenant building will have many ‘business customer locations’ and most buildings aren’t multi-tenant. In AT&T’s case, multi-tenant here means 6 tenants or more, so it may be 50% of such buildings in their footprint but still a rather smaller fraction of the total number of enterprise buildings.
On the one hand, I’ve been rather surprised they haven’t done this before now. FTTH may have economic issues to solve, but fiber to the enterprise is much easier and you don’t have the worries about a wireless data deluge changing the game for the worse. Did something change, or did they just wake up and smell the metro fiber?
And on the other hand, this could pose a new challenge to the competitive fiber operators that have been aggressively targeting this space like tw telecom, cherry picking fiber territory while the big boys fret about spectrum. Yet will AT&T be as nimble and economical in this buildout as the alternative operators have become?
No answers here, we’ll have to see how it works out on the ground in the first half of 2013. Any opinions on how this will play out?