AT&T CFO: Don’t expect 5G revenues anytime soon

Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot (AT&T)
The Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot will be AT&T's first 5G device. (AT&T)

AT&T’s CFO said that the carrier doesn’t expect to record significant revenues from 5G services in the near term.

“On revenue opportunities, will we say in five years, how did we ever live without this? I would say yes,” AT&T CFO John Stephens said at an investor conference this week, according to a Reuters article of his comments. “It’s an exciting spot. We’re ready. But I’m not here to make any predictions on revenue opportunities in ‘19.”

Stephens also pointed out that only 5% of AT&T’s customer buy a new phone every quarter, which means that it would take years for AT&T to distribute 5G devices to its 150 million customers. (Indeed, mobile customers are holding onto their phones for longer and longer periods of time.)

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Further, 5G smartphones aren’t expected to hit the market until next year at the earliest, and those devices may be few and far between for at least a year or two. (Apple will reportedly wait until 2020 to release a 5G-capable iPhone.)

However, AT&T isn’t only betting on 5G smartphones to generate revenues. The company has also discussed business models including private 5G networks for factories and other businesses. Verizon, for its part, is using 5G technology initially to challenge fixed internet providers.

AT&T has promised to launch mobile 5G services in a dozen cities this year, with more scheduled to launch next year, initially through a Netgear hotspot. Indeed, AT&T tweeted this week that it turned on a 5G site in Dallas.

Not to be outdone, Verizon announced this week it completed “the world’s first” 5G data transmission on a smartphone on a commercial 3GPP 5G New Radio (NR) network in Providence, Rhode Island. The company said it conducted the transmission using a Motorola moto z3 smartphone paired with Motorola’s 5G moto mod that uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X50 5G modem and QTM052 mmWave antenna modules, running over Verizon’s 28 GHz spectrum to Samsung network equipment.