AT&T uses WiMAX, satellite to expand service

Time was when the terms "AT&T" and "telephony" were synonymous. Changes in the communication regulatory climate, the rise of able competitors, quite a few missteps on the wireless front, and this is no longer the case. AT&T is not exactly a shadow of its former self, but it is not its former self for sure. The recent merger between AT&T and SBC should help revive the company's flagging fortunes, so we should listen to what its leaders say. The other day, speaking at the Detroit Economic Club, AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre outlined the company's strategy for reaching more users with broadband services regardless of where they happen to live or work. Whitacre said the company will introduce a new satellite service and expand its fixed-wireless trials. He also reiterated the company's commitment to its Project Lightspeed, which aims to offer IP video service to more than 5.5 million low-income households in three years.

The building blocks of AT&T strategy:

  • The company is joining with WildBlue to offer a satellite-based broadband Internet access service--called AT&T High Speed Internet Access--in select rural markets where DSL is not offered. The service will support up to 1.5 Mbps downstream and up to 256 Kbps upstream, and will cost between $49.95 and $79.95 per month.
  • AT&T is currently conducting fixed WiMAX trials in Alaska; Atlanta; Middletown, NJ; and Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Trials will start this summer in Pahrump, NV, and Red Oak and Midlothian, TX. The trial in Nevada will use licensed spectrum, and the trial in Texas will use unlicensed spectrum. Note that AT&T is using a combination of newer gear, which complies with the IEEE 802.16 specification, and older gear which does not (this is why most of the company's trials offer lower upstream and downstream speeds that the specifications call for).
  • The company will offer its Project Lightspeed video service in 41 markets within three years. The company will target low-income households, as identified by the U.S. Census Bureau. To reach these 19 million homes, the company plans to spend $4.6 billion on Project Lightspeed by 2008.

For more on AT&T broadband strategy:
- see Denise Pappalardo's Networkworld report
For more on Project Lightspeed:
- see this October 2005 Networkworld report

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