AT&T said it is on track to launch standardized mobile 5G service in parts of 12 cities in the next few weeks. During the company’s third quarter conference call with investors today AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan predicted that the company will be the first wireless operator to introduce mobile 5G in the next few weeks.
However, AT&T competitor Verizon Wireless is billing its 5G Home pre-standard 5G fixed wireless service as the first 5G service to go live in the world. The company launched the service in four markets October 1 and has said it will upgrade to the standardized version of 5G when the equipment is available. Verizon also has said it will launch a mobile 5G service in 2019.
AT&T’s Donovan said the company believes its fiber deployment is the “backbone” of 5G and that it has fiber to 18 million customer locations today and is expanding that to 22 million by next year.
He also said that AT&T will launch LTE-license assisted access (LTE-LAA), which is basically a standardized protocol for allowing 4G LTE to be deployed in unlicensed spectrum, in 24 cities by year-end. Donovan added that the company believes this to be a “building block” for 5G because it allows AT&T to increase the capacity and footprint of its 4G network without requiring more licensed spectrum
Donovan also touted the company’s progress in virtualizing its network. Although he refrained from giving a specific percentage — AT&T has said it has a goal of virtualizing more than 75 percent of its network by 2020 — he said that the company is on track to meet its goal. And he added that it has successfully been able to bring the baseband unit (BBU) to the edge of the cloud or the network core, which is key for delivering ultra-low latency services.
Interestingly, AT&T said that its capital expenditures for the third quarter were $5.9 billion putting it on track to spend $24 billion in capex for the year. This is in contrast to Verizon, which yesterday said that it expects its capital expenditures for 2018 to be in the range of $16.6 billion to $17 billion.
In other quarterly metrics, AT&T reported consolidated revenues of $45.7 billion up from $39.5 billion in the same quarter a year ago. The increase was partially due to AT&T’s Time Warner acquisition as well as some accounting changes.