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AT&T becomes Frontier’s newest fibre customer

AT&T has struck a deal to use Frontier Communications’ fibre network to expand its reach for business customers and to support its 5G build.

Reading between the lines of the announcement published by AT&T – which makes frequent references to its own fibre prowess – this is essentially a wholesale deal that means AT&T can provide coverage in areas in which it does not have its own full fibre infrastructure or any plans to build.

You could argue that AT&T is essentially helping to pay for Frontier’s aggressive fibre expansion plan, detailed in August, which will see it roll out fibre to 10 million locations by the end of 2025. By the end of this year, the telco aims to have hit the 4 million mark, having deployed fibre to 600,000 new locations in 2021 alone.

The companies seem determined to pitch this deal as some kind of partnership, rather than a wholesale agreement. “Together, the two companies will enable high-speed connectivity to large enterprise customers within Frontier’s 25-state footprint,” the AT&T press release reads. Or to put it another way, Frontier will break ground so AT&T doesn’t have to.

In all fairness to AT&T, it does admit as much.

“With Frontier building out its own fiber network where we are not building, we’ll be able to work together to provide large business customers with the high-speed, low-latency data connectivity they need to grow and thrive,” said Scott Mair, President, Network Engineering and Operations, AT&T. There was a similar canned comment from Frontier’s EVP of Business and Wholesale,  Mike Shippey.

In addition to connectivity for enterprise and hooking up 5G mobile sites, the deal will also allow AT&T to use Frontier’s Ethernet network to boost connectivity between cell towers and the core.

Putting aside the wording of the announcement for a moment, this deal is part of a broader trend for the AT&T.

Only a month ago the US telco revealed it has signed up satellite operator OneWeb to provide connectivity to business customers in remote locations, a deal that also includes connecting up mobile towers. AT&T is clearly looking at a variety of ways to extend its coverage area for high-speed services and that’s a smart move, as far as its bank balance is concerned, at least. The way it tells these stories suggests it would rather present itself as a network builder than a network user, but ultimately, getting the coverage to the customer as cost-effectively as possible is what it’s all about.

Working with AT&T is also a good move for Frontier, of course. The operator spent the first few months of this year operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, emerging at the end of April having shaved $11 billion from its debt and significantly cut interest payments. Its new identity as a telecommunications technology company, in its own words, was based heavily on the switch from fibre to copper, and the broader fibre expansion plan followed a few months later.

Signing up a big name customer like AT&T reinforces Frontier’s strategy and – doubtless – helps with the finances too.

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