AT&T announces $14bn network expansion plan

Number two US operator AT&T has announced plans to expand its LTE network over the next three years in a project dubbed Project Velocity IP, or VIP.

It will spend $14bn over the course of the project, with  $8bn going on wireless connectivity and $6bn on wireline. It said the aim was to enhance its network to support the growth of mobile applications and cloud services.

“This is a major commitment to invest in 21st Century communications infrastructure for the United States and bring high-speed internet connectivity […] to millions more Americans,” AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said in a statement.

Detailing the project, Stephenson told an audience of analysts on 7 November in New York that it would be expanding its LTE network to cover 300 million people by the end of 2014, an increase to its original plan to reach 250 million. It also plans to reach an additional one million business customer locations with wireline fibre connections by the end of 2015, while its U-verse TV, Internet, and voice service will reach 85 million customer locations, an increase of about a third, by the end of 2015. Its U-verse offering will receive a speed boost to 75MBps, while its VoIP DSLAMs will be boosted to 45Mbps.

“We are very confident in our ability to execute this plan,” Stephenson said. “These are things we’ve done before — logical extensions of proven technologies and already successful businesses.”

Stephenson said that small cell technologies would be used to increase the density and quality of its network and that it would continue to grow its spectrum offerings, which have already been bulked up with 40 spectrum deals in 2012.

AT&T has faced criticism for the move from some quarters, having told regulators during its failed bid to buy out Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile USA last year that it would not be able to expand LTE beyond its 80 per cent coverage without the merger going ahead. At the time, the carrier expressed irritation at a report from the FCC that it would extend the network to 97 per cent of the network even without the merger, a prediction that has now proven to be the case.

Explaining the move, AT&T spokeswoman Roberta Thomson told CNNMoney that, “we chartered a new path,” referring to the 40 new spectrum deals the carrier has made and the additional spectrum that the US regulator the FCC made available since the failed merger bid.

AT&T CTO Krish Prabhu will be delivering a keynote on Day Two of the LTE North America 2012 conference, taking place NEXT WEEK on the 14-15th November 2012 at the Fairmont Dallas Hotel, Texas. Click here to download a brochure.

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