AT&T’s new plans include leveraging the company’s investment in FirstNet® for expanding its coverage in rural areas, solidifying its network and preparing cell sites for supporting 5G services through upgrades to software. In March last year, AT&T® was selected as the contractor of the nationwide public safety broadband network by the First Responder Network Authority. As per FirstNet® contract, AT&T® is responsible to build a broadband network for first responders, in exchange for commercial access to FirstNet’s 700-Megahertz spectrum and $6.5 billion grant that would be given on the condition that the fastest internet provider meets broadband deployment milestones.
Going by the contract, AT&T’s task is to provide a public safety broadband network to first responders. Yet, the CEO of AT&T® Communications, John Donovan, has said that the rural deployment of FirstNet® will not be limited to serving first responders only.
“If you look at where T-Mobile® in wireless and Verizon® in wireless are succeeding, they’re polar opposites — T-Mobile® much more urban, Verizon® much more rural,” Donovan said during an investor conference held in New York. “FirstNet® gives us a great opportunity to go into the rural markets. Not only will we be building the network for first responders, it dawned on us that we should also be putting up stores and going after the consumers. So, I think Verizon’s going to have their hands full with our strategy going forward in the more rural areas.”
Verizon® will have to compete with AT&T® for public safety customers during this year’s second half, said the CEO of AT&T® Communications. Most of the first responder agencies to have previously signed FirstNet® contracts were commercial subscribers of AT&T®. Yet again, the fastest internet provider anticipates public safety agencies to switch from Verizon Wireless® to FirstNet® for broadband internet services, Donovan said.
“The benefit for them is that not only do they get onto a dedicated core with a fallback on the commercial network, but they also get features like preemption and all of those sorts of things that provide them benefits,” he added. “We anticipate, starting this year, to build wireless-customer growth from those, because—as I’m sure you are aware—today the preponderance of that market share sits with Verizon®, and we anticipate a lot of that moving to [FirstNet®].”
The same sentiment was echoed by Randall Stephenson, the AT&T® CEO, at an investor conference held in Boston.