AT&T says 5G launch will come within weeks
Amid higher revenues and profits following its acquisition of Time Warner, AT&T is preparing for a 5G launch that it says will come within “weeks” — and called out the strength of its prepaid segment during the company’s earnings call.
John Donovan, CEO of AT&T Communications, said that the carrier’s “5G foundation is in place” and that it is “on track to be the first wireless carrier to introduce mobile 5G services in the United States in the next few weeks.”
He added, “This will be standards-based 5G. We plan to introduce 5G in parts of 12 cities by the end of the year. And we’ve announced additional 5G cities for next year, as we drive toward nationwide coverage of our 5G network.”
AT&T is aiming for its “5G Evolution” coverage (based on LTE Advanced Pro capabilities) in more than 400 markets by the end of the year, and Donovan said that customers “are seeing a dramatic lift in speeds with theoretical peak speeds, reaching 400 megabits per second.”
He also said that A&T plans to launch Licensed Assisted Access in “parts of 24 cities by the end of the year.”
On the customer front, in the company’s wireless segment, “growth is being heavily driven by our prepaid business, which is running red-hot,” said CEO Randall Stephenson, adding that “I think we’re seeing Cricket truly begin to distinguish itself in the marketplace.”
AT&T reported that it gained 4.3 million total wireless net additions, driven by connected devices and prepaid subscribers in the U.S. That figure represents 3.4 million net adds in the U.S. and 907,000 in Mexico, the company noted. In terms of phone net adds, AT&T brought on 481,000 net prepaid additions compared to 69,000 postpaid phone net additions. Third-quarter postpaid phone churn was 0.93%.
Donovan said that during the most recent quarter, AT&T had the second-highest prepaid phone net adds in more than a decade and that the company “[continues]to be impressed with our prepaid customer base. … From a pure value perspective, they look very similar to some of our postpaid base. In fact, through the first three quarters of the year, about 60% of our Cricket net adds have characteristics that would generate similar value that we see out of some of our postpaid customers.”
AT&T’s revenues were up more than 15% year-over-year to $45.7 billion, which it said was primarily due to the Time Warner acquisition. The company’s profits for the quarter increased nearly 22% from the same period last year, to $4.7 billion.
On the wireline side, AT&T reported 49,000 DirecTV Now net additions amid 346,000 in net customer losses in traditional video. AT&T said that it has more than 10 million customer locations passed with fiber, and Stephenson said that the company is “nearing completion of our fiber build” for its entertainment group and aiming to stabilize that unit’s profitability in 2019.
Stephenson said that he was “pleased with the progress we made on a number of fronts in the third quarter.” AT&T’s U.S. wireless business is growing and “the single biggest contributor to our earnings and cash flow,” he added.
“Across the business, I like our momentum and feel confident that we’re on track to deliver on our plans.,” Stephenson said.