Monday, August 04, 2008

AT&T sees WiMAX as solution for less densely populated areas of U.S.

As AT&T's copper plant has been neglected outside of metro area cores, there has been much speculation about the big telco's future plans for it. Particularly since much of it is too deteriorated and unreliable to support weak Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) signals that degrade quickly over distance. In addition, AT&T has not been upgrading its copper plant to support its fiber/copper hybrid Project Lightspeed/U-Verse IPTV/voice/data bundled service outside of the limited metro areas where it's deploying U-Verse.

AT&T's new technology chief John Donovan is making AT&T's view of the future its aged copper cable plant in these regions more clear in a published interview with USA Today: It's a costly, obsolete albatross -- a legacy of the analog era of plain old telephone service (POTS).

Now that AT&T defines itself more as a wireless than wireline carrier, wireless is naturally viewed as the logical copper cable replacement strategy. At the top of the list, USA Today quotes Donovan as saying, is WiMAX, which AT&T apparently sees as a longer range and more robust solution for both fixed and mobile voice and data services outside of densely populated areas. In the latter, the telco will likely deploy its planned 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) cellular service that is expected to provide far faster Internet connections than its current 3G system that itself isn't universally deployed in AT&T's 22-state territory.

Donovan told the newspaper WiMAX appears particularly well suited to rural areas of the U.S. where it's becoming prohibitively expensive to maintain copper.

Reports last year suggested Ma Bell planned to ramp up her WiMAX deployments starting earlier this year after initial rollouts in the Fairbanks, Alaska area and parts of the former Bellsouth territory AT&T acquired at the end of 2006.

Telecompetitor speculates that AT&T's interest in WiMAX as a replacement for copper cable represents the start of a "coordinated rural market divestiture strategy."

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