Friday, August 28, 2015

AT&T to deploy "wireless local loop" fixed premise service in high cost areas

AT&T will apparently use wireless technology to provide fixed premise Internet telecommunications services using funding from the Connect America Fund (CAF) to subsidize infrastructure costs in high cost areas of the nation. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission announced this week that AT&T accepted $428 million in annual subsidies from the CAF to serve 2.2 million rural consumers in 18 states. Since the FCC requires CAF recipients to provide connectivity of "at least" 10Mbps for downloads and 1Mbps for uploads, the wireless gambit could potentially meet that standard. AT&T's wireless strategy was communicated to the FCC in a letter dated August 27, 2015 (H/T to California-based Steve Blum of Tellus Venture Associates):

We anticipate meeting our CAF Phase II obligations through a mix of network technologies, including through the deployment of advanced wireless technologies on new wireless towers that will be constructed in previously unserved areas. We will diligently pursue the necessary tower siting and permitting processes so that these new towers can be completed in a timely manner.

As previously mentioned in this space, the so-called "wireless local loop" (WLL) infrastructure strategy proffered in 2014 as part of AT&T's proposed takeover of DirecTV will also help AT&T meet its universal service obligations under the FCC's recently adopted Open Internet regulatory scheme classifying Internet as a common carrier telecommunications service. The strategy will also provide alternative premise service delivery infrastructure as AT&T retires its legacy copper cable outside plant.

The upshot for AT&T customers: Those that were never offered DSL service when AT&T rolled it out more than a decade ago might now see premise service roughly equivalent to DSL sometime in the next five years while those outside the very limited range of its U-Verse triple play DSL-based service could find themselves switched from legacy DSL to WLL.

An unresolved problem, however, is as Internet bandwidth demand continues its inexorable rapid rise, the WLL technology will be obsolete as soon as it's deployed and falls short of the FCC's current minimum benchmark for Internet service of 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up adopted earlier this year.

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