AT&T exec: 'We're going to expand U-verse'

AT&T (NYSE: T) is "going to expand U-verse" within its regional footprint and, when necessary, use LTE wireless as a delivery mechanism, John Donovan, senior executive vice president of AT&T Technology and Network Operations, promised during a presentation to the Citi Global Internet, Media & Telecommunications Conference in Las Vegas yesterday.

Donovan (Source: AT&T)

"We anticipate that LTE will be a broadband coverage solution for a portion of the country; we just haven't yet gotten to the point where we have enough experience under our belt to know exactly what that footprint is going to be," Donovan said during a question-and-answer period.

The carrier also is going to expand its IPDSLAM footprint, he added, noting that all the moves are part of Project VIP, the multi-billion-dollar investment plan the carrier announced last year, and that the expansion will be within the AT&T regional footprint.

Questions about how to expand the service--and when and how to use LTE--are still unresolved.

"I think it's going to be an excellent technology," Donovan said.

On the other hand, the carrier must be sure to have sufficient spectrum, price plans, speeds and consumption models before it moves forward.

Most importantly, he added, "we have to make sure that the technology works."

The end goal is to "extend ourselves from 75 percent of the footprint to 99 percent of the footprint [and] we're going to be using LTE for some of that broadband," Donovan said.

Speed, overall, is also a consideration. AT&T is taking a "calibrated approach" to how much speed it offers to consumers as well as where and how soon.

Project VIP, Donovan said, included "five plays we can run to enhance the speed: pair bonding to either increase your reach or speed up your rate; vectoring; add channels; put small form electronics closer to the customer; and [offer] adaptive bit rate modems."

Even with all that, there's a general qualifier that "a segment of the population… just wants to buy the fastest thing whether they're going to use it or not."

"If you bundle it up, sell it right, it works well and you support it in your care channels, customers are generally happy," Donovan said.

That means, he added, the carrier is comfortable with a ceiling of 100 Mbps as "a pretty good number."

Donovan also explained briefly AT&T's decision to partner with Akamai Technologies for its content delivery network (CDN) rather than go it alone.

While conceding the AT&T network is "a video delivery network whether we're in a retail CDN business or not," Donovan said, handling it in-house had its limitations.

"How do you take a big network and provide the benefits of scale?" he asked. "How do you build reliability and performance? And how do you develop very specific features at a very rapid innovative pace?"

By partnering with a CDN specialist, he concluded, "We really feel that it gives the top end of this the ability to move at the pace of the market and get the features for our customers but provide the scale and economics."

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