Copyright 2022, Faulkner Information Services. All
Publication Date: 2201
Report Type: VENDOR
AT&T provides wireline, mobile, Internet, and business
services across the US and to more than 220 other countries around the world.
One of the largest and most successful companies for much of the twentieth
century, recent years have been somewhat tumultuous for the firm. In 2019, the company was
given final court approval to complete its acquisition of Time Warner despite
protracted wrangling with the Justice Department over competition concerns. That
deal – along with the 2015 acquisition of DirecTV – left the company with more
than $200 billion in debt. Shareholder concerns led to the firm’s CEO stepping
down and then the 2021 announcements that both DirecTV and the renamed
WarnerMedia would be spun off as separate companies. Nonetheless, AT&T continues to remain a strong contender in the
terrestrial telecom market.
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208 S. Akard Street
Dallas, TX 75202-2233
Tel: (210) 821-4105
Fax: (210) 351-2071
Type of Vendor: Communications Service Provider
Founded: 1885 (AT&T); 1984 (SBC Communications)
Stock Symbol: T (NYSE)
Service Areas: Nationwide US and worldwide (225
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AT&T is a cornerstone of the United States telecommunications
industry and a company whose history goes back to the very invention of
the telephone. Founded in 1879, the company had a monopoly on all
telephone service in the country until broken up by the federal government
in 1984. This action split AT&T into a long distance company and seven
regional local service providers. The telecommunications industry evolved
and consolidated over the next thirty years to the point where AT&T is
once again the largest provider of fixed-line telephone service in the
In addition to providing basic local and long distance calling, AT&T
offers a full range of other telecommunications solutions including
cloud-based computing, wireless voice and data, DSL and fiber-optic
broadband, optical and Ethernet networking, security, Web hosting, unified communications, and more. It also licenses the
AT&T brand to equipment manufacturers around the world.
AT&T Mobility (also known as AT&T Wireless) is the largest wireless provider in the United
States with a 44.8 percent share of wireless subscribers as of the first
quarter of 2021.1 Its 4G LTE network covers 99 percent of the
population, with 5G coverage in more than 14,000 cities and towns in 18 states. For broadband services, AT&T offers DSL Internet
connections as well as a fiber-optic service called AT&T Fiber (formerly
U-verse) that offers
connections of up to 1Gbps in some markets.
AT&T has also been involved in some major mergers and acquisitions
over the past few years. It attempted to purchase T-Mobile in 2011 for $39
billion but the deal fell apart after the federal government said it would
oppose it. Instead, AT&T purchased Leap Wireless and the Cricket brand
name in 2014 for $1.2 billion. This move made AT&T a major player in
the pre-paid wireless market.
In other cases, a major acquisition has been followed by a spinoff of the
property in order to reduce debt and recoup some of the company’s outlay. In
2015, AT&T announced plans to buy DirecTV for $48.5 billion and assume
nearly $20 billion in debt.
At the time, the combination of AT&T and DirecTV boasted 26 million video customers, making it the second
largest provider in the country behind a combined Comcast/Time Warner
Cable. This deal was significant because it showed that AT&T viewed Comcast, not other telephone companies, as one of its biggest competitors.
Soon after it acquired DirecTV, AT&T and Time Warner announced an $85 billion deal to merge.
While the US Justice Department filed a
lawsuit in late 2017 to block the merger, stating that it is illegal and
will be bad for consumers, the deal finally closed in June 2018 with Time Warner becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T and taking on the new name WarnerMedia.
Saddled with nearly $200 billion in debt due to the DirecTV and Time Warner
deals, chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson stepped down in early 2021 and was
replaced by president and COO John Stankey.
Shortly after Stankey assumed control, AT&T said it would spin off its video
businesses, including the DirecTV, AT&T TV and U-Verse television units, into a
new company and sold a 30 percent share to TPG Capital. The move valued the new
DirecTV operation at $16.24 billion with $6.4 billion in debt – far below the
nearly $66 billion that AT&T paid for DirecTV six years earlier.2 Noting that the initial
acquisition of DirecTV came just as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other streaming
services started gaining traction, Stankey admitted when announcing the spinoff
that "we certainly didn’t expect this outcome when we closed the DirecTV
acquisition in 2015."3
In May 2021, the company surprised the business world with word of another
spinoff. This time, its costly and time-consuming deal for Time Warner would see
the programming division WarnerMedia combine with Discovery, Inc., owner of
cable channels such as HGTV, the Food Network, and Oprah Winfrey’s OWN. The
arrangement gives AT&T a 71 percent stake as well as $43 billion – approximately
half what it paid for Time Warner – to help with debt relief.
History & Milestone Events
The foundation of the company that would become AT&T began with
Alexander Graham Bell. Major milestones include the following:
- 1876 – Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone.
- 1885 – American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T)
was incorporated and held a monopoly over the telephone industry for
almost a 100 years.
- 1984 – A court ruling called the Modified Final
Judgment (MFJ) dismantled the Bell System by forcing AT&T to divest
itself of the operating companies that provided local exchange services.
The MFJ created seven Regional Bell Operating Companies: US WEST, NYNEX,
Bell Atlantic, BellSouth, Southwestern Bell, Pacific Bell, and
Ameritech. AT&T kept its long distance business; Western Electric,
its manufacturing division; and Bell Labs, its R&D organization.
- 1996 – AT&T restructured again, this time splitting
into three companies: NCR, Lucent Technologies (former Network Solutions
and Bell Labs), and AT&T.
- 2000 – AT&T spun off AT&T Wireless and merged
AT&T Broadband with Comcast.
- 2004 – AT&T Wireless was acquired by Cingular
Wireless, a joint venture between SBC and BellSouth. The combined
company decided to keep the well-known AT&T brand and became the
largest wireless carrier in the United States.
- 2005 – SBC, one of the companies that was created by
the Modified Final Judgment, acquired AT&T for $16 billion. Again,
the combined company kept AT&T’s brand and continued trading under
the “T” symbol.
- 2006 – AT&T acquired BellSouth for $67 billion. The
deal gave AT&T complete ownership of Cingular Wireless.
- 2011 – AT&T agreed to buy T-Mobile USA from
Deutsche Telekom for about $39 billion in stock and cash. The company
eventually abandoned the acquisition due to opposition by the FCC and
DoJ, and it took a $4 billion accounting charge for walking away from
- 2012 – The company acquired NextWave Wireless for a
cash payment of $25 million with a subsequent payment of $600 million to
meet the company’s outstanding debt.
- 2013 – AT&T expanded its mobile operations by
buying Alltell Wireless for $780 million and Leap Wireless for $1.2
- 2014 – AT&T announced plans to buy
DirecTV for $48.5 billion. AT&T also agreed to purchase Iusacell, a
Mexican wireless company, for $2.5 billion.
- 2016 – AT&T began offering an unlimited data plan
to lure customers into buying both television and wireless services. It
also agreed to provide the FCC with IP technology that supports mobile
and cloud-based applications.
- 2017 – AT&T revealed that it would record a pre-tax
loss of approximately $1 billion USD in the fourth quarter ended
December 31, 2016. In November 2017, the US Justice Department sued to
block the proposed AT&T and Time Warner merger, which was initially
announced in 2016, arguing that the deal will harm competition.
- 2018 – A US District Court judge approved the deal to
acquire Time Warner for $85 billion. AT&T walked away from its deal with Huawei
to sell Huawei’s smartphone, the Mate 10, in the US due to security
concerns involving the Chinese government.
- 2019 – AT&T reported that it would be re-joining
YouTube after deciding to pull its ads from the platform in March 2017
due to extremist content.
- 2020 – AT&T allied with Nellis Air Force Base in
Nevada to provide 5G services to the base. It is also providing the
FirstNet public safety communications platform to public safety
personnel at Nellis. It is announced that COO John Stankey will replace Randall
Stephenson as CEO.
- 2021 – Spins off DirecTV, AT&T TV, and U-Verse into a new DirecTV
company, selling 30 percent to TPG Capital. Announced a definitive agreement
to combine its WarnerMedia entertainment, sports, and news assets with
Discovery, Inc.’s nonfiction and international entertainment and sports
businesses. Sells Warner Bros. Games’ Playdemic, Ltd. gaming studio to
Electronic Arts for $1.4 billion. Completes the sale of of its Vrio Corp.
business unit to private holding company Grupo Wertheim; Vrio provides
digital entertainment services using satellite technology to 11 countries in
Latin America and the Caribbean. Continues its series of divestitures as it
sells advertising marketplace Xandr to Microsoft.
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AT&T is the largest wireline carrier in the United States, but
landline carriers around the world are seeing their revenues and customers
decline as people are ditching traditional telephones for mobile devices.
AT&T’s strategy is focused on wireless services (especially mobile
broadband), value-added business services like cloud computing, and very
fast broadband Internet access.
Wireless services. AT&T’s mobile strategy is all
about rolling out 5G service. The company estimates that more than three
quarters of its postpaid subscribers use smartphones, and AT&T
continues to invest into its LTE network. In recent years, AT&T has
been investing in the expansion of its LTE network and upgrading its HSPA
network to HSPA+. The company first launched 5G service and devices for
businesses in 2018, and for consumers in 2019. By August 2020, AT&T said
its 5G service was available to consumers nationwide, and as of late 2021, it
was available in more than 14,000 locations throughout the United States.
In order to keep the customers it has, AT&T has been introducing
creative wireless plans that let customers share or roll over voice and
data allotments. AT&T also
sees prepaid wireless as an important market, and it bolstered its
presence here by acquiring Leap Wireless in 2014.
Despite a handful of spectrum acquisitions, AT&T claims it may exhaust its
wireless spectrum in some major cities, which can lead to service problems
in those markets. It is expected that the completion of the roll out of
the LTE-based network will ease much of the congestion, but this is open
to conjecture. It is also expected that AT&T will deploy
the LTE in the 700-MHz spectrum band that it acquired from Qualcomm,
moving its services from spectrum used by other carriers. This would
necessitate that equipment manufacturers provide distinct devices for
AT&T, but would ease traffic on its network with the lack of roaming
traffic on the network. Verizon Wireless has announced that it will
auction its spectrum in the lower 700-MHz band to roll out a service that
will also be incompatible with other carriers and require unique
In addition, to help alleviate network congestion as spectrum continues
to grow scarcer, AT&T is committed to its W-Fi strategy. It has
deployed the largest Wi-Fi network in the US. The carrier has continued to
expand its Wi-Fi hotspot network in the densest areas of population in the
US, and now maintains several thousand across the country.
Advanced business services. While wireless services can be
seen as its number one priority, AT&T continues its focus on advanced business
services by launching and enhancing offerings such as communications, Computing
in the Cloud, cloud-based security services, and the AT&T Content Delivery
Network cloud-based platform; all manner of wireless services through its wholly
owned subsidiary AT&T Mobility; unified communications; multi-enterprise
collaboration; and optical and Ethernet data services. In addition, AT&T offers
businesses cloud storage and mobile broadband applications. AT&T Business
Solutions outlined three initiatives for its
- Deliver fully integrated solutions to enterprise customers
- Focus on cloud-based services, security solutions, and application
- Continue to expand its fiber-optic, IP, and LTE networks so it can
support VPNs and Ethernet services
Broadband. AT&T has approximately 14.2 million broadband
customers, and 100 candidate municipalities for AT&T Fiber. A major part of
AT&T’s network strategy is to upgrade its DSL customers to AT&T Fiber, either by
rolling out fiber-optic connections or upgrading their service to VDSL.
AT&T is primarily a company based on a network. The global backbone
carries 242 petabytes of data traffic on an average day to 225 countries,
more than any other communications company in the world. It offers voice
coverage in 225 countries, and data roaming in more than 210 countries. AT&T is also a world leader in the
transport and termination of wholesale traffic, and one of the world’s
largest providers of IP-based communications services for businesses. The
company is also a world leader in the transport and termination of wholesale
traffic, and one of the world’s largest providers of IP-based communications
services for businesses.
The company shored up its spectrum with its
Qualcomm acquisition, further showing its ability to rebound from what
many expected to be a devastating blow. Most observers believe that
AT&T has sufficient spectrum to complete its 4G LTE roll out and to
move beyond that to LTE-Advanced. All wireless providers are seeking
spectrum, but AT&T appears to be in better shape than most other
companies, with the possible exception of Verizon Wireless, which will
have enough spectrum, if its deal to purchase spectrum from the cable
companies is approved, to auction off its spectrum in the lower 700-MHz
AT&T Mobility is the number one wireless company in the US ahead of
AT&T is also the number one supplier of managed services to
businesses. The cloud computing services continue to be very popular as
are the managed network and managed security services. In addition, the
wireline segment is maximizing its fiber investments and the company continues to expand
its network by
rolling out 1G bps service in some markets.
AT&T’s major weakness is the perception that its wireless network is the
worst in the US. While this is not true for most of the country, there have been
well-documented problems in the New York City and San Francisco regions due to
overloaded networks. It is likely that network upgrades and the added spectrum
available from the Qualcomm deal and from other smaller acquisitions will solve
some of these problems, but AT&T believes that it has a lack of spectrum that
would have been solved by the T-Mobile deal. AT&T continues to pursue deals that
would provide additional spectrum, including acquisitions or partnerships with
Leap Wireless and Dish Network. In the meantime, Verizon Wireless claims that
if it completes the spectrum deal with Comcast and other cable companies
that it will have enough spectrum to support the wireless data traffic
generated by new devices, connections, and applications for years to come.
This could lead to greater churn rates for AT&T Mobility as customers
seek the seemingly higher quality services provided by AT&T’s biggest
AT&T continues to absorb landline losses, including to its own
wireless division. Thus, while AT&T Mobility is growing, it is
growing, at least to a certain extent, at the expense of AT&T’s
landline business as customers drop wired connections in favor of
cellular and voice over IP (VoIP) services. The decline of legacy wireline
services will continue, but AT&T Fiber is offsetting much of the
decline. AT&T’s wireline revenue increases due to higher spending on
average for the fiber services.
Though at times it appears that the only serious competitor to AT&T
is Verizon Communications, the cable companies, in particular Cox and
Comcast, are strong competitors for broadband services, TV, and local
wireline phones. AT&T says that the majority of its losses in wireline
connections are to the cable companies.
AT&T’s primary growth drivers, including AT&T Mobility, Advanced
Business Services, and AT&T Fiber service, give AT&T the ability to
continue to grow its business for the short and mid term. The long term is
dependent on its ability to launch the following:
- A nationwide 4G LTE and LTE-Advanced network rollout keeping pace
with other wireless carriers.
- Innovative business services, including additional cloud computing
services and strengthening its consulting and integration businesses.
- An expanded fiber-based network to deliver VoIP, Internet, and TV services.
Whether AT&T will face a spectrum shortage in the future is open to
argument. The company claims that it is absolutely necessary for it to
acquire additional spectrum, either through merger/acquisition,
partnerships, or new spectrum auctions, but its competitors do not agree.
Many comments were filed with the Federal Communications Commission and US Department of Justice that claimed that AT&T
has a considerable amount of spectrum that it has never used. This is
true to a certain extent. The spectrum question is probably not
a serious issue for the near term, but at some point in time, additional
spectrum is going to be needed by all competitors. The FCC and the US
Congress have not come up with a plan for additional auctions so that
relief is at least five or six years away. It is more likely that AT&T
will use mergers and partnerships to solve its spectrum problem in the
Like many in the wireless industry, AT&T Mobility is not intensely
dependent on the revenue derived from its mobile data services. Although
the company has been on somewhat of a rollercoaster ride with its figures
in this area (largely thanks to its shedding of a truly unlimited data
plan) the importance of this high-revenue service cannot be overstated. As
more and more consumers switch from feature phones to smartphones, and the
increasingly tech savvy younger generations shift towards IP-based
communications rather that voice, mobile data will become an even larger
portion of the company’s wireless revenue. AT&T must, therefore, make
sure its mobile data packages continue to remain competitive with its
rivals in price, speeds, and bandwidth caps in order to remain near the
top of the industry.
AT&T continues to use the expertise and innovative talent of its
workforce, particularly its AT&T Labs unit. As the innovators of a
majority of the technical advances in communications for more than a
century, the Labs have been modernized to contribute ideas that can
readily be turned into money-making opportunities. AT&T also has a
program in place to encourage its entire workforce to come forward with
innovative ideas for which they are rewarded.
AT&T Fiber, meanwhile, remains a key growth area that must gain
momentum. With the demand for data services continuing to grow, the
fiber-based services are helping combat the declines in legacy wireline
voice service. Introduction of additional business services in the
professional services segment has driven growth so that AT&T retains
its number one ranking in total business communications and networking
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AT&T offers products and services for consumer, small business,
enterprise, wholesale, and local search. Table 1 provides details for
AT&T’s consumer portfolio.
AT&T Mobility offers a wide variety of wireless voice and
AT&T is the US’ largest broadband provider, offering
AT&T offers flexible combinations of home phone, broadband,
AT&T provides home phone services, primarily in the local
|In-Home Support Services
| AT&T ConnecTech provides a full
suite of in-home services for virtually all technical support
needs from installation to maintenance and repair for residential
AT&T’s products and services for business are illustrated in Table 2.
AT&T offers the following key products and services,
AT&T offers the following key products and services,
AT&T offers a suite of wholesale services to the following:
AT&T offers a large variety of its services to federal,
AT&T’s network spans the globe and reaches every major country and
metropolitan area through its subsidiaries and affiliates, including all
of the Fortune 1000, with one of the world’s fastest, most advanced IP
backbone networks, complemented by the largest integrated GSM network in
the US. The company invested $140 billion between 2012 and 2016 on the
expansion of its wireless and wireline networks. Although AT&T’s main
focus remains the buildout of its LTE network, there will still be funds
devoted to its fiber-to-the-neighborhood networks.
In addition, AT&T has more than 34,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in over 69
countries, over 1,000 wired Ethernet locations worldwide, and DSL access
in 30 countries. In sum, AT&T is available in more than 220 countries
for voice and more than 170 for data; over one billion devices connect to
AT&T’s wired and wireless networks. To meet continually growing demand
for international capacity, AT&T also owns or leases capacity on more
than 70 submarine cable systems that span over 456,000 fiber route miles
around the globe. AT&T’s global network contains more than 877,000
worldwide fiber route miles.
In the US alone, AT&T provides local telephone service and wired
broadband to 22 US states, and cellphone, wireline
long distance, and mobile data services in nearly 350 major metropolitan areas. AT&T also
boasts the world’s largest deployment of 40G-bps transport, as well as a
100G-bps backbone segment, the fastest commercially available Internet
AT&T’s wireless network includes a GSM/GPRS/EDGE/HSPA+ technology
that can reach more than three billion people in 200+ countries.
Theoretical speeds for its HSPA+ upgrade are listed as being as high as
84M-bps for downloads and 22M bps for uploads. The carrier is also in the
process of expanding its 4G LTE network, with more than 180 markets
already added to its high-speed coverage. LTE has theoretical speeds of
100M bps on the downlink and 50M bps on the uplink, with actual commercial
speeds of around one quarter of these figures. AT&T is focusing on
rolling out 5G networking nationwide via two tiers of 5G services: 5G and 5G+.
While the company’s 5G offering will provide speeds slightly higher than its 4G
LTE is capable of, the 5G+ service can provide speeds as high as 1Gbps. However,
5G is expanding more rapidly due to its reliance on lower frequencies than the
mmWave technology powering 5G+. Meanwhile, 5G+ is being targeted at dense urban
areas where the maximum number of users can benefit from the smaller service
areas provided by its high frequency transmission.
1 "Wireless Subscriptions Market Share by Carrier in the US." Statista. October 22, 2021.
2 Drew FitzGerald and Miriam Gottfried. "AT&T Carves Out Pay-TV Business in Deal
Wall Street Journal.
February 25, 2021.
3 Jonathan Easton. "AT&T Takes Huge DirectTV Hit As It Spins-Off Video Businesses."
Digital TV Europe.
February 26, 2021.
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