Currently selling FirstNet to 3,600 first responder agencies
AT&T’s ongoing build of a dedicated, nationwide LTE network for first responders creates a near-term revenue opportunity as a police, firefighters and other public safety officials buy into the service, but also sets the stage for future 5G-related service revenues, according to AT&T CFO John Stephens.
Stephens, speaking this week at he Morgan Stanley European Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in Barcelona, said AT&T is currently selling FirstNet to 3,600 public safety agencies but the opportunity is bigger.
“Some people would suggest that in this space there could be three devices per person–a phone, a bodycam, a tablet for the car, some cases a drone. There’ll be talk about 10 million possible sales. But for every one of those people, there’s also a friend and family” as well as administrative staff working in these agencies.
In a statement, the operator said it’s ahead of schedule on constructing FirstNet and that, from those 3,600 agencies, there are currently 250,000 subscribers. As it puts new spectrum into use, AT&T said “spectrum capacity at the end of 2019 will be 50% higher than in 2016, excluding millimeter wave.”
“It not only benefits this first responder opportunity,” Stephens said, “but it also gives us this great opportunity to give tremendous speeds and capabilities to our existing customer base. That’s what’s really important about it.”
AT&T is working to turn up standards-based mobile 5G in a dozen markets by year end and in 19 total markets by the end of the first quarter next year. As it relates to FirstNet, “The goal today is any time we touch a tower is to not only put in the 700 [MHz spectrum] for FirstNet in…but to make it all 5G capable. We’re in the best place to deploy it because of FirstNet.”
Asked about 5G-related revenues, Stephens said he doesn’t expect to report 5G revenue next year and pointed out that the current device upgrade cycle is 5% per quarter so it’d be 20 quarters before handsets are fully turned over. “The revenue opportunities are going to take some time but, because of FirstNet…we’ll be ready before they get here.”