AT&T CEO: Fiber, Stories and (Video) Content to drive future revenues and growth

At Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference, AT&T CEO John T. Stankey said that broadband connectivity was a key focus area for the company. “Anything that we can do to put more fiber out into the network, serve both our consumer and business segments and use that to power what over time is going to become a much more dense and distributed wireless network. And that’s, first of all, one of our key focus areas and something that we see as being very important to us,” he said.

What Stankey said next was somewhat of a surprise, “We think we’re great storytellers, and that we have a unique ability to produce (video) content that’s special and different. And we’d like to continue doing that and telling those great stories and then using the combination of that connectivity in those stories to wrap it in software.”

When asked where should AT&T allocate capital, the CEO said:

  1.  Invest in its core business, which is fiber and broadband connectivity on 5G
  2.  Software driven entertainment products with HBO Max at the forefront of that, but it is a multi-year effort.
  3.  Ensuring that AT&T operations are set up to be successful and effective in the market that they’re serving customers. Also, that AT&T has data  properly positioned for advertising monetization and  to gain “great insights on customers.”

“When you have a great 5G network, you’re deploying a lot of fiber, and that’s something that we think are married well,” Stankey said, as per this transcript. “And we think we’re in a very unique position because the fiber that we deploy not only powers our wireless business, but it helps our consumer business and fixed broadband. It helps our enterprise customers and how we deal with them as well, and so we strategically want to make sure we’re doing that.”

When asked if there was a business case for adding more fiber, Stankey answered in the affirmative. Stankey said AT&T’s confidence level for deploying more fiber is even higher now due to increased traffic on its network as a result of the  Covid-19 lockdowns.

“There is clearly an easy path for us to think about a substantially larger fiber footprint than what we have today with returns that are as good as the great returns we’ve gotten from the first tranche that we’ve built,” Stankey said.

“If you go in and look at the rest of our business on the core connectivity, we thought robust scale and connectivity networks were always going
to be important. And what we’ve seen is what was important in the urban areas is now distributed. And while we’ve had good infrastructure in
place in many areas, we have an opportunity to go do more. We have an opportunity to think about more varied forms of access that are more
flexible. And I think that, that plays right into our strength, and we’re looking at redoubling our efforts on those product development opportunities
that allow for true flexibility of bandwidth as somebody moves through a city center out to suburban areas. Our play in 5G, a more dense fiber
network all play really well into those thing.”

Stanky added that he was pleased with the investments the company has made in infrastructure and in its network over the last several years. Also, some of the new initiatives round FirstNet and focus on the development of 5G are really starting to to “bear fruit” in terms of AT&T’s  performance in the industry.

In closing, Goldman moderator John E. Waldron asked the AT&T CEO, “If we were to have this conversation 5 to 10 years from now, how do you think AT&T will have changed from the company you are today?”

Stankey talked up AT&T’s broadband services and entertainment products:

“If I were to think about 5 years out and what I’d like to be able to come and tell you is, to my point earlier, that we are focused in a set .of products; that we’re really proud of in the market that were — that customers love and think are really strong; that our broadband connectivity products (these are actually services, not products), whether you’re a business with a complicated distributed network or you’re at home, using one of our fixed broadband connections or a subscriber of our wireless service, you view them as being the best-in-class that are there; that our entertainment products are unique and that you can’t live without the stories that we’re telling; and that our employees who bring those products and services to our customers have a lot of pride in those, and they see them as being best-in-class and unique and special in the market. And that’s kind of universally held across our business. And as a result of that, employees want to come, not only continue to work here, we’re able to go out the market and recruit because people say, “Those are great products. It’s a great company that offers those things, and I feel compelled to want to go and participate in that.” So a high degree of employee loyalty around the products and services that we bring in that manifest itself in great employee engagement and great customer receptivity of those products. And 5 years from now that we’re known in that regard.”