AT&T Exec Talks $1.3B FirstNet Reimbursement, 5G Plans
Tuesday, November 20, 2018 | Comments

AT&T expects to receive a $1.3 billion reimbursement from the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) during the fourth quarter, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) John Stephens said.

During a recent Morgan Stanley Conference, Stephens said that the company had spent about $600 million on FirstNet in the third quarter and received no reimbursements during that quarter. AT&T's recently released financial results for the third quarter say that the company spent about $560 million on FirstNet in the quarter.

“We got the authorization that we had passed a milestone and will get $1.3 billion in reimbursements,” Stephens said. He did not specify what that milestone was.

An AT&T spokesperson said that the company had met milestones for both coverage and deployables but said the company couldn't share specifics. 

Stephens discussed how the company’s buildout of the FirstNet network will assist it in moving toward 5G technology. In the past Stephens and other AT&T executives have talked about how the buildout of 700 MHz band 14 spectrum will allow AT&T to efficiently deploy other spectrum it has in inventory at the same time.

“The goal today, when we’re touching a tower, is to not only put up the 700 MHz, AWS (Advanced Wireless Services) 3, WCS (Wireless communications Service) spectrum, but to make it all 5G capable so when the 5G software comes out next year, we’ll be able to download it into a computer as opposed to climbing a tower to turn it on,” Stephens said. “ … It’s an exciting spot. We’re ready for it, we’re leading the technological development, and we’re in the best place to deploy it because of FirstNet.”

Stephens said AT&T plans to have 5G capabilities in 12 cities by the end of the year and in 19 cities by early next year.

Stephens declined to specifically address mid-band spectrum opportunities, such as the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), pointing to the ongoing 24 and 28 GHz spectrum auctions.

He said AT&T has a swath of millimeter-wave spectrum at 39 GHz — averaging just less than 400 megahertz across the country — that it acquired as part of its acquisition of FiberTower and is using to test and build 5G capabilities.

“So we have a solution already under the umbrella of our spectrum inventory that we’re excited about,” he said.

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