AT&T Completes 1/3 of FirstNet Buildout, 6 Months Ahead of Schedule
Wednesday, December 05, 2018 | Comments

AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said the company has completed one-third of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) buildout, and the carrier is six months ahead of schedule of the buildout requirements in the FirstNet contract.

During the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference Dec. 4, Stephenson said that the ability to build a nationwide first responder network and pursue that market opportunity was important because AT&T has a low share of the public-safety market.

He said that during 2019, AT&T will make overall capital investments of $23 billion and will generate $26 billion of free cash flow. The carrier will use $12 billion for debt reduction. Financial analysts have expressed concern regarding the company’s high debt load following its merger with WarnerMedia.

The 2019 $23 billion capital investment excludes an expected FirstNet reimbursement of around $1 billion and includes potential vendor financing.

The company spent about $560 million on FirstNet in the third quarter of 2018 and received no reimbursements during that quarter. AT&T expects to receive a $1.3 billion reimbursement from FirstNet during the fourth quarter of 2018, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) John Stephens said last month.

Stephenson said that by the end of 2019, because it plans to turn up FirstNet and other spectrum in its portfolio, network capacity will increase by 50 percent. “This is a big deal,” he said. “I have really, really high expectations in terms of what it does for our 5G deployment, what it does for network quality and capacity over the next few months, and then just a new business market for us to pursue.”

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