LIVE FROM BIG 5G EVENT, DENVER, US: Mo Katibeh, AT&T SVP network infrastructure and build, asserted the operator is deploying more fibre than any company in the US, but warned it is concerned about a tight labour market as it builds the fixed and 5G networks.
Katibeh explained fibre and 5G were closely linked, with AT&T’s investment in both in part motivated by changes in network traffic patterns triggered by the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
He showed the audience graphs of its network traffic (see chart, below, click to enlarge) which showed uplink demand was now almost as heavy as down, a trend AT&T believes will outlast the pandemic.
“You can’t talk about 5G without talking about fibre”, Katibeh said. “We’re building more fibre this year than anyone else in America, and maybe even the world, and that is going to continue”.
AT&T has committed to “more than doubling” the number of customer locations passed by fibre, targeting 30 million by the end of 2025. Use cases for the network are connectivity for 5G sites, home and enterprise, he added.
Heavier demand for broadband is one of the reasons the US government is funnelling money into communications infrastructure, Katibeh said.
He explained network investments being made by the government and private sector are increasing the need for skilled workers, with demand now ahead of supply.
AT&T’s analysis showed the staff pool growing at roughly 2.5 per cent annually, while industry demand is rising at 4 per cent.
Katibeh described the gap as a “macro headwind” for the industry, arguing companies need to cooperate to build training programmes which can increase the supply of skilled workers.
“Just at AT&T we are literally hiring thousands of people this year to build fibre networks and mobile networks,” Katibeh said. “Our partner ecosystem is also creating a staggering number of jobs”.
Katibeh also explained AT&T plans “to deploy more C-Band to more people than anyone else” in the US for 5G.
He predicted AT&T will cover roughly 200 million people with its C-Band spectrum by the end of 2023, while mmWave deployments will be more focused on highly trafficked venues.
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