No fibre from AT&T? We can do better, T-Mobile tells US

No fibre from AT&T? We can do better, T-Mobile tells US

16 October 2020 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Just days after AT&T stopped selling copper-based broadband connections in the US, its Deutsche Telekom-owned rival has stepped in to offer a wireless alternative.

T-Mobile US says it is now offering its 4G-based home internet service to an extra 20 million households in parts of 450 cities and towns – and it is directly linking its campaign to AT&T’s decision to stop selling new digital subscriber line (DSL) connections after the start of this month.

Mike Sievert, CEO of T-Mobile, said: “We can’t stand idly by while AT&T leaves potentially millions with fewer home internet options at a time when our connection to the internet is so vital – for work, remote school, connection with family and friends. That’s why we’re undertaking this massive expansion.” The company is charging US$50 a month for the service, it said.

AT&T said in a corporate statement in September: “We’re beginning to phase out outdated services like DSL and new orders for the service will no longer be supported after October 1.”

The company said “current DSL customers will be able to continue their existing service” or move to fibre. But commentators said that fibre-to-the-home is available to under 30% of homes in the 21 states where it provided fixed residential telecoms services.

The Communications Workers of America – a trade union representing many telecoms staff – and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance said that AT&T is “making the digital divide worse and failing its customers and workers by not investing in crucial fibre-optic buildout that is the standard for broadband networks worldwide”.

They said in a report: “AT&T prioritises network upgrades to wealthier areas, leaving lower income communities with outdated technologies – households with fibre available have median income 34% higher than those with DSL only.”

That’s where T-Mobile US, which merged with Sprint on 1 April 2020, stepped in by expanding its fixed wireless access (FWA) offer.

Sievert said: “The carriers and the cableopoly have consistently over-promised and under-delivered when it comes to broadband access. Thanks to our merger with Sprint, we can end this and give millions in underserved communities more choices and competition for high-speed home broadband.”

The company said it has been piloting home internet on its 4G network, as it “prepares to launch 5G home internet across the country”. T-Mobile US claimed: “It’s clear the service is badly needed. 61% of rural households have no choice when it comes to high speed home broadband.”