AT&T's 5G rollout deservedly has taken the spotlight recently, but this next-generation connectivity would not have happened without the Tier 1 provider's long-time, ongoing work in the literal trenches.
"Fiber underlies everything we do, whether it's wireline or wireless," said Scott Mair, president of operations at AT&T, who is responsible for solutions design across the network, planning and engineering. "Fiber matters."
In fact, fiber has never mattered more to AT&T and other CSPs due to its multiple uses and returns on investment. Whereas fiber once delivered one source of income, today a fiber deployment has numerous prospective customers -- a goldmine for the sales department but what could be a quagmire to engineers if they don't design their fiber deployment plans correctly, Mair said during a Barclays Global Technology Media and Telecommunications broker conference call earlier this month.
Plan on Future Growth When Mapping Out Fiber
With tooling, automation and integrated planning, fiber-deployment ROI goes from "good" to "great," says Scott Mair, president of operations at AT&T, due to the multiple uses and additional subscribers the operator has the opportunity to reach.
Once, fiber engineers gathered as much data as feasible for AT&T's integrated planning, he recalled. If a customer wanted fiber-based service, the engineer would use as little fiber as possible to deliver the service, Mair said.
"Today, when I get that order, a fiber engineer [and I] will take a look at, 'okay, what's the ROI for this job when I optimize it with the automation?' And with the databases and tooling that we have, the fiber engineer literally can push a button and say, 'the best solution for this is I can route it down this street, up that street, around the corner. I can make my way to that business at the end.' I could still provide my fiber, but now I'm passing 500 additional MDU units. I'm passing another 20 businesses that I can sell into," explained Mair.
These tools and careful planning increase ROI and amortization incrementally with each building passed -- whether that's individual homes, multi-dwelling units (MDUs) or office buildings from two-story strip malls to soaring skyscrapers, he continued.
"Before, I was passing two cell sites that I'm paying someone else transport and backhaul for, where I can now put it on my own network. I know where I'm going to be building small cells in the future. We can plan out that," Mair said. "I can route that fiber. So now I've optimized the route. I've optimized the sizing of the fiber. And my ROI goes from what would be a good ROI to a great ROI because of the tooling and automation and integrated planning that we're capable of doing now more than we've ever been able to do."
This ability is a competitive advantage: Not only is it more profitable, but providers with mastery of fiber-ROI maximization can deliver new services far faster than other operators.
"That is a key difference, right, because otherwise I would be missing opportunities. And so that tooling makes all the difference in the world, better solutions," said Mair. "In every one of those jobs I do, I'm that much closer to the next opportunity, the next business that I want to sell into. Where I might have been 1,500 feet away before, now I'm 500 feet. The incremental costs with incremental marginal time that I need to spend to get to that next business, it's a beautiful thing if you like to engineer networks."
You can read the complete transcript of Scott Mair and his conversation with Barclays Bank Analyst Kannan Venkateshwar on Seeking Alpha. The archived webcast also is available to subscribers.
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