AT&T Plans Satellite Broadband, WiMAX

AT&T is dead serious about broadband, and is expanding its range of broadband offerings. AT&T Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre outlined company’s future broadband plans at the Detroit Economic Club.

* AT&T will start selling a satellite-based broadband service later this month in select rural markets in AT&T’s residential service territory, most of which are not served by landline broadband services today. AT&T will work with satellite provider WildBlue and will start selling the satellite-based non-DSL broadband service in select rural markets later in May, with potential additional market availability later in the year. WildBlue will provide all of the necessary equipment for the service.

* Whitacre confirmed that its Project Lightspeed video services will be available within three years to more than 5.5 million low-income households as part of its initial build in 41 target markets.

* AT&T is ramping up its WiMAX and other fixed wireless efforts, and is planning new deployments later this year in Texas and Nevada. AT&T already has fixed wireless service offers in Alaska, Georgia and New Jersey.

In the AT&T traditional local service area, these initiatives could help bring broadband to as many as 11.5 million additional homes and businesses, the company estimates.

The WiMAX and fixed wireless efforts from what I can see are still in the evaluation stage. (Sort of like what the old AT&T was doing except in two more states.) Some of AT&T’s new found religion could be attributed to some harsh business realities.

* UBS Research estimates that the consumer revenue growth for the Bells slowed in 1Q to 2% from 3-4% with Consumer ARPU growth declining to 3% from the recent 5-6% trend.

* Video is not a factor, up until 2009, and DSL/Broadband is the only way to keep the money flowing at a stable rate.

* In DSL, Bell retail penetration is down to roughly 66% of homes passed from 69% a year ago (vs 53% for cable MSOs.)