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Wireless Carrier Review: AT&T

AT&T is a telecommunications leader that specializes in wireless network communications, mobile solutions, and 5G technology. 

The company is headquartered in Dallas, Texas, and has 5,436 store locations in the United States. In 2020, AT&T reported over 230,000 employees worldwide. 

AT&T offers a range of solutions for businesses, such as wireless networking, broadband, the Internet of Things (IoT), and mobile security. 

See below to learn more about AT&T:

Mobile solutions

The following products are some of the key mobile products in AT&T's business portfolio.

Multi-Access Edge Computing 

AT&T's solution for edge computing and networking, multi-access edge computing (MEC), is suited for businesses that have robotic or Industry 4.0 applications and artificial intelligence (AI). It gives businesses LTE and 5G networking capabilities. Through MEC, users can manage whether their data remains on premises or resides in a cloud environment.

MEC can integrate with Microsoft's cloud services platform and cloud applications. For businesses that have stadium locations, factories, or stores, MEC helps meet low-latency application needs.

NetMotion

AT&T's virtual private network (VPN) platform, through VPN provider NetMotion, manages device and application access for companies. Customers can set limits on users, prioritizing application access by setting parameters, and monitor mobile device use. NetMotion keeps devices and applications connected to a network even when bandwidth is low. 

NetMotion is supported by some devices and operating system versions (OS) within iOS, Samsung KNOX, Windows, Android, and Mac. NetMotion CORE, a VPN for remote employees, is one of the products offered. It gives users military-grade encryption and diagnostics. 

CORE+ includes the same features as CORE and allows businesses to create policies that affect end users. COMPLETE, the third choice in the NetMotion suite, includes digital experience monitoring and zero-trust features. 

Private Mobile Connection

AT&T's private mobile solution makes company wide area networks (WANs) extensible to cellular mobile points. Users have a variety of IP address options for their private mobile network. AT&T network data center segments direct wireless traffic to another center if it can no longer be hosted in the current one or pass through it. 

The private mobile connection provides redundancy for backing up data and failover when mission-critical applications must continue to run. This solution is best for wireline-connected businesses, a type of cable connection, and not ideal for fully wireless use cases. Non-wireline-connected businesses can use the solution successfully for low-bandwidth applications and temporary deployments, AT&T says, but this isn't a full private wireless network.

IoT Managed Services

Through managed services, AT&T gives IoT business users a series of monitoring and reporting capabilities. IoT managed services provide reporting, so teams can view all their IoT spending and allocations, SIM card management, and billing. Users can also receive IoT console administration training.

The managed services solution also gives businesses biannual health checks of their IoT systems. Users can choose between two support options — Enhanced Support Services, which outsources management to the AT&T Control Center, and Enhanced Support Services Priority Care, which provides ample technical service.

Also Read: Which Mobile Carrier Has the Best Network in the US?

AT&T's map visualizing its concentrations of 5G and 4G LTE overage in the United States. Photo via AT&T.

AT&T's map visualizing its concentrations of 5G and 4G LTE coverage in the United States. Photo via AT&T.

Partnerships

Google Cloud

AT&T partners with Google Cloud on business-focused 5G and edge computing. The multi-access edge computing solution by AT&T is part of the partnership: Google's platform adds data analytics, AI capabilities, and Kubernetes support. MEC is intended to help enterprises run applications closer to their users, whether that's on premises, in a cloud environment, or in a data center.

AT&T Network Edge (ANE), for Google business and application users, is scheduled to come to metropolitan areas in 2021. ANE is designed for deploying Google applications at Google edge points of presence on AT&T's networks, particularly 5G and fiber. 

Microsoft Azure

Similarly, AT&T has partnered with Microsoft Azure to use its ANE and Microsoft's cloud services to create a network cloud: organizations will be able to deploy applications at the network edge to reduce latency for their business processes. 

Azure also acquired AT&T's Network Cloud, which has run AT&T's 5G core network. "Microsoft’s decision to acquire these assets is a testament to AT&T’s leadership in network virtualization, culture of innovation, and realization of a telco-grade cloud stack," said Andre Fuetsch, AT&T's CTO and executive vice president.

AT&T and Microsoft are working together on virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and drone proofs of concept. AT&T plans to use 5G+, its millimeter-wave spectrum, when possible for these applications.

Women's athletics 

AT&T has also partnered with athletic organizations, sponsoring the WNBA and the U.S. Women's National Team and making efforts to support and curate accurate portrayals of women in media and marketing. These efforts encompass She's Connected, AT&T's campaign for empowering and strengthening women. 

Through She's Connected, AT&T shows four female athletes from different athletic backgrounds in a documentary-style program. These athletes also receive access to small business services by AT&T, to give them opportunities to grow in the midst of busy careers and wearing multiple hats. 

"We are making impactful change for women now and women in the future to follow and achieve their dreams on any field, court, course, front office or boardroom," said Shiz Suzuki, AT&T's associate vice president of Sponsorships & Experiential Marketing, about She's Connected. 

First Responder Network Authority

The First Responder Network Authority uses AT&T's network to increase public safety through better communications. The resulting network, known as FirstNet, creates a pathway for public safety workers to use network communications without being bogged down by bandwidth problems and the inability to learn and convey important information.

FirstNet's initial funding came from the Federal Communications Commission's spectrum auction rather than taxes, according to the First Responder Network Authority. 

Technology deployed in the United States includes communications vehicles (CVs), which have a control panel and multiple devices, and Micro SatCOLTS, which help firefighters in the West as they tackle wildfires.

User opinion

Some users are not impressed with the effectiveness of AT&T's IoT solution. The company also has some customer service complaints about managed IoT, according to Gartner Peer Insights. 

However, AT&T's network connectivity as a whole has good reviews, though some rural areas lacked good coverage, Gartner reviews also revealed.

In Q1 2021 wireless network testing, AT&T received many median scores from testing firms Opensignal, Ookla, and RootMetrics, scoring somewhere between rivals Verizon and T-Mobile. In Ookla's test, AT&T scored particularly well in median download speeds, ranking the highest in 30 states. Its high-performing median download speeds included city tests. 

Use cases

HCS

AT&T worked with HCS Construction in Texas, which wanted to use cloud-based applications for construction workers in a variety of zones outside the office. Many construction sites didn't have adequate connectivity for them to reliably use those apps.

Through AT&T, HCS used NETGEAR Nighthawk 5G hotspots to transfer data — and, according to HCS’ Director of Construction Mike Ballerino, they transfer a large amount of data. Ballerino highlights the faster job performance and smoother workflows that HCS was able to implement through AT&T's solution, such as being able to access software and documents more quickly. 

"We feel that we're important to AT&T," Ballerino says, also sharing his positive experience with the AT&T representative assigned to HCS's account.

Siemens 

Siemens Corporation, a subsidiary of Siemens AG, engaged AT&T to provide better connections for the company’s electric vehicle charging stations. Siemens specializes in intelligent infrastructure, mobility for transportation, and electric vehicles. It needed better software updates, equipment monitoring, and reliable transactions at its charging stations.

Siemens also needed to send vehicle energy consumption data to the cloud from the charging stations, which aren't always near Wi-Fi and needed IoT connections. AT&T's IoT allowed them to do that. 

"The connected devices can tell my team when a repair is needed," says Sean Ackley, the head of managed services in Siemens' eMobility Solutions and Future Grid Division, adding that Siemens could then convey to clients if an alert identifies something wrong in the vehicle.

Siemens also had many meetings with its AT&T Business account team in order to deploy the solution and received support from them.

Financial position

AT&T (NYSE: T) earned consolidated revenues of $171.8 billion in 2020, and its free cash flow was $27.5 billion for the year. 

"Our strong cash generation in 2020 allowed us to finish the year with our full-year dividend payout ratio at 54.5%," said CEO John Stankey in the company's 2020 annual report, after stating his confidence that AT&T supports the dividend based on its 2020 and predicted 2021 free cash flow numbers. 

The 52-week high for AT&T’s stock was $33.88, and the 52-week low was $26.35 at the original time of writing (July 2021).

In 2021, AT&T business aims to invest in its fiber and wireless infrastructure, particularly for supporting broadband traffic.

AT&T participated in the C-band spectrum auction in March 2021, purchasing 29% of the available mid-band 5G licenses and spending $23.45 billion. Rivals Verizon and T-Mobile purchased 62% and 2%.

The company plans to spend between $6-$8 billion in capital expenditures on its 5G deployment, largely between 2022 and 2024. 

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