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AT&T Exec: Fiber Not Required

A top AT&T executive reiterated at an investment conference Tuesday that the telco currently doesn’t see the need to deploy an expensive fiber-to-the-home network, although a company spokesman clarified that AT&T will continue to consider FTTH in new, "greenfield" developments.

Chief financial officer Rick Lindner, speaking at the Credit Suisse conference in New York, said, "Our view at this point is that we're not going to have go fiber-to-the-home. We're pleased with the bandwidth that we're seeing over copper," according to Reuters.

In most cases, AT&T's strategy is to use very high-speed digital subscriber line (VDSL), operating at up to 25 megabits per second, to deliver its U-verse TV service over existing copper wiring to homes. U-verse is currently available in San Antonio and parts of Houston. Verizon Communications, by contrast, is planning to spend $18 billion over six years on its FiOS FTTH buildout.

AT&T spokesman Brad Mays said Lindner’s comments are “consistent with what we have been saying all along,” which is that AT&T will not have to adopt a complete fiber-to-the-premises approach to support video and other high-bandwidth services.

“We have consistently said that AT&T's is primarily a [fiber-to-the-node] approach,” Mays said. “Where appropriate, we will consider FTTP. This has primarily been in greenfield situations to date, but it could be in other areas as necessary.”

Lindner said words to that effect on AT&T's earnings call for the second quarter of 2006 in July. "We are not looking at any options at this point that would involve fiber-to-the-premises, other than in situations that are new builds," he said in responding to an analyst's question, according to a transcript.

For example, in June, AT&T said it would build an FTTH network to deliver U-verse to a 20,000-household planned community in the Houston area, called Bridgeland, which is currently under construction.

Nevertheless, some analysts interpreted Lindner’s comments Tuesday as a sign that AT&T is somehow retreating on FTTH.

"We view this as a backing off of previous plans for U-verse, and it can be nothing but good for the cable companies," wrote Jefferies & Co. analysts David Brenner, Robert Routh and Meredith Fisher in a note to investors.