AT&T invests in and upgrades our network to bring customers the connectivity they expect and need. We build our infrastructure and network for reliability, speed, security and overall performance, which means having the people, resources and procedures to keep everyone connected.
1 Includes capital investments and acquisition of wireless spectrum and operations.
The communications industry is one of 16 infrastructure sectors designated as critical by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. AT&T operates one of the world’s largest, most prominent and advanced global backbone networks.
Network reliability is crucial, and our integrated network provides stability and strength to customers. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve provided reliable connectivity to customers, including first responders and healthcare workers on the front lines – as well as students, teachers, businesses and employees working from home. Read more in our connectivity blog.
To maintain the highest degree of reliability and quality of service, our systems collect billions of service-assurance measurements across our wired and wireless networks every hour and make adjustments as needed to improve service. We aggregate and analyze this data in near-real time to derive insights that help manage our network, improve performance and deliver the best possible customer experience.
To learn about our network management policies, see our Network Practices website. Our customers can also access information about network outages in their area for the services to which they subscribe on our Consumer Network Reliability website.
AT&T continually invests in and enhances our network to drive service improvements for the customers and devices we connect. Over the past 6 years (2016–2021), AT&T has invested more than $135 billion in our wireless and wireline networks, including capital investments and acquisition of wireless spectrum and operations.
We invest in the latest technologies to deliver reliable, high-speed internet to urban, suburban and rural areas across America. We use a combination of fiber and 5G to be one of the country’s largest high-speed internet providers. In addition to expanding mobility coverage and capacity of our mobility network, we’re also taking an integrated fiber planning approach with the goal of attaching as many endpoints as possible to each strand of fiber. Expanding our fiber footprint allows us to offer fast, low-latency internet service to businesses and consumers.
Today, our 21-state home-internet footprint reaches more than 90 metro areas, and our fiber footprint covers about 16 million customer locations. To ensure our customers have the best connectivity solutions to meet their needs – whether they are working from home, engaging in remote learning or staying connected with their family and friends – we’re focused on a best-in-class product experience, including our recent introduction of multi-gig speeds of up to 5-Gigs in more than 70 metro areas – and growing. We are marching toward our fiber expansion goal to cover 30 million customer locations by year-end 2025.
AT&T now enables high-speed fiber connections to more than 2.75 million U.S. business customer locations. Through products such as AT&T Business Fiber, AT&T Switched Ethernet ServiceSM and AT&T Dedicated Internet, fiber in the AT&T network provides the bandwidth needed to support data-intensive services such as video, collaboration, cloud services and more for small and medium businesses. As demand for bandwidth and connectivity grew during the COVID-19 pandemic, our network remained stable while data traffic surged as people worked, learned and socialized online at home. And as those trends remain, we continue to provide our customers with the fast and reliable internet connectivity they need to succeed.
For the latest information on our deployment and coverage, visit AT&T Network website.
Network & Disaster Preparedness
Regular analysis helps ensure our cell sites can withstand natural disasters and other environmental factors. Our professional engineers conduct this analysis and complete upgrades or modifications to maintain safe, reliable tower capacity and to meet or exceed all applicable building codes. We also deploy high-capacity battery backup or permanent generators to all our cell sites, which in the event of power loss allow service continuity until primary power is restored.
To prepare our network in advance of natural disasters, such as hurricanes, we regularly test the batteries located at every site and take steps to ensure fixed generator fuel supplies are topped off. We’re also working to integrate our Climate Change Analysis Tool (CCAT) into the decision-making processes for infrastructure maintenance and construction. This tool helps visualize climate change risk on our infrastructure and make smarter, climate-informed decisions for building activities such as the placement of cell sites and other network assets. The rich climate datasets powering CCAT are publicly available so other organizations and communities can assess their vulnerability. We continue to expand CCAT, and upon completion, it will cover the entire contiguous U.S. and include projections for flooding, hurricanes, droughts and wildfires. Read more in our Climate Change issue brief.
We have invested more than $650 million in our Network Disaster Recovery (NDR) program, which exists to rapidly restore communications to areas affected by disasters. We are committed to on-the-ground testing and have conducted nearly 80 full-scale NDR recovery exercises in the field, which test the preparedness of our equipment and abilities. These drills help local and regional first responders understand the role and abilities of our NDR organization, and they maintain the readiness of our teams and equipment to respond at a moment’s notice to recover a failed network office or network element in disaster situations.
In the event of a disaster or other emergency, we implement procedures to quickly restore network functionality, provide critical resources to impacted employees, field customer inquiries and return or establish service in the communities where we operate.
To learn more about our business continuity preparedness, visit AT&T Disaster Preparedness.
Today more than 99% of the U.S. population and more than 2.81 million square miles are covered by FirstNet. This coverage means more first responders and the communities they serve – rural, urban and tribal – have gained access to the critical communications capabilities they need. Thousands of local, state and federal agencies, organizations and first responders – and millions of individual devices – connect to FirstNet.
Public safety agencies have access to a nationwide, dedicated fleet of more than 100 land-based and airborne portable cell sites, including 3 Flying COWs™ – which are cell sites on drones – and the FirstNet One blimp. And the FirstNet App Catalog includes reliable applications built and tested specifically for public safety’s needs.
The impacts of FirstNet have been tangible, and it is changing the game for public safety. Since bringing the specialized communications platform to life in 2018, first responders have relied on FirstNet in situations such as active shootings, bombings and plane crashes, as well as hurricanes, floods, fires, tornadoes, mudslides and earthquakes. In 2021, the FirstNet team at AT&T provided critical communications during Hurricane Ida, the Miami Surfside condominium collapse and the wildfires on the West Coast. We’ll continue to expand our support in 2022 and beyond, supporting continued vaccination efforts across the country and responding to unprecedented weather events, as well as other disasters and emergencies whenever they occur.
To learn more, visit the FirstNet website.
At AT&T, our network is built to address rapidly changing customer needs and the evolving nature of communications and entertainment. We are focused on driving the development of network virtualization, which shifts control of the network from hardware to software, giving customers more control of their network services.
The virtualization of our network, including our software-based networking controls, is at the foundation of everything we do. An open, software-centric network enables AT&T to respond rapidly to any new demand on the network and enables a more agile, dynamic network that can elastically scale to meet our customers’ demands. In comparison to the network 5 years ago, what would have taken us weeks and months to add network capacity now takes us minutes and hours.
Our core network is 100% under software-defined control, as are many other areas of our network. This allows us to respond rapidly to any surges in network traffic or other issues, quickly enable capacity enhancements, and promptly address any security concerns. Additionally, our 5G mobility core is fully cloud native and powered by our industry-leading Network Cloud platform. In June 2021, Microsoft announced it would acquire our Network Cloud technology and use it as the basis for its new Azure for Operators platform. We plan to run and manage our 5G mobility core network workloads on the new Azure for Operators hybrid cloud platform in the future.
This shift to network virtualization allows us to deliver new and unique services faster, collaborate with new partners, and take advantage of innovations eﬃciently. Examples of our network innovations for our business customers include:
- Edge-to-Edge Technologies: Provide near-real-time intelligence from every corner of a business. Part of our mission is to help business customers evolve from hardware-centric to software-centric networks, increasing their agility and transforming the way they work. The AT&T FlexWareSM platform simplifies the process of adding network functions by deploying a single universal piece of equipment and choosing virtualized network functions (such as those provided by a software-defined wide-area network, router or firewall) based on a particular site’s needs.
- AT&T Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN): Dynamically routes data traﬃc across multiple wide-area network connections. This allows business customers to expand their current highly secure network with lower-cost broadband connections. AT&T is the market leader in providing managed SD-WAN solutions to enterprise businesses globally. In 2021, we integrated our managed SD-WAN capabilities to include a variety of managed cloud security solutions for AT&T Secure Access Service Edge offers.
- AT&T Switched Ethernet ServiceSM: Self-service networking solution that lets businesses quickly order more ports, add or change services, or scale bandwidth.
For more information, visit AT&T Software-Defined Network.
Mobility Network Architecture
While AT&T’s 5G coverage is rapidly expanding, we’re continuing to invest in our 4G LTE network to provide our customers with the performance and reliability they expect, no matter where they are. Our approach to our 4G LTE mobility network architecture includes:
- Deploying transmission equipment closer to the antennas on our cell towers to improve network performance, help extend coverage and enhance speed and reliability. Cell towers are connected to the AT&T network via fiber cables – these connections are being enhanced to enable faster wireless connections.
- Densifying our network through various access points and placing antennas where they have the most impact through the use of small cells, macro cells and distributed antenna systems. This serves both 4G LTE and 5G service, while also helping efficiently deploy spectrum assets.
- Using a distributed core to enable low latency and fast speeds. Our network is designed with its core elements distributed across the country. That means data traﬃc gets on the internet faster, which increases mobile data speeds.
- Connecting individual cell sites to the AT&T network core with high-speed, reliable fiber cables (ethernet backhaul), which provide fast connections.
Much like 4G introduced the world to the gig economy, we believe mobile 5G will jump-start the next wave of unforeseen innovation. As 5G devices become broadly available we expect adoption of mobile 5G to outpace any previous wireless generation, going from years to months. Since becoming the first to introduce standards-based mobile 5G in the U.S., AT&T now offers 5G nationwide. We use “5G” to refer to our 5G offering over low-band spectrum, with fast speeds over broader distances, and “5G+” to refer to 5G over millimeter wave and C-Band spectrums, which enable even faster speeds and increased connectivity.
Read more about AT&T 5G.
We strive to be responsible and supportive corporate citizens in our communities. If a community expresses concerns about AT&T network investments or activities, the concern or grievance is collected through our state External & Legislative Affairs teams and our Office of the President and reported to the appropriate department for resolution.
We work closely with local communities on all construction activities, including local and state processes for permitting, advance notice and approvals on our infrastructure investments.