Business Monday

AT&T executive: AT&T investing big to develop its South Florida network

Carlos Blanco, vice president and general manager for AT&T Florida, demonstrates how a porch light at his home can be controlled through his cell phone.
Carlos Blanco, vice president and general manager for AT&T Florida, demonstrates how a porch light at his home can be controlled through his cell phone. FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

“Imagine traffic on I-95 doubling every eight months to a year,” said Carlos Blanco, AT&T’s vice president and general manager for mobility and consumer markets in Florida, one of the country’s fastest-growing areas for wireless service.

“At AT&T mobility, we successfully deal with this every day,” said Blanco, who has offices in Fort Lauderdale and Miami and travels frequently throughout the state.

And this trend is accelerating. “The wireless industry now is probably the most competitive it’s ever been,” he said. “Traffic on our mobile data network nationwide increased 100,000 percent from January 2007 to December 2014. More devices are connecting, which means more devices are using — and creating — more data. The majority of consumer traffic on our network is video, and entertainment-based video is leading the way and growing.”

To meet this burgeoning demand, AT&T is making major investments to develop a new network that uses the most advanced technologies and open-network principles, resulting in a smart, software-defined network, he said. Simply adding equipment to the network as needed — the old way of doing things — is no longer sustainable. “Our goal is to virtualize and control over 75 percent of our network using this new architecture by 2020,” he said. By that time, AT&T envisions “all mobile, all cloud and all IP [Internet protocol].”

Blanco, who was born in Venezuela and has worked for AT&T since 2009, said the company invested nearly $2.8 billion statewide between 2012 and 2014 in wireless and wireline networks, with $875 million going to Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. These investments drove a range of enhancements to upgrade reliability, coverage speed and performance for residents and business customers.

In the Miami area, the company has expanded the reach of its network, providing nearly 26,500 new customer locations with access to AT&T U-verse High Speed Internet, video and voice services.

Nationwide, AT&T has invested nearly $140 billion in its wireless and wireline networks, including acquisitions of wireless spectrum and operations between 2009-14, more than any other public company in the United States.

Last year, AT&T activated 37 new cell sites and added extra capacity to nearly 500 more to improve the performance of mobile Internet data and voice connectivity for its South Florida customers, said Blanco, who held several executive positions in international telecommunications before joining AT&T.

“And our investment is paying off,” said the AT&T vice president, who has a degree in electrical engineering from the Universidad Metropolitana in Caracas and an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business.

“AT&T has the nation’s most reliable 4G LTE [Long-Term Evolution] network and the strongest LTE signal based on independent third-party data” for national carriers, he said. “Wireless signal strength is important regardless of topography,” he said. “Consider the concentration of concrete structures [in South Florida] built to withstand hurricanes.”

While the company does not release regional data for competitive reasons, AT&T added about 1.2 million postpaid and prepaid branded smartphones to its U.S. network in the first quarter of 2015, and saw strong growth in other wireless business. Florida is one of the key markets driving new demand for company services.

The upcoming acquisition of DIRECTV, which operates in the U.S. and 11 Latin American countries, will make AT&T the largest pay TV provider and add a new dimension to the company’s services.

In Florida, the company currently provides business customers and consumers with AT&T U-verse TV, voice and high-speed Internet options; Digital Life home automation and security service; mobile broadband; Wi-Fi, local and long-distance service; and a range of services for businesses and governments.

AT&T has focused on new mobile and cloud-based services in Florida, such as its wireless home automation and security service, called AT&T Digital Life. This allows homeowners using a mobile device or a connected car to monitor the inside and outside of their homes and controls lights, air conditioning and other devices.

It is also developing a host of other services that are part of the Internet of Things (IoT), connecting home and business devices to the Internet.

One such service AT&T has launched is connected cars, which offers a traveling Wi-Fi hotspot and Internet connectivity, voice-activated functions, navigation and traffic aids, monitoring of car safety and performance, as well as new entertainment options.

Another service, soon to be launched with Royal Phillips health and technology, is a wearable medical alert device for seniors that works in areas where GPS may not be available.

AT&T has chosen Miami to be the first city in Florida to receive its ultra-fast GigaPower network, Blanco said. This all-fiber network will provide consumers and small business with broadband upload and download speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second.

“How fast is that?” Blanco asked. “You can download an HD online movie in less than 36 seconds.”

The writer can be reached at josephmannjr@gmail.com.

AT&T Inc.

Business: Worldwide provider of telecommunications services. In South Florida and throughout the state, AT&T provides consumer and business wireline (land line) and wireless services. These include AT&T U-verse TV, voice and high-speed Internet options; Digital Life home automation and security service; mobile broadband; Wi-Fi, local and long-distance service and a range of services for businesses and governments. Business units operating in South Florida include mobility, business solutions, home solutions and advanced technology organization networks.

Founded: The Bell Telephone Co., which later became the original AT&T, was founded in 1877.

AT&T in Florida: AT&T’s first local telephone exchange was opened in Jacksonville in 1880. The first office in Miami was opened around 1928. The Northwest 79th Street office in Miami has been operating since 1972.

Florida management: Joe York, president; Carlos Blanco, vice president and general manager for mobility and consumer markets.

Corporate headquarters: Dallas.

Florida headquarters: The company has offices in Jacksonville, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and other cities, but its executives operate from mobile headquarters wherever they happen to be.

Employees: More than 15,000 statewide.

South Florida operations: Three call centers (one in Miami, two in Sunrise), 16 administrative offices and 66 network centers. Statewide, AT&T has eight call centers.

Stores: There are 135 AT&T-owned stores statewide and 247 authorized retailers. AT&T products and services are also sold at 509 national retailers in Florida.

Ownership: Publicly traded on the NYSE (Symbol T).

Revenues: $132.4 billion in 2014.

Website: www.att.com.

Source: AT&T

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