AT&T, the US telecommunications group, plans to deploy satellite and new broadband wireless technologies to extend the reach of its broadband ‘footprint’ and enable it to offer IPTV and other advanced services to its customers.

Ed Whitacre, AT&T’s chief executive, detailed the new initiatives in a wide ranging speech to the Detroit Economic Club on Monday.

Mr Whitacre noted that the US is currently ranked twelth in terms of broadband deployment, behind nations like Korea, Canada, Belgium and Japan. “This is not right,” he said, “it makes no sense that our country, which took the internet out of the lab and into the living room, now lags so many others.

“The challenge before all of us who build networks is to ensure that everyone has access to broadband and other leading-edge technologies.”

Mr Whitacre said AT&T will offer new satellite-based broadband services in rural markets where DSL is not available and will expand its trials of and expand its investment in an emerging wireless broadband technology called WiMax.

“We are beginning to offer satellite-based broadband service in areas where our DSL service is not available today, giving more consumers a broadband choice,” he said. AT&T will form a partnership with Wildblue, a satellite-based high-speed internet provider, to provide the service.

“We are also deploying trials of fixed-wireless broadband,“ Mr Whitacre said with new WiMax technology trials in both Texas and Nevada. “Fixed wireless can broaden our reach by using this technology to deliver broadband without having to lay new fibre or copper wire.

“Today, we reach more than 80 per cent of our residential customers with DSL service,” Mr Whitacre said. “My hope is that through initiatives such as these, we can bring the benefits of broadband to all our customers.”

AT&T, which has announced plans to acquire BellSouth, already ranks as the biggest DSL provider in the US and is investing heavily in a new fibre optic based network dubbed ‘Project LightSpeed’. As part of this initiative AT&T said that over the next three years, Project LightSpeed will reach more than 5.5m low-income households.

Project LightSpeed will enable AT&T to offer a bundle of advanced voice, video and data services and compete directly with cable TV operators.

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