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AT&T Gets Additional Spectrum Due to Coronavirus Crisis

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AT&T Inc. (T - Free Report) has secured the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC”) Special Temporary Authority to use the additional spectrum to help meet Americans’ wireless broadband needs during the coronavirus pandemic. On Mar 19, the Dallas, TX-based wireless carrier was granted authority for 60 days to operate in Advanced Wireless Services (AWS)-4 Band spectrum licensed to DISH.

The following day, both AT&T and Verizon Communications (VZ - Free Report) were granted a similar authority to use the AWS-3 spectrum, which is currently held in the FCC’s inventory. With this, the Commission has now granted Special Temporary Authority to AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile US (TMUS - Free Report) and U.S. Cellular (USM - Free Report) to strengthen wireless capacity nationwide.

The FCC has been helping Americans to work from home, learn at home and connect remotely to health care professionals during this hour of crisis. So far, more than 550 companies and associations have signed the chairman’s pledge to Keep Americans Connected. Broadband and phone service providers have agreed to take specific steps to help people stay connected for the next 60 days. They have committed to not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay bills, waive late fees due to economic circumstances, and open Wi-Fi hotspots to anyone who needs them.

AT&T has created a $10 million Distance Learning and Family Connections Fund to support parents, teachers and students during the COVID-19 school closures. For the safety of employees, the company has decided to double the hours for paid, excused time off to up to a total of 160 hours for those who are unable to resume their professional obligations due to protective measures. While offering ‘work from home’ options to employees who don’t require on-site presence, AT&T has established six new “command centers” to cater to higher broadband demand for homes, new circuits, and unified communication services.

The company withdrew its plans to purchase $4 billion in stock buybacks to remain flexible during the coronavirus outbreak. AT&T previously announced that it had entered into an accelerated share repurchase agreement with Morgan Stanley to repurchase $4 billion of stock during the second quarter. However, the contagious disease and its grave impact on the economy have forced the company to reconsider the buyback plan.

AT&T added that it is unable to estimate the impact on its financial or operational results. Among the factors that could impact its results are the effectiveness of COVID-19 mitigation measures, global economic conditions, consumer spending, work from home trends and supply chain sustainability. These factors could result in increased or decreased demand for the company’s products and services and impact its ability to serve customers. That said, it continues to care for employees and enhance network, including nationwide 5G. The investments will help ensure that the company is well positioned when the pandemic passes and economies begin to recover.

On Mar 16, AT&T announced that it has introduced a 5G network to 20 more markets. With this, the company is now offering access to 5G on its unlimited wireless plans for consumers and businesses in a total of 100 markets across the United States. 5G+ is currently available in parts of 35 cities for customers with compatible plans and devices. The company is scheduled to report first-quarter 2020 results on Apr 22, before the opening bell.

AT&T’s shares have lost 28.4% compared with 19.6% decline recorded by the industry in the past six months.

AT&T currently has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

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