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AT&T Communications Networking The Almighty Buck The Internet Wireless Networking Technology

All-IP Network Produces $100B Real Estate Windfall 229

Hugh Pickens writes "Daniel Berniger writes that one of the unexpected consequences of AT&T's transition to HD voice and all-IP networks is that the footprint of required network equipment will shrink by as much as 90 percent, translating into a $100 billion windfall as the global telecom giant starts emptying buildings and selling off the resulting real estate surplus. Since IP connections utilize logical address assignments, a single fiber can support an almost arbitrary number of end-user connections — so half a rack of VoIP network equipment replaces a room full of Class 4 and Class 5 circuit switching equipment, and equipment sheds replace the contents of entire buildings. AT&T's portfolio goes back more than 100 years, even as commercial real estate appreciated five fold since the 1970s, so growth of telephone service during the 20th century leaves the company with 250 million sq ft of floor space real estate in prime locations across America. 'The scale of the real estate divestiture challenge may justify creating a separate business unit to deal with the all-IP network transition,' writes Berniger, who adds that ATT isn't the only one who will benefit. 'The transition to all-IP networks allows carriers to sell-off a vast majority of the 100,000 or so central offices (PDF) currently occupying prime real estate around the globe.'"
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All-IP Network Produces $100B Real Estate Windfall

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  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Sunday February 12, 2012 @09:42AM (#39010555) Homepage

    Need I say more?

  • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 12, 2012 @09:43AM (#39010559)

    Being able and actually charging less are two very different things.

  • Office space glut! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 12, 2012 @09:45AM (#39010573)

    The summary sounds all rosey and it is just as simple as selling off unused office space. In order to sell something you need someone willing to buy it. It sounds like the office-space market is going to get flooded with office-space getting sold at liquidation prices in an already sucky economy. How many people are out of work and how many companies have folded? There's already lots of empty buildings. Oh, you now AT&T will unload even more office space? Yeah, this sounds great! Sigh.

  • by AliasMarlowe ( 1042386 ) on Sunday February 12, 2012 @09:47AM (#39010577) Journal

    They're reducing their costs, not their prices.
    Prices will go down if there is competitive pressure. Which apparently, is largely absent from the US market.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 12, 2012 @09:58AM (#39010599)

    Yes. Cheaper running costs, not only from the reduced equipment demands, but from all the staff that they no longer need to employ to fill all of those buildings.
    So, they make hefty profits from all this, a lot of people lose their jobs and naturally prices will rise, because customers need to pay for this amazing new technology that'll give them 'better service quality.'
    I may love technology and improved efficiency, but I can't help seeing this kind of thing and thinking that we (i.e. everyone except the telecom companies) might be better off without it.

  • by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Sunday February 12, 2012 @10:03AM (#39010619)

    Regulated monopolies are generally allowed a fixed return on investment. For instance, all of that copper laid down in the twenties though the seventies is listed as an asset that the telcos get a few percent profit on each year. And that includes those buildings.

    That means that AT&T will make a windfall of billions, but will also reduce their capitalization (and thus profits) going forward. They'd best invest wisely.

  • Re:So... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Sunday February 12, 2012 @10:06AM (#39010625) Homepage Journal

    Actually long distance has really come down a lot. You can get unlimited long distance on most land lines pretty cheap and most cells have unlimited long distance nights and weekends. There was a time when long distance was super expensive. Even 12 or so years ago it was not all that cheap. Today it really is pretty dang cheap. I would say that a lot of the benefits are already here.
    I guess no one here took economics. Demand drives pricing not the cost of production. If you can produce a high demand product inexpensively you make big profits. Ideally competition drives down prices because the costs are low enough that others will undercut your pricing. That has actually been working in the long distance phone market in the US. VOIP providers like Vontage, Comcast, and so on plus cell providers have pushed down the cost of land line long distance. The Telcoms are pretty evil as a rule but voice long distance pricing is not exactly one of their big sins today.

  • by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Sunday February 12, 2012 @10:07AM (#39010631)

    Their land-line business is regulated at set rates of return on investment. Sell off the capital base and they'll be required to reduce their land-line rates proportionately.

    Or at any rate, that's the theory. Actual results depend on public rate commissions. Wise citizens pay careful attention to them, and this is an election year.

  • by TraumaFox ( 1667643 ) on Sunday February 12, 2012 @10:15AM (#39010661)
    So really, how much of that $100 billion will actually be reinvested for things like improving national infrastructure and providing better service to customers, or anything that isn't cutting bigger bonus checks to top execs?
  • by Rockoon ( 1252108 ) on Sunday February 12, 2012 @10:36AM (#39010735)
    It is unlikely that the costs that these properties incur are significant compared to the total operating costs of AT&T. The $100 billion is in the value of the properties themselves, and as such the sale of them arent supposed to effect the price of service that AT&T provides.

    Car analogy: You are an independent contractor and own a $60,000 car. You wouldn't charge less for your services just because you sold the $60,000 car.
  • by GLMDesigns ( 2044134 ) on Sunday February 12, 2012 @10:44AM (#39010767)
    Look at movies from 50 years ago and see the floors full of secretaries. Those jobs are all gone now. Look at movies from 100 years ago. There were horses. The horse-shoers all lost their jobs. 120 years ago 80% of Americans worked in farms now 2% do. Look at all those lost jobs.

    Efficiency is good. It helps.

    If what you were saying was correct we should get rid of concrete mixers and pumps and have slews of people mix the concrete and carry it in buckets to where it needs to be poured.

    That would be silly wouldn't it. Again increasing efficiency in the system is a general good.

  • by poetmatt ( 793785 ) on Sunday February 12, 2012 @10:44AM (#39010769) Journal

    That's because of advances in technology and competition, not because of ATT passing their savings onto you.

  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Sunday February 12, 2012 @11:08AM (#39010887)

    Prices will go down if there is competitive pressure.

    It might happen. One company's "windfall" at operating with reduced capital is another company's reduced barrier to entry. In your own job, if your workload suddenly drops, do you think, "whee, now I can goof off all day," or do you think, "uh oh."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 12, 2012 @11:10AM (#39010903)

    Um, the real estate belongs to AT&T, not its customers: precisely what is it that the customers are supposed to expect from any sale of real estate?

  • by Alomex ( 148003 ) on Sunday February 12, 2012 @12:21PM (#39011343) Homepage

    You are making the same argument that Luddites were making in England 200 hundred years ago. What happened in between is that the work week went down from 76 hours a week to 40 hrs a week. A similar move needs to happen now, but with increase in vacation time to about a total of two months a year.

    Problem is that this would mean a modest drop in wages so you wouldn't be able to afford your McMansion and second SUV in the garage but we as a society just don't seem ready to give that up.

  • by isdnip ( 49656 ) on Sunday February 12, 2012 @12:53PM (#39011561)

    The huge savings in telephone company real estate happened over 20 years ago. Their big buildings were built for electromechanical switching systems, mostly installed between 1920 and 1970. The digital switches mostly installed in the 1980s were a fraction of the size, leaving lots of empty space in the big buildings. Some space has already been repurposed. And some is available, but the Bells don't want to give it up because it would make competition easier.

    Most of the real estate still used by telco gear is for line drivers, the stuff needed to run analog phones. Whether these are fed by VoIP or TDM doesn't matter; 90 volt power ring and 48 volt battery take space. They also take power, but home-based analog terminal adapters (local battery) use even more, so centralized power (common battery) is a net savings.

    Berninger is simply repeating Cisco memes, that somehow the magic pixie dust of IP makes everything wonderfuler. It's bullshit, but somebody has to call them on it.

  • by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Sunday February 12, 2012 @01:03PM (#39011621) Journal

    There is old story.

    An economist goes to visit a small South American country. As a visiting dignitary the a representative of the local government takes him to see the canal project the country is working on. Men are their laboring away in the heat amongst the pests with shovels and picks.

    The economist asks, "Surely it would be cheaper to use power equipment even if you had to get loans and by the equipment abroad?"

    The representative replies, "You misunderstand sir this a jobs program for the people."

    The economist responds, "Then why the picks and shovels, would not spoons be better?"

    The representative strokes his chin and says "Perhaps."

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Sunday February 12, 2012 @02:13PM (#39012099) Homepage Journal

    When the benefits are allowed to spread to everyone, the increasing efficiency is a good thing. When lack of competition and other forces allow the corporations and the 1% to keep the savings for themselves, it's a net loss for everyone else.

  • Yeah, I've noticed that the science fiction stories of the golden age (40s~50s) had noticed the improvement in prodictivity of workers over time. So they naturally assumed that by year 2000 we would all be working 4 hours a week. Wrong: some people work 70h/week and make a butload of money while the others are unemployed (or work lousy jobs for hardly more benefits than being on welfare). That's what you get when you don't have strong labor laws and/or central control.
  • by r00t ( 33219 ) on Sunday February 12, 2012 @03:03PM (#39012411) Journal

    If what you were saying was correct we should get rid of concrete mixers and pumps and have slews of people mix the concrete and carry it in buckets to where it needs to be poured.

    Suppose you weren't a Slashdot-posting nerd. Imagine facebook is difficult for you, because it has text. You can't quite read "The Cat and the Hat" without help, but you're an adult and you'll make any excuse to hide your embarassing illiteracy. Your math skills include counting to 100 and adding single-digit positive numbers.

    You'd like those jobs. Better yet, the crazy-high expense would knock the rich down a few levels, changing demand (and thus supply) of various things to your benefit. You could live mostly as well as pretty much everybody else. You'd feel better about yourself, attract better women, etc. Live would be pretty sweet, at least regarding jealosy and feelings of unfairness.

    There are more people like the above than most of us Slashdot people realize. It's uncomfortably close to being the norm.

  • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Monday February 13, 2012 @09:41AM (#39018143) Homepage Journal

    Say what? Did you really think about that sentence before you hit "post"?

    Competition drives companies to use new technology. Technology saves money, enabling companies to drop prices further to compete.

    It's a self-serving cycle of profitability.

    If AT&T weren't passing on those savings, where do you think the price drops came from? Thin air? The phone fairy?

BLISS is ignorance.