AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson is pushing his employees to take five to 10 hours of courses to remain current with industry technology and trends or risk being passed over for promotion. “There is a need to retool yourself, and you should not expect to stop,” Stephenson said in an interview Friday with The New York Times.
In a corporate education program he is offering to pay for most classes, but the catch is that employees have to do them on their own time if they want to modernize their skills and remain eligible to advance within the company.
According to the interview, AT&T isn’t too worried about people leaving, since executives estimate that eventually AT&T could get by with one-third fewer workers.
The carrier is concerned, however, that it jumps ahead with 5G wireless and expects to test new 5G systems this year.
AT&T announced that it would get on board with a laboratory-based collaboration with Ericsson and Intel to work on 5G systems, with outdoor tests and trials to take place over the summer ahead of the field trials, expected to take place in Austin, Tex.
The company said it expects 5G to deliver speeds 10-100 times faster than today’s average 4G LTE connections.
“Customers will see speeds measured in gigabits per second, not megabits,” AT&T said in a statement.
“AT&T’s 5G field trials will play an important role in ensuring rapid and wide-scale adoption of this next generation mobile technology,” said Arun Bansal, Senior Vice President and Head of Business Unit Radio, Ericsson.
AT&T beleives that their 5G network could replace broadband internet in some cases.
“The driving event there for us is we’re a big broadband provider, we have merger commitments that we’ve agreed to, and we’ve agreed to serve some rural areas with wireless broadband,” said John Donovan, the Chief Strategy Officer and Group President for AT&T Technology and Operations.
“Ultimately as an integrated carrier we have a lot of incentive to add any new technology to our footprint, particularly if that 5G for fixed usage has better economics than fiber in certain locales.”