AT&T president and CEO Randall Stephenson (pictured) praised the consumer reception of its controversial 5G Evolution brand, while revealing falling premium TV subscriber numbers and a slight improvement in mobile revenue in Q1.

Discussing 5G Evolution at the company’s investor call, days after it settled a lawsuit from Sprint aiming to ban the branding, Stephenson said “our competitors hate it, but it’s having the effect we wanted”.

He added customers saw the logo and speed-checked the network, which led them to discovering speeds of up to 150Mb/s.

AT&T also reported its 5G rollout was going “quite well,” though it warned investors the revenue impact from the new network technology would not be seen until 2020 or 2021.

For Q1 AT&T’s net income was $4.1 billion, down from $4.6 billion in Q1 2018, though its latest figure was impacted by a number of one-off items including several related to the Time Warner integration process.

Consolidated revenue of $44.8 billion was up from $38 billion, though the prior-year figure excluded the impact of Time Warner. Revenue from its Mobility segment was $17.6 billion, up from $17.4 billion.

Although it made gains in wireless, AT&T lost more than half a million premium TV subscribers year-on-year. The company said it was placing a focus on “long-term value base” and expected the declines to slow in Q2.

“Declines in legacy wireline services, [Latin America TV platform] Vrio, wireless equipment and domestic video were more than offset by the addition of WarnerMedia, domestic wireless services and [advertising company] Xandr.”

Net gains
Elsewhere, AT&T noted strong progress in its rollout of the FirstNet public safety network and efforts to reduce its debt pile in the wake of its acquisition of Time Warner.

Stephenson confirmed FirstNet deployment was now at the midway point (as of 24 April), having stated it was close to the target last month. By the end of Q3, AT&T expects to have increased this figure to 60 per cent, placing it ahead of schedule.

He added AT&T was also on track to meet debt reduction targets, which would see it wipe 75 per cent of the debt accrued in relation to its Time Warner deal by the end of the year.

At the end of Q1 the operator’s net debt stood at $169 billion with a target of reducing this to $150 billion by the end of Q4.