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Private Equity

AT&T Joins Fiber Funding Boom With BlackRock JV

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Published: January 20th, 2023
The Deal reported that AT&T was hunting for a joint venture partner and could borrow from Europe's wholesale playbook.

As infrastructure funds and sponsors invest heavily in U.S. fiber networks and other telecom infrastructure, AT&T Inc. (T) announced a fiber joint venture with an infrastructure division of BlackRock Inc. (BLK) on Dec. 23. The parties did not disclose terms.

The Deal reported in August that AT&T hired Morgan Stanley to look for funds from outside investors for a fiber joint venture. More recently, The Deal noted that AT&T, T-Mobile US Inc. (TMUS) and Altice USA Inc. were considering European business models that would allow other telecoms to lease parts of their networks.

The venture, dubbed Gigapower LLC, will receive funding from AT&T and from a fund managed by BlackRock’s diversified infrastructure business. The partners said they will “jointly own and govern,” but did not disclose an ownership split or board representation.

Gigabit will construct fiber networks outside of the Dallas telecom’s 21-state home territory, initially targeting up to 1.5 million potential customers.

The open-access network follows trends in Europe, where carriers such as Altice NV have built wholesale networks that allow rival telecoms to lease capacity. AT&T will be the JV’s first wholesale tenant.

Infrastructure investors Brookfield Infrastructure Partners LP (BIP), Macquarie Infrastructure Partners, Antin Infrastructure Partners SAS and others have targeted U.S. telecoms that are upgrading to fiber or are building out fiber networks from scratch in recent years.

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