Newly named AT&T Arkansas President Ronnie Dedman is a career company man with the telecom giant, and one thing’s for sure, his day job never gets boring.
With traffic on AT&T’s Arkansas network increasing 250,000% — yes, two-hundred fifty-thousand percent — over the past several years, Dedman said the technological change is about to get more eye-popping.
“The forecast is that it’s just going to keep going in that direction,” he said.
The company’s small cell technology is about to alter many urban and suburban areas across the state.
“We could try to build microwave towers all over downtown Little Rock, as an example, and that wouldn’t work. Number one, they wouldn’t let us. But the technology is such that we can install many microwave towers on utility poles, traffic lights, and that will relieve some of the traffic from our network,” Dedman said.
“So these small ‘cell nodes’ as we call them, have a little antenna that mounts to the utility pole. You come down the pole, there’s radio equipment attached to the pole, and then we run fiber to the pole. So that relieves some of the immediate congestion that we have on a network. These small cell nodes are also the foundation for the future.
Small cell technology is going to jumpstart a ton of smart city deployment.
Through a program called FirstNet, AT&T is building out a separate non-commercial communications platform for fire, law enforcement, EMS, and emergency management crews. FirstNet will use some of the same cell sites and spectrum that AT&T uses for its commercial customers, but FirstNet primary users will have the ability to preempt other users of the wireless network and free up the wireless connectivity if they need to respond to an emergency.
The small cell technology is also the basis for 5G service, which will deliver gigabit service to personal cell phones and devices. Imagine downloading a full-length movie in three seconds, Dedman said.
“Then, it won’t be long before we see self-driving cars on the streets of our cities here in Arkansas. Our small cell deployment effort — it’s going to benefit things immediately and then also lay the foundation for the future,” he said.
While Dedman, who has led AT&T’s governmental affairs for many years, may be moving up the chain of command by taking over for longtime AT&T President Eddie Drilling, he won’t be too distant from the state capitol in person or from his expected new office perch.
“One thing is that I have probably 20 years of relationships out there at the capitol with legislators, the governor’s office, and you just don’t throw those relationships away,” he said. “We all understand and know that relationships are a key piece of the business. So while I might not be out there everyday, all day, I’ll bet you you’ll see me a lot.”
Dedman said the company’s headquarters down the street from the capitol is for sale. Personnel will be moving from the Little Rock skyline building to other campuses around town. Dedman and his executive team will likely find new space in the capital city.
“My group will look for space that we can lease downtown. We haven’t secured any space yet, but we’ll be staying downtown where the action is,” he said.
You can watch Dedman’s full interview below.