Randall Stephenson, AT&T CEO, said that the company's tiered data plans have brought in new customers, the iPhone is still fueling growth and that he was "really pleased" with sales of the Research in Motion's BlackBerry Torch.
Stephenson, speaking at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia XIX Conference, also added that the company was seeing good demand for its Samsung Captivate Android device.
The overall message from Stephenson's talk was that AT&T is doing well and likely to see "a record integrated device quarter" in terms of sales due to the iPhone, Torch and Samsung Captivate.
AT&T's plan is to court customers at the low-end of the market by offering value and then have them trade up later. "We're crafting our proposition at the low end of the market," said Stephenson. That value message plays out in wireless and broadband.
Among other themes from Stephenson's upbeat talk.
- There are 500,000 iPads connected to the AT&T network. Stephenson said that he was hopeful that more tablets would fuel future growth.
- 53 percent of AT&T's post-paid customer base has a smartphone. "We're really at the early stages of this integrated device phenomenon." And this tablet phenomenon is brand new. "The iPad is the Cadillac of tablets, but you'll see a whole stream of others," he said.
- Stephenson said that AT&T is getting record numbers of upgrades due to the iPhone. Losing exclusivity wouldn't be a tremendous hit due to the stickiness of AT&T's customer base. Stephenson said family talk plans, two-year contracts and a bevy of new devices would all cushion a blow if AT&T lost the iPhone.
- On AT&T's 4G LTE rollout, Stephenson said the plan was to blow out the LTE footprint in 2012. The priority now is to make sure that the 3G network is speedy and rock solid. Why? For the foreseeable future 4G service will fall back on 3G connectivity. The game plan is to minimize the drop off from 4G to 3G for the customer experience.
- The enterprise will "drive hard" on smartphones and especially tablets. "We fully expect the enterprise market to take off for integrated devices," he said.
- SMBs and enterprises are putting wireless broadband ahead of tethered connections. Stephenson said AT&T is bundling offers that "start with mobility."
- AT&T had a "productive recession" because it was able to cut costs, pay down debt and invest aggressively, said Stephenson. "I think the economic situation has been less than robust, but our financial performance has been rock solid," said Stephenson, who added that AT&T has been recession resistant.
- Stephenson said there are some "rational places" for targeted legislation on net neutrality. "We are actively engaged in discussions," he said.
- On acquisitions, Stephenson wouldn't discuss specifics, but he was a little more upbeat about merger and acquisition activity. "You can get a deal done," he said. A year ago, Stephenson was apprehensive about mergers and acquisitions given uncertainty about the Obama adminstration's approval process. Merger reviews are "protracted," but do get completed.
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- Wireless call quality matters and that's bad news for AT&T, good for Verizon, Sprint
- AT&T solving coverage issues with 850 overlay and new cell sites
- Samsung Captivate now rivals EVO and Droid X for top Android honors
- Hands-on with the RIM BlackBerry Torch from AT&T