To continue growth, AT&T might be taking stronger look abroad

AT&T turned out a decent quarterly earnings report on Thursday, but continued growth might depend on more on its international game plan.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

AT&T is aiming to build out its domestic LTE network to cover more than 250 million Americans this year, but company executives hinted that its international mobile strategy could be taking a new turn.

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During the quarterly conference call on Thursday afternoon, AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson responded to questions about whether or not international (or at least European) acquisitions may be inevitable to continue growth.

Stephenson first downplayed the notion, falling back on the standby response of not commenting about rumors. He added that AT&T's growth strategy is more likely about consolidation rather than acquisitions.

Nevertheless, Stephenson suggested that AT&T will be taking a much stronger look at growth beyond U.S. borders this year.

As you consider what's happened in the last five years in the U.S., it has been impressive what's transpired in the mobile Internet revolution. And the U.S. has been outpacing the rest of the globe fairly considerably. And I think most people expect the rest of the world will catch up. And so the question you have to ask is are there opportunities for us to participate in that growth outside the U.S.? And we look at this from a lot of different ways.

As more and more people around the world begin to deploy LTE, there are probably some opportunities to create some unique roaming arrangements where we can roam on each other's networks at different cost structures, which may change that dynamic somewhat, the opportunities to partner -- like you've seen us partnering in China, our China Telecom deal that we did, and you'll probably see those kind of deals more and more in the mobility side. Do you invest at the infrastructure level is a big question.

And there's really another aspect to it, and that is, "Can you participate in this growth outside the U.S. at the application level?" And this year is going to be very instructive in that regard to us because services like Digital Life, which is really -- I mean it's an over-the-top application for home security and monitoring and so forth. And is it possible to carry those platforms outside the U.S.? We are already licensing that platform to companies in Europe. So, can those platforms be extended in an over-the-top model outside the U.S.?

So as we kind of look at this, we do believe the U.S. experience will be replicated outside the U.S., and we are just trying to decide, "How is it we would participate in that?" And there are a lot of avenues for that.

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