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AT&T CEO touts iPhone, wireless and video services

Speaking at NXTcomm conference, AT&T’s Randall Stephenson pushes strategy

By , Network World
June 19, 2007 02:09 PM ET

Network World - CHICAGO -- Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO at AT&T, kicked off the inaugural NXTcomm conference here by touting AT&T’s dominant position in the wireless services market, its upcoming iPhone launch with Apple, the carrier’s new wireless video service and yes, its business customers.

Only on the job for two weeks as the new chairman and CEO at AT&T, Stephenson laid out how he sees AT&T’s future. He joked about his transition, telling the audience he has learned he “still needs to take out the trash and feed the dog,” even though he’s the head of AT&T and “saying I have to talk with Ed Whitacre first doesn’t” help much anymore.

“It’s a new day at AT&T, and the same is true about this industry,” Stephenson says.

Companies have to migrate from fixed services to wireless. That trend started some time ago. But it’s accelerating now and includes a broader notion of mobility, voice, broadband, entertainment on multiple screens, he says.

“Packaging to consumers has to have an attractive entertainment component, and that goes double for wireless,” Stephenson says. “Consumer-buying decisions begin and end with wireless. You won’t even be able to knock on their door without wireless.”

But AT&T is hardly in a unique position. Its main competitors, Verizon and Sprint, have huge wireless businesses. Granted, AT&T’s wireless business (formerly known as Cingular) is the largest mobile operator in the United States. Verizon and Sprint follow. But AT&T has a rock-solid plan to widen that gap. It’s called iPhone.

The much-hyped iPhone, a device that combines an iPod, wireless phone and touch screen PDA, is probably the most-anticipated wireless device since Motorola’s Razr.

The device is due to launch on June 29, and AT&T is the only wireless service provider that is offering the Apple device. Stephenson says that AT&T has received one million inquiries about the iPhone. Of those inquiries 40% are coming from non-AT&T wireless customers.

“I like AT&T’s position,” Stephenson says.

Companies need to innovate and develop products that customers “can’t wait to get there hands on,” he says. Stephenson calls the iPhone the “embodiment of innovation.”

He says AT&T has expedited the rebranding of all 1,800 Cingular stores to the AT&T name before the launch and has hired more employees to handle the rush.

He also announced the carrier’s new Video Share service that lets wireless users share real-time video with other AT&T wireless customers. Think videoconferencing on the go, but not for a corporate meeting, but at your kids dance recital or graduation ceremony.

The service is available in Atlanta, Dallas and San Antonio and will “spread to 160 markets across the U.S.,” Stephenson says.

Although Stephenson spent much of his time talking about AT&T’s consumer operations, he took a few minutes to state that AT&T is committed to its business customers. “It all comes down to service. We are doubling our efforts for the best service. We launched a new internal incentive program,” designed to let AT&T’s millions of business customers know AT&T, “counts on them as well.”

Read more about wireless & mobile in Network World's Wireless & Mobile section.

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