Wednesday, April 15, 2009

AT&T loves iPhone, but...

The WSJ Wednesday ran an interview with AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson that emphasizes the company’s desire to push more aggressively into wireless.

The article estimated that the iPhone 3G brought 1.7 million new customers to AT&T Wireless in 2008. Because of that success, Stephenson is seeking to extend expiration of its US exclusive on the iPhone from 2010 (presumably June 2010) to 2011.

The free side of the WSJ website includes a few interesting tidbits, including Stephenson being keen on Cisco telepresence (as a substitute for air travel) and the inevitable decline of its wireline business.

Two of the interesting tidbits are on the iPhone and expansion of the Cingular AT&T Wireless network:

Apple: AT&T engineers privately chafed at being blamed by bloggers and some industry watchers for early problems with the iPhone 3G that led to dropped calls. It turned out to be an issue mostly related to Apple’s operating software and hardware and was addressed through software updates. Neither side publicly cast blame on the other, and Mr. Stephenson says the relationship is strong. “Any relationships as tight as this one, they require hard work at the most senior levels,” he said.

Wireless networks: He said the challenge of increasing network capacity isn’t just about cell towers, but also about beefing up the “backhaul” trunks that carry data back from those sites underground. He says AT&T will build a fourth-generation LTE network in the 2011-2012 time frame. “There’s no panic or rush to get there,” he said, because the highest-bandwidth wireless applications, like high-definition video streaming, are still a ways off. “It’s about having capacity for the applications users actually want now.”

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