AT&T CEO talks the iPhone, unlimited data and iMessage

By , May 4, 2012

The New York Times points to some interesting comments, regarding Apple, made by AT&T’s chief executive Randall Stephenson at the Milken Institute’s Global Conference earlier this week.

During an on-stage interview, the CEO discussed a wide range of topics including his regret for initially allowing iPhone users to have unlimited data, and how it affected AT&T’s bottom line…

“My only regret was how we introduced pricing in the beginning, because how did we introduce pricing? Thirty dollars and you get all you can eat. And it’s a variable cost model. Every additional megabyte you use in this network, I have to invest capital.”

Stephenson also shared some thoughts on Apple’s cross-device iMessage platform:

“You lie awake at night worrying about what is that which will disrupt your business model. Apple iMessage is a classic example. If you’re using iMessage, you’re not using one of our messaging services, right? That’s disruptive to our messaging revenue stream.”

While the executive’s views on unlimited data are debatable, we saw the whole iMessage thing coming a mile away. Ever since Apple introduced the iOS 5 feature at its WWDC conference last summer, we knew carriers would be in trouble.

But despite his disdain for iMessage and costly data plans, Stephenson said that he doesn’t regret AT&T’s decision to support the iPhone back in 2007. He recalls a conversation he had with Cingular’s then-CEO Stan Sigman right after a meeting with Steve Jobs:

“I remember asking the question: Are we investing in a business model, are we investing in a product or are reinvesting in Steve Jobs? The answer to the question was, you’re investing in Steve Jobs. Let’s go after this thing. And we went after it, and the rest is history.”

It’s feasible to assume that if AT&T hadn’t signed on to exclusively carry the iPhone back then, that it wouldn’t be competing with Verizon for the nation’s number one carrier spot now. Interesting indeed.

[9to5Mac]

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  • http://twitter.com/iKrill Antonio Santos

    His thoughts on iMessage are just selfish; in other words he said: “Your not using my service so I get no money. Me no likey”

    • http://twitter.com/e420kush e420Kush

      But what I dont get about that, is if I pay for unlimited messaging on a family plan for $30 bucks a month, he is getting my money either way if I use his service or not and If i am paying $30 a month for unlimited and not using his service to send a message he should not be bitching and moaning about it because its actually costing him less!! I don’t know anybody that pays per text msg….my phone bill would be outrageous!

      • http://www.3sixtydegreescouting.com/ Greg Braddock

        I was thinking the SAME thing as I read. I have unlimited messaging now ONLY because they tie it to your voice plan for unlimited mobile-mobile and if you get rid of unlimited messaging, bye bye unlimited mobile-mobile calling. They saw iMessage coming and tying their overpriced texting plan to voice plans was how they figure out to keep the revenue coming in whether people used it or not.

        Most of my friends have iPhones but some have dumb phones and/or Androids.

    • http://twitter.com/Bmacjr68 RobertLMcConnellJr

      So if you were in business it wouldn’t be to make money? You’d do it just for the experience?

      • http://www.3sixtydegreescouting.com/ Greg Braddock

        I didn’t start my own business simply to make money, I did because I hate working for other people. Obviously I can support myself from the money I make but I’m constantly looking for ways to compete in my industry and tying a dying text plan to a voice plan is definitely good business from AT&T but it sucks customers into something they don’t need just because AT&T just wants more $$$$ without actually doing anything to get it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thunder-Cats/100003820771463 Thunder Cats

    AT7T service is garbage from the very beginning. This greedy fuck needs to accept that fact. I’m so glad I was finally able to switch to Verizon. Not a single drop call since then.

  • Juan Vargas

    Verizon sucks. I’m right now in Fort Polk, LA doing training for a upcoming deployment to Afghanistan and everybody who has Verizon can’t get signal for shit. everybody keep saying they are switching to AT&T .

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joe-Leonardo/1031115435 Joe Leonardo

      Amen to that.. I live in RI and have more dropped sigs then I like.

  • KewlDewd

    Text messaging is so cheap for the wireless companies. It’s a rip off to consumers. Those concerns he raises explain why I’ve repeatedly gotten the same AT&T emails saying the same thing. “We noticed you enjoy text messaging. Why don’t you pay us $20 more a month to do it all you want?” (paraphrased) That is a freaking rip off. They’re desperate to get more revenue from it.

    And the whole regretting the unlimited data things pisses me off too. High speed media devouring devices are making unlimited data more and more of a NECESSITY, all while wireless providers are moving in the exact opposite direction with their data plans. So incredibly frustrating. Nothing ruins the experience of internet on the go like having to constantly be aware of how much data you’re using so you don’t go over.

  • http://twitter.com/Bu1137 Bu1137

    “My only regret was how we introduced pricing in the beginning, because how did we introduce pricing? Thirty dollars and you get all you can eat…”

    And that is why you no longer get $230 a month from my family, you greedy self-absorbed piece of $#:+ You were making a lot of money from us, and then decided to f—us out of unlimited data DURING A CONTRACT! I hope your company goes bankrupt!

  • http://twitter.com/Bu1137 Bu1137

    “My only regret was how we introduced pricing in the beginning, because how did we introduce pricing? Thirty dollars and you get all you can eat…”

    And that is why you no longer get $230 a month from my family, you greedy self-absorbed piece of $#:+ You were making a lot of money from us, and then decided to f—us out of unlimited data DURING A CONTRACT! I hope your company goes bankrupt!

  • http://profiles.google.com/rwbwinski R Winski

    This clown truly is a greedy bastard isn’t he…. Haven’t heard this much whining since the new $5,000,000 swimming pool at his house had to be downsized to a $4,500,000 model because the legion of lawyers he hired to try and slice T-Mumble into bits FAILED!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/lord.cthulhu Anthony Aaron Anderson

    So he’s basically saying “I’m rich as $&@#, but unlimited data plans are making it so the millions I have (but could never spend in a life time) arent getting as big as quickly.” this guy is one greedy @$$.

  • Anonymous

    that ugly cocksucker..

  • Anonymous

    How quickly they forget that AT&T was a carrier on the ropes before introducing the iPhone onto their network. They were in the midst of (yet another) reorganization after swallowing up Cingular wireless 4 years earlier. Sprint was charging rapidly at the 2nd position AT&T was holding because there was little to differentiate the two. Verizon was riding high on their EVDO high speed data network and their number one position in the U.S.

    The iPhone rescued AT&T from obscurity. They gave users unlimited data because that was the trend at the time and (I’m of the belief) that Apple twisted their arms to stick with the trend. With the introduction and growth of the iPhone, AT&T became a true competitor to VzW and sent Sprint reeling off into the deep end of the ocean with no boat.

    It’s reprehensible to see how AT&T is investing more effort is figuring out how to raise fees for the services that subscribers are already paying for. How about innovating something that people desire and would be willing to pay for? Whatever happenednto that concept? And how about giving me a rebate when I use less than my allocation of data? How about that AT&T and Verizon?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GJ4DGPHSOFTD7LLON3FWGLIBYY Your Nightmare

    i think att is just greedy this why they are not so happy about allowing unlimited data plans
    “cut in myy bottomline” i hate to say that but it is true the majority of att revenue streem comes from fees nothing else

  • Anonymous

    Randall is such a greedy POS. Text messaging costs next to nothing to send when compared to a phone call. I can have a signal so weak it won’t hold up if I put my phone up to my ear and yet I can send at text without a problem. I despise AT&T and I paid them $300 to tell them to go F themselves just to get out of my contract with 4 months left. They did nothing for me in Houston, TX and after stripping me of my unlimited data, they will NEVER get my business back.

  • http://twitter.com/intelxtreme kill all mexicans

    att is the best carrier with the best phones att brought the iphone in the first place the only reason they are limiting data is for their towers or else all the unlimited data would brake the data towers

    • http://www.bumzoebee.blogspot.com/ Zoey Bee

      wow. really one would think the extent of your stupidity would stop at your dumbass ignorant username but it doesn’t. here’s how it goes dumbass:

      in today’s competitive networking market, data towers are EXPECTED to be able to withstand an ever-growing amount of data…. that is… if they still want to stay on the map. but maybe you’d know that if you knew how to spell the word “break”. the fact that att is bitching right now is proof of their lack of ability to keep up with demand, which points to their failures in management and innovation (both of which are at the core of any company that seeks success in technological arena).

      oh and no im not mexican. but i kinda wish i were cause i served your racist, hateful, and ignorant ass pretty well. wouldve been better if it were coming from a mexican. still, go die. moron.

  • http://www.bumzoebee.blogspot.com/ Zoey Bee

    this mofo has some nerve really. ATT SUCKS ON ALL LEVELS … and like the article correctly points out, att and it’s dumbass malicious goons wouldnt even be on the map if it werent for the iphone… so stephenson should get down on his knees and suck the balls of the entire members of apple’s board of directors. seriously, what a mofo. im so glad to have the iphone on sprint now. so much better and more cost effective and no i dont have problems with “roaming” charges. cause they dont exist.

  • Aric Bolf

    I cancelled AT&T’s texting service long before iMessage came out because there are 3rd party companies that can send me a text, then if i DON’T respond, can automatically start billing me $20 a month for a service I’ve never heard of and never ordered.

    It took me months to get back 2 months worth of, IMO illegal, charges from AT&T.

    Saves me $5 a month because i can use iMessage and email and Facebook messenger and Skype and…need i go on?