AT&T combines fixed, wireless consumer units

US telecoms giant AT&T is reorganizing to put one executive in charge of both its wireless and consumer fixed-line phone businesses, an Associated Press report said.

The shake-up could make it easier for the company to hold off competition from cable companies by creating new product bundles and technologies that take advantage of AT&T's wireless and video services, the Associated Press report added, quoting an analyst.

The reorganization leaves the company with four main units: one for consumers, one for business customers, one that keeps things running behind the scenes, and a fourth that's a collection of odds and ends.

'Our customers want a `One AT&T' experience and these changes help us do that for both consumers and businesses,' the company said in a statement.

Ralph de la Vega, previously head of the AT&T Mobility wireless division, will now assume responsibility for the consumer fixed-line business as well. This new arrangement was made possible by the acquisition of BellSouth Corp. in late 2006. What is now AT&T's wireless arm was a joint venture between AT&T and BellSouth, so before the acquisition, its ability to cooperate with AT&T's fixed-line side was limited.

The Global Business Services division that dealt with large corporate and government clients under Ron Spears will be merged with the unit that dealt with smaller business clients into a new Business Solutions unit, with Spears at its head.
The remainder of the telecom unit has been renamed AT&T Operations, and will be responsible for network operations and technology development under John Stankey.

The fourth unit, Diversified Businesses under Ray Wilkins, is unchanged. It contains an e-commerce consulting business, pay-phone operations and an advertising business.

UBS analyst John Hodulik said he believes the new structure will result in new efforts to bundle fixed-line voice, video and internet services with wireless, the so-called 'quadruple play' of telecommunications. Cable companies have made great inroads in taking wireline phone customers from phone companies, but cable's effort to add wireless service into the mix through a deal with Sprint Nextel has faltered.