AT&T CEO brushes off Verizon's ties with Google

AT&T (NYSE: T) CEO Randall Stephenson is not worried about the close relationship rival Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) has cultivated with Google and the company's Android platform, explaining that things will change over the next six months.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires, Stephenson said that he does not feel pressured to have AT&T Mobility keep up with Verizon in terms of its ties with Google. AT&T leads the U.S. carriers in smartphones, much of which is attributed  to its exclusive rights to Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone.  He said that the company will add more Android phones to its lineup later this year.

Verizon has forged a close relationship with Google's mobile software team, and, according to a recent report in the WSJ, Verizon executives regularly consult with Google counterparts over how to match the latest Android software to new handsets. Meanwhile, AT&T announced this week that it is launching a new Android phone from HTC, the Aria. Still, AT&T was the last of the Tier 1 carriers to adopt Android and its first Android phone, the Motorola (NYSE:MOT) Backflip, was panned by some critics because AT&T made Yahoo the default search engine and blocked subscribers from installing non-market apps from unknown sources.

Stephenson took issue with how the media has portrayed the two companies recently. He said that when hackers exploited AT&T's website to access the email addresses of 114,000 iPad users, the story received a high level of attention, but Google's own gaffe, in which the company admitted to collecting personal data over personal WiFi networks while creating data for its Street View maps, received less attention.  

AT&T and Google have often found themselves at loggerheads over regulatory issues, especially net neutrality. The telco has also come out against the FCC's decision to try and reclassify broadband as a Title II common-carrier service, which would give it more authority to codify net neutrality regulations. The FCC's proposal, put forward by Chairman Julius Genachowski, would abstain from the most onerous restrictions of Title II, such as price regulation, but Stephenson said that he is worried that might be reversed in the future, "I'm a 3-2 vote away from the next guy coming in and saying I disagree with that, I take it away."

In a separate interview with CNBC, Stephenson said that the company is getting close to bringing its mobile voice quality to where it should be in high-density areas like New York City and San Francisco. "We've been going hard at the voice quality issue," he said, adding that the company hopes to resolve network operating issues by the end of the summer. Recently, equipment vendors such as Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) and Alcatel-Lucent (NASDAQ:ALU) have said they are suffering from component shortages, which is hampering AT&T's network upgrades.        

For more:
- see this Dow Jones Newswires article (sub. req.)
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Reuters article

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