AT&T CEO unsure if LTE will trigger pricing changes

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said he did not know whether the advent of LTE networks would cause wireless carriers to shift to usage-based pricing for mobile data, but he reiterated his position that such a move would happen.

"I don't know what the exact trigger is," the AT&T chief said at an appearance at the Executives' Club of Chicago when asked whether LTE would give carriers an opportunity to move away from all-you-can-eat data pricing. Earlier this month at an analyst conference, Stephenson said the wireless industry is moving toward "variable pricing" where "the heavy (use) consumers will pay more than the lower consumers." As consumers continue to use more data-centric services, the concept of usage-based pricing has taken on greater urgency.

Stephenson's position is shared by executives at AT&T's chief rival, Verizon. In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Verizon Wireless CTO Tony Melone said unlimited data pricing "is the big issue that has to change."

Apart from the pricing issue, the AT&T chief also reiterated his company's long-held position that federal regulators should take a light touch to broadband and wireless networks. "What's broken with the Internet and wireless that needs fixing by regulation?" he said, according to a text of his speech. The FCC is considering imposing net neutrality guidelines on wireless and wireline networks.

In other news, Stephenson's compensation doubled to $29.2 million in 2009, thanks to changes in the value of his pension plan and incentive-based pay.

For more:
- see this Dow Jones Newswires article on pricing (sub. req.)
- see this Dow Jones Newswires article on regulation (sub. req.)
- see this Dow Jones Newswires article on compensation (sub. req.)

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