ATLANTA--AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) CEO Glenn Lurie said that he would not care if Sprint (NYSE: S) and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) were to merge and form a larger-scaled competitor. Lurie declined to say whether it would necessarily be better for the industry if the two joined merged, but said that customers need options in wireless.
"What's good for the industry is competition, period," he said in an interview at AT&T's wireless headquarters here. "Customers deserve and need choice. Customers deserve to have competition."
Lurie noted that competition drives innovation, and that "you're seeing incredible innovation in the industry, whether it's handset-based innovation, [Internet of Things], etc."
Sprint parent SoftBank and Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile's majority owner, spent much of 2014 trying to see if they could merge the two carriers. However, the deal faltered last summer amid opposition from regulators, especially at the FCC.
Since then, Sprint and T-Mobile have engaged in a fierce price battle that has also drawn in, to some extent, AT&T and Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ). Yet executives from both Sprint and T-Mobile have continued to say that in the longer term it makes sense for both companies to get greater scale to compete with AT&T and Verizon. Lurie, who became head of AT&T Mobility last August, said if that happens he will not be that perturbed because of the investments AT&T has made in things like connected cars, home security and automation and the Internet of Things.
"We are a very, very different company than the other three. So whatever happens with them, I'm not really that concerned. I'm concerned about how we execute and how we operate," he said.
Lurie added that AT&T makes pricing decisions based upon its goals and its customers. "I believe we do a better job than anybody at talking to our customers and listening to our customers," he said.
Since he took over the AT&T Mobility CEO role, Lurie said AT&T has increased the amount and types of feedback it is receiving from customers. "Our goal is to get way more personal with our customers," he said. "And what I mean by that is, once you understand what your customer's feedback is, their needs, their wants, then you make decisions about how you price and what kinds of products and services you bring to the marketplace."
Lurie said his "No. 1 goal" is to hold onto AT&T's current customers and reduce churn so that AT&T can then interest customers in buying services beyond voice and data for smartphones.
"We've already paid for them, we've already acquired them, they tell us they like us, my goal is to keep them," he said. "Once I do that that allows me to go and sell them other things. When they come to the store to do an upgrade and see that we have Digital Life, they see that we have connected cars, they see the different things and the video products that we bring to the table, that's how AT&T grows and benefits."
Lurie said AT&T is not going to get sucked into competing purely on price. "The second you become only a price comparison you get commoditized," he said. "This industry is not commoditized at all."
Echoing comments that Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T's Mobile & Business Solutions Group, made to FierceWireless here, Lurie said he doesn't like the comparison of AT&T to other three Tier 1 wireless players.
"We are in totally different places," he said. "We are a company that is growing, we are a company that is investing. We are a company that's still a wireline company, we're still a wireless company. We're an international company. The other guys are not doing those things."
AT&T's de la Vega: We are ahead of the competition in many areas
Analysts: T-Mobile, AT&T likely to hold onto more customers in Q1 than Sprint, Verizon
AT&T expects 400K postpaid net adds in Q1, below analysts' expectations
With new leadership team in place, AT&T embarks on new, more localized marketing strategy
T-Mobile open to working with Dish, is 'rooting' for Sprint to be successful
Lurie named CEO of AT&T Mobility, de la Vega to oversee mobile and enterprise