The U.S. mobile market is more competitive than ever, but AT&T (NYSE: T) isn't focused strictly on net subscriber adds, AT&T Mobility President and CEO Glenn Lurie said this morning.
"You have to look at mobility from a different set of segments," Lurie said at a Barclays investor conference, explaining that the carrier is placing a premium on enterprise users and high-end consumers. Business users are more interested in security and access to the cloud, he explained, and aren't necessarily fixated on price. High-end consumers -- which Lurie called the carrier's "bread and butter" -- are interested in bundled services that provide connectivity and content across smartphones, tablets, PCs and home TV sets.
And AT&T is uniquely positioned to service those customers, Lurie argued, because it can offer mobile and fixed-line services as well as content from DirecTV, which it acquired earlier this year. That enables customers to access the same content across devices when and where they want to.
"What customers want is they want the Internet, they want the bundle," said Lurie. "And they want it to be simple, they want it to be clean."
"Then you've got more of a cost-conscious segment," Lurie continued. "You might want to call it a feature phone, you might want to call it prepaid. That's an interesting space. We still sell feature phones; we want to take care of them. But we're certainly not going to spend a lot of money chasing them."
Lurie noted, however, that prepaid is no longer defined solely by credit-challenged users who do nothing but talk and text. "I think there's a blurring of the lines that's happening between what is post and what is pre," he said, noting the $42 ARPU the company's prepaid brand Cricket recently posted. "Prepaid used to be about, 'I can't pass credit so I'm going to get a bad phone and spend a lot of money.' Prepaid today is not that."
So rather than focus on whether a user is a pre- or post-paid customer, Lurie said AT&T is working to increase the number of smartphone users on its network -- whether that means adding a new customer or converting a feature-phone user into a smartphone owner.
"You can't go chase every single add," he said. "You've got to make some decisions on where you're going to put your focus. And our focus today is on the high end."
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