AT&T's Stephenson eyes prolonging iPhone exclusivity, will refresh focus on wireless

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson is seeking to extend the carrier's exclusive rights to sell Apple's iPhone in the United States, which expire next year, until 2011, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

stephensonIn addition to keeping the iPhone squarely in AT&T's hands, the executive is also looking to put more of a marketing focus on wireless. Further, he is planning to lift the requirement that subscribers use AT&T's landline service to qualify for discounts on TV or broadband Internet services.

"We have 77 million wireless customers and 30 million consumer phone lines," Stephenson said in an interview with the Journal. "Which customer base would you rather work from? We tend to come at this backwards."

Shifting away from landline service has been costly though. As the Journal notes, since Stephenson took over at the helm two years ago, AT&T has spent $18.8 billion on acquisitions of spectrum and smaller cellular service companies, and it has spent more than $1.3 billion to subsidize the iPhone.

The company has felt intense competitive pressure from rival Verizon, whose wireless division, Verizon Wireless (the joint venture between Verizon Communications and Vodafone) passed AT&T Mobility as the nation's largest wireless operator in 2008 thanks to its acquisition of Alltel. Stephenson declined to take a bonus for his 2008 job performance, and AT&T said in January that as many as 120,000 managerial employees will not get pay raises during 2009. Those moves came in the wake of AT&T's decision to cut 12,000 jobs, mostly in its wireline business. 

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)

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