AT&T views relationship with Apple as a 'net positive'

AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) views its relationship with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) as a "net positive," according to AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega.

AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la VegaSpeaking at a Fortune conference, de la Vega said that "we have a great relationship with Apple. We have it at every level, from CEO on down." His comments just days after Wired reported that the companies have been at odds over a variety of issues since they first partnered for the iPhone in 2007, and likened the relationship to a "loveless celebrity marriage."

De la Vega's comments also came as a new industry survey seemed to vindicate the idea that AT&T's network problems with the iPhone are more a problem of perception than reality. According to a new survey by the Yankee Group, 73 percent of iPhone users surveyed said they are very satisfied with AT&T's service. According to the report, the satisfaction rate of AT&T subscribers as a whole is 68 percent, and just 69 percent of all smartphone users said they are satisfied with their wireless carrier.

De la Vega also touched on several other issues during his Fortune appearance. He said the carrier has doubled its capacity in New York City over the past few months, resulting in fewer dropped calls. AT&T plans to begin deploying LTE in 2011, and in the meantime is readying a nationwide HSPA+ upgrade for later this year, which AT&T executives have said will be able to deliver real-world download speeds of 7 Mbps. In the meantime, the carrier continues to deploy backhaul to cell sites it has upgraded to HSPA 7.2 technology.

"It's a process that just takes time," de la Vega said. "We have a very deliberate process to get fiber, but it's a couple of years' journey."

De la Vega declined to comment on when AT&T might lose its exclusivity for the iPhone, but said the carrier is going to continue to focus on giving customers a wide array of smartphone choices. He also praised Hewlett-Packard, which recently completed its $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm. "I think they have the opportunity to make the premier OS," he said.

For more:
- see this Fortune article
- see this article
- see this TechCrunch post
- see this CNN Money article

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