updated 11:40 am EST, Tue December 7, 2010
ATT CFO reiterates that iPhone exclusive is ending
AT&T today reiterated increasing clues that the iPhone's US exclusivity deal was coming to an end. CFO Richard Lindner at the UBS Media and Communications Conference on Tuesday stressed that there was no such thing as a permanent exclusive and that the company had a diversity of phones to pick. "Exclusive arrangements end," he said.
He didn't provide details, but it's now considered increasingly likely that AT&T's exclusive will end at the start of 2011 and lead to a Verizon iPhone deal soon afterwards. Few clues have been official, but AT&T dropped possible clues when it roughly doubled cancellation fees and extended upgrade eligibility to include all of 2010. The combined gestures would get more subscribers on to new, two-year contracts or else make it difficult for recent customers to switch.
Lindner also brought up the subject of tiered pricing on smartphones and acknowledged that capping data was one of the more "difficult decisions" AT&T had to make. AT&T knew that most customers would prefer unlimited, but he claimed that the 2GB cap was needed to keep use in check. He added that the tiering could change and could bring in more tiers as apps changed the typical data usage.
About seven million subscribers are already using the capped plans, the CFO said. Some deliberately dropped from $30 unlimited to $25 capped and potentially lowered AT&T's average data revenue, but the $15 tier was "very successful" and got some to sign up for data where they wouldn't have done so before.
Lindner wouldn't say how much data iPhone users were consuming each month compared to the 400MB-plus of Verizon's Android users, but he did note that iPad behavior was closer to that of an iPhone than a notebook. Putting a 2GB ceiling on iPad owners didn't directly change their behavior, but many of them were "incented" to use Wi-Fi more often with the change.
Wired Internet access wouldn't necessarily join wireless. It might happen in time, but it would depend on how network usage grew and might not happen at all. There's a "different cost dynamic" at work with wired versus wireless, he said. Cellular access has a limited amount of wireless spectrum and couldn't take on the existing workload of DSL.