#AT&T

Chris Welch: 

Verizon has officially announced XLTE. Rather than a new wireless technology, XLTE is basically just a consumer-friendly buzz term for speed and capacity improvements that Verizon has made to its network with the help of AWS spectrum.

After I announced my intention to ditch Verizon’s shitty network for AT&T’s slightly-less-shitty one, a bunch of folks suggested I should wait and pointed to XLTE as the future.

Yeah, there was zero chance I was going to change my mind over marketing bullshit. ”XLTE” is essentially the Verizon version of what AT&T did with “4G” in the past. “4G” was really just a slightly pumped up “3G”.

Jean-Louis Gassée on the topic of the AT&T CEO bitching about carrier subsidies:

I don’t know if Stephenson is speaking out of cultural deafness or cynicism, but he’s obscuring the point: There is no subsidy. Carriers extend a loan that users pay back as part of the monthly service payment. Like any loan shark, the carrier likes its subscriber to stay indefinitely in debt, to always come back for more, for a new phone and its ever-revolving payments stream.

I was told as much by Verizon. In preparation for this Monday Note, I went to the Palo Alto Verizon store and asked if I could negotiate a lower monthly payment since Verizon doesn’t subsidize my iPhone (for which I had paid full price). Brian, the pit boss, gave me a definite, if not terribly friendly, answer: “No, you should have bought it from us, you would have paid much less (about $400 less) with a 2-year agreement.” My mistake. Verizon wants to be my loan shark.

 Ben Thompson:

Make no mistake – AT&T would rather not give this discount (and that is what makes Stephenson’s remarks duplicitous); until now, smartphone customers spent some number of months paying off their phones with higher bills, and then, once the phone was paid for, postpaid subscribers effectively gave AT&T cash equivalent to their phone’s monthly payoff amount because they didn’t know any better. People who kept phones longer than two years, for example, presuming that ~$20 of every month’s bill was intended for phone payoff, effectively gave AT&T et al. $240 of pure profit in that third year. T-Mobile exposed that, and AT&T is giving some of that money back.

Right, once again we have AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson talking out of his ass. It’s not that the carrier can no longer afford the subsidies on smartphones — these costs are baked into your bill, hence the two-year contract — it’s that the smartphone market is almost saturated (in the U.S.) and others are making it difficult for AT&T to make as much money as they once did while still subsidizing phones.

What jackassery.

Marvin Ammori:

It looks like we’ll end up where AT&T initially began: a false compromise.

The implications of such a decision would be profound. Web and mobile companies will live or die not on the merits of their technology and design, but on the deals they can strike with AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and others. This means large phone and cable companies will be able to “shakedown” startups and established companies in every sector, requiring payment for reliable service. In fact, during the oral argument in the current case, Verizon’s lawyer said, “I’m authorized to state from my client today that but for these [FCC] rules we would be exploring those types of arrangements.”

Wait, it gets even worse. Pricing isn’t even a necessary forcing factor. Once the court voids the nondiscrimination rule, AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast will be able to deliver some sites and services more quickly and reliably than others for any reason. Whim. Envy. Ignorance. Competition. Vengeance. Whatever. Or, no reason at all.

Shady new world. Let’s just pray this doesn’t come to pass.

Shalini Ramachandran and Thomas Gryta:

AT&T and Verizon are now the fifth and sixth biggest pay-TV providers in the U.S. after Comcast and Time Warner Cable and the two satellite-TV companies, DirecTV and Dish Network Corp.

And rising — fast.

Fascinating that it will be the shady wireless guys pushing slimy cable guys. But hey, any competition (which the cable industry has lacked, and has left them ill-prepared) is good, right?

Kevin Fitchard:

AT&T hopes to breath new life into some old airwaves by building a broadcast network, ideal for pushing out live video to many multiple devices with out jamming up its pipes with traffic. The technology is called LTE-Broadcast, and as it name implies it turns what is normally a two-way mobile broadband network into a one-way multicast network similar to those used by TV broadcasters.

As I was talking about the other day, beyond cord-cutters, the cable companies have to watch out for the wireless players, who are increasingly aligning for a collision course. And those guys have an advantage in that everyone already has a phone — including the “cord-nevers” — and there are no wires/installation required.

Peter Cohan on how Steve Jobs got AT&T to share revenue for the iPhone:

Aggarwal was impressed by the way Jobs was willing to take a risk to realize his vision. “In one meeting in the conference room with Jobs, he was annoyed that AT&T was spending too much time worrying about the risks of the deal. So he said, ‘You know what we should do to stop them from complaining? We should write AT&T a check for $1 billion and if the deal doesn’t work out, they can keep the money. Let’s give them the $1 billion [Apple had $5 billion in cash at the time] and shut them the hell up,’” Aggarwal recounted.

That’s one way to do it.

[via Daring Fireball]

David Carr spoke with law professor Susan Crawford about her new book about the telecom industry:

In a recent conversation, she explained that wired and wireless connections, building blocks of modern life, are now essentially controlled by four companies. Comcast and Time Warner have a complete lock on broadband in the markets they control, covering some 50 million American homes, while Verizon and AT&T own 64 percent of cellphone service. Don’t get her started on the Comcast-NBCUniversal merger unless you have some time on your hands.

“They have acted in parallel to exclude competitors and used every lever they had to gain control over their markets. My whole book is essentially an argument to buy stock in cable companies,” she said with a laugh.

Her main argument is not that these giant companies are evil, but rather that they’ve perfected the art of dominating their industries, with the government doing little to stop it — which is ultimately going to hurt us all.

Steve Kovach for Business Insider:

That means (if we’re being conservative) at least 80% of all smartphones sold through AT&T, the second largest carrier in the U.S., were iPhones. The rest were Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, or whatever else is out there.

Now let’s look at Verizon’s earnings last earnings report for the same quarter. Verizon, the largest carrier in the U.S., sold 6.2 million iPhones out of a total of 9.8 million smartphones. That means the iPhone made up 63% of Verizon’s smartphone sales.

This is not some survey of a few thousand people. This is not data extrapolated from ad impressions across a vague number of devices. This is sales data. It does not lie. On the two largest carriers in the U.S., the iPhone dominated last quarter.

You can argue about whether that’s important or not. But clearly, when Apple launches a new iPhone in the U.S., it sells a lot of new iPhones — even more than the plethora of Android options combined. (A trend which has continued for a few years now.) Which suggests one of two things:

1) People buy an insane amount of iPhones in the U.S. because of the subsidy model. Verizon and AT&T (and now Sprint, and it looks like T-Mobile soon as well) allow you to get one for $299, $199, $99, or free. Those price points matter a lot, and they would matter in other countries as well.

2) The U.S. market is just different. For some reason, consumers in the U.S. want iPhones even when those in other countries do not as much.

If the first point is indeed the case, it’s a hell of argument for a lower priced phone without subsidy. It’s suggests that it’s not that people don’t want iPhones, it’s that they want new iPhones at good prices.

The data is also a pretty good argument as to why Apple may want to speed up the release cycle of new iPhones. (Though such a move would undoubtedly dampen the yearly “bulge” in sales.)

Jordan Golson for MacRumors:

AT&T announced today that it is planning to allow any customer “with an LTE device” on a “tiered data plan” to use iOS 6’s FaceTime over Cellular feature. Previously, only customers with a Mobile Share plan could use the feature.

Either you believe AT&T that the delay in rolling this out to more (but not all) customers was the result of engineering challenges — or — you look at the history of the company and realize they’re likely only doing this because the government immediately started looking it as a net neutrality violation.

Strange how Verizon was on board with FaceTime over cellular (and not just LTE either) from day one without these engineering challenges. Maybe AT&T would do better to just say that Verizon has the far superior network?