TIA: AT&T Boss Predicts Wireless Chaos

Plans to build a network that can control the chaos, but says it will need more spectrum and T-Mobile to do it

Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms

May 18, 2011

2 Min Read
TIA: AT&T Boss Predicts Wireless Chaos

DALLAS -- TIA 2011 -- The single biggest challenge facing the wireless industry today is spectrum scarcity, Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), told TIA attendees in Dallas on Tuesday, reiterating a familiar theme. (See AT&T Takes the Oath on T-Mobile Merger.)

His call to action was for the vendors and carriers in attendance to advocate for the release of more spectrum -- and to support AT&T's purchase of T-Mobile US Inc. too.

Stephenson outlined the wireless industry's history of mobilizing everything -- starting with voice, email and more recently Internet access. But, he said, the industry is on the cusp of something that's very different from what it has experienced in the last few years: complete and utter chaos!

"Mark my words, the next five years are not going to be planned or deliberate," Stephenson said. "They will be characterized by chaos."

Mobilizing voice, email and Internet were deliberate efforts, but nothing will be as planned out with Long Term Evolution (LTE), he warned. New applications and development will come faster than ever, and mobile volumes will go up eight to 10 times from where the industry is today. If that's right, by Feb. 15, 2015, AT&T will have carried as much traffic on its network as it did for the full year of 2010, he said.

The carrier's goal is to create a network that can control this chaos in a secure and reliable way. Stephenson called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to release more spectrum sooner and create tax policies that incentivize investment. But, he said, it's not going to happen fast enough.

Hence, AT&T's stated impetus for acquiring T-Mobile.

The AT&T chief reiterated that the merger is necessary for it to create more spectrum out of existing spectrum and eke out more capacity from what it already owns, as well as to bring high-speed broadband to rural America. He stressed that the merger would allow AT&T to deploy LTE across 97 percent of the U.S., giving 55 million people access to broadband.

"It's a powerful economic catalyst," he said.

Upon approval of the acquisition, Stephenson also committed AT&T to allocating an additional $8 billion to building out its LTE footprint.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

About the Author(s)

Sarah Thomas

Director, Women in Comms

Sarah Thomas's love affair with communications began in 2003 when she bought her first cellphone, a pink RAZR, which she duly "bedazzled" with the help of superglue and her dad.

She joined the editorial staff at Light Reading in 2010 and has been covering mobile technologies ever since. Sarah got her start covering telecom in 2007 at Telephony, later Connected Planet, may it rest in peace. Her non-telecom work experience includes a brief foray into public relations at Fleishman-Hillard (her cussin' upset the clients) and a hodge-podge of internships, including spells at Ingram's (Kansas City's business magazine), American Spa magazine (where she was Chief Hot-Tub Correspondent), and the tweens' quiz bible, QuizFest, in NYC.

As Editorial Operations Director, a role she took on in January 2015, Sarah is responsible for the day-to-day management of the non-news content elements on Light Reading.

Sarah received her Bachelor's in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She lives in Chicago with her 3DTV, her iPad and a drawer full of smartphone cords.

Away from the world of telecom journalism, Sarah likes to dabble in monster truck racing, becoming part of Team Bigfoot in 2009.

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