AT&T CEO: Desperately Seeking Spectrum

GRAPEVINE, Texas -- TIA 2012: Inside the Network -- AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) CEO Randall Stephenson passed up an opportunity to highlight any service innovations or customer experience programs here today, preferring instead to spend most of his keynote address banging on a very old drum by pleading with the regulators for the release of more spectrum.

In a speaking style that reminded us of former President George W. Bush, Stephenson started off with a rather pointless history lesson about the growth of mobile data. First he recalled the "messaging era" from 2000 to 2006, when "U.S. mobile data traffic grew 75,000 percent." That was followed by the "smartphone era," which began in 2005 and which has generated more than 1,000 petabytes of traffic on U.S. mobile data networks during the past five years.

Now we're entering the "mobile cloud era," stated Stephenson, during which mobile data traffic volumes are set to grow by a projected 75 percent during the next five years. "Think about LTE now and combining that with the cloud. ... When you put all this together it is going to be rare that you walk into an electronics store and buy something that is not connected to these networks," he said.

It seems we are also stuck in another epoch -- the $200 billion-market-cap-company-CEO-gripes-that-he-can't-get-enough-spectrum-and-it's-too-expensive-to-build-networks era.

Stephenson's main point was that the FCC's recent decision to increase the available AWS spectrum by 50 megahertz will not provide any immediate benefit, as that capacity will "probably ... [be] put to use in the next six to eight years."

He also complained that there is too much spectrum "out there in the hands of speculators who have no intention of putting it to use" in networks.

Stephenson called on regulators to come up with a faster review process for spectrum transfers and, with that in mind, he nudged his telecom industry peers to give regulators concrete proposals for how to make better use of spectrum that is available (and needed) in the market.

Just before Stephenson took the stage to play the victim, Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) President Grant Seiffert announced the TIA's annual conference will be moving to Washington, D.C., next year so the industry can better get the attention of regulators.

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— Phil Harvey, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:30:58 PM
re: AT&T CEO: Desperately Seeking Spectrum

Let me guess ... no coffee in the press room that morning?  :)

Seriously, I'm glad we're calling AT&T on a keynote that just restates old arguments. You're mad at the FCC - yeah, we get it.

joset01 12/5/2012 | 5:30:58 PM
re: AT&T CEO: Desperately Seeking Spectrum

Indeed, we all know its issue #1 right now. So... what else you got?

Users, after all, have very little control over the issue and AT&T already has a massive lobby in DC.

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 5:30:58 PM
re: AT&T CEO: Desperately Seeking Spectrum

I passed Grant Seiffert in the hall and he says that spectrum is indeed the number one concern for the TIA's membership and Stephenson was right on the mark. 

I don't doubt that, but I do wish that when a major US carrier that reaches so many consumers takes the stage they would sound a little more like Apple and a little less like Ma Bell.


paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 5:30:57 PM
re: AT&T CEO: Desperately Seeking Spectrum

Be careful before you get a media ban. :)



Anne Morris 12/5/2012 | 5:30:56 PM
re: AT&T CEO: Desperately Seeking Spectrum

tee hee. Enjoyed the article and the sarcasm. Who are these pesky "speculators", then?

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 5:30:50 PM
re: AT&T CEO: Desperately Seeking Spectrum

The speculators are, of course, anyone who owns spectrum and isn't offering some sort of wireless service on it. That would include AT&T and Verizon, though.

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 5:30:50 PM
re: AT&T CEO: Desperately Seeking Spectrum

Service providers are never that petty. In fact, AT&T (post 2008) and Verizon are among the most easy going in terms of taking their lumps and understanding that we praise and flame them in nearly equal amounts. I can complain about a lot, but not about that.

Flook 12/5/2012 | 5:30:50 PM
re: AT&T CEO: Desperately Seeking Spectrum

The idea's been touted before that by all access networks should be a public utility. Is it time to revisit that notion? But I doubt it'll go very far, although although there is considerable merit in it. But I forget, we're in an age of neo-liberal policies where the market knows what's best on everything.

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