AT&T Looks Beyond iPhone For Growth - InformationWeek

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12:25 PM

AT&T Looks Beyond iPhone For Growth

The wireless carrier is looking at devices beyond smartphones to generate revenues from its mobile data network.

Apple's iPhone has been a major driver of new customers for AT&T, but the wireless carrier is looking at new devices such as netbooks, electronic-book readers, and digital cameras to sustain new subscriber growth.

Thanks to the release of the iPhone 3GS, AT&T added nearly 840,000 new iPhone customers last quarter, which accounted for about 60% of the carrier's new subscriber adds. But the mobile operator knows the iPhone won't be exclusive forever, as reports continue to swirl that rival Verizon Wireless will get the iPhone or an iPhone-like device sooner or later.

Traditional voice revenues are also on a downward trend, and the carrier said it will branch out to offer multiple devices that use mobile data plans in order to generate new revenues.

"It's not just looking for the next great smartphone, it's looking for what are the next great set of devices that customers are going to want," Ralph de la Vega, head of AT&T's wireless unit, told Bloomberg. "There's a plethora of those things that are just beginning to get to market that I think will dramatically change the industry."

AT&T has been making a big push to offer subsidized netbooks for customers who sign up for a two-year mobile data plan that can cost up to $60 a month. Rivals Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless are also offering subsidized netbooks, but it is unclear how strong consumer demand is because most of these mini-notebooks can be purchased outright for less than $400.

AT&T will also be providing the wireless Internet connection for Plastic Logic's upcoming e-book reader, and this will enable the device to match the Amazon Kindle's ability to buy and download e-books on the go. The wireless operator said a variety of devices could benefit from having mobile Internet connectivity including digital cameras, tablet computers, and portable Wi-Fi hotspot generators.

AT&T is not the only carrier looking for new ways to generate revenues from its data network. Sprint is pushing for an embedded chip model with its WiMax network that would let consumers bring any compatible device to its 4G services, and T-Mobile recently introduced embedded SIMs that can be used with electricity meters for more efficient power grids.

Part of the growth in the smartphone market will be for enterprise use, and this can quickly bring up multiple questions about security and mobility policies. InformationWeek analyzed how businesses can lock down data when it's on the move, and the report can be downloaded here (registration required).

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