AT&T: I’m in love with da iPhone

Steve Jobs and the iPhone must really have a strange effect on people, especially grown men who are in charge of a company that is as old as the collective ages of me and Steve and Dupree. Never before has the senior management of AT&T been so gushing and ebullient about anything – not even digital voice. (That’s a joke old timers will get, so indulge us.)

Randall Stephenson, the new CEO of the NEW AT&T, almost sounded like a fanboy when it came time to talk about the iPhone during his keynote at the telecom trade show, NxtComm, currently under way in Chicago.

While espousing a wireless future (now that fixed line business keeps shrinking) he said being wireless centric also meant being innovative, and used the iPhone as an example. “We do have this new phone coming out next week. Maybe you’ve heard of it?,” he said and added, “There is a good reason for all this excitement. The iPhone is the very definition of innovation.”

It’s a combination cell phone, iPod and wireless web-surfing device with a touch screen. It’s sleek … it’s fun … …the iPhone will be a game changer … for us and the industry. It’s incredible what this device can do and how it works.

And I thought I was going ga-ga over the iPhone!

Stephenson went on to say, “We are gearing up for it, big time. We have expedited the brand changeover to AT&T at all 1,800 Cingular stores.”

“We are hiring and training hundreds of new employees to handle the rush. And we are working overtime to ensure the best network experience possible on Day One,” he added.

He might have a reason for his optimism. According to Stephenson, more than one million people have signed up for more information from AT&T.

“That’s great, but what is really intriguing to me is that…of the million-plus people who contacted AT&T, our research shows that nearly 40 percent of them are not AT&T wireless customers today,” he said.

That’s about 400,000 non AT&T customers who are expressing interest in the iPhone! A hypothetical scenario: if 20% of those interested actually switch to Ma Bell, that alone would mean a perceptible shift in market share of the big four mobile carriers.

Assuming that each one of these 80,000 folks sign-up for $50 a month (Wireless ARPU in the first quarter was $49.21), Ma Bell can get an extra $50 million a year just in service tariffs.

UBS Research estimates that “if 2 million iPhones are sold in the U.S. in the first six months after launch, this would represent 18% of AT&T Mobility’s postpaid gross adds and upgrades.” That translates into a lot of money.

Sure money can’t buy you love, but it sure can make falling in love a lot more convenient.

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