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Summary:

Oh boy…does AT&T need the iPhone to keep its business going or what? In the third quarter, the company added 2 million new wireless subscribers to reach a total of 81.6 million. Further, some 4.3 million 3G-integrated devices were added to the AT&T network, of which […]

Oh boy…does AT&T need the iPhone to keep its business going or what? In the third quarter, the company added 2 million new wireless subscribers to reach a total of 81.6 million. Further, some 4.3 million 3G-integrated devices were added to the AT&T network, of which the iPhone accounted for 3.2 million activations. And thanks to that, wireless data revenues jumped 33.6 percent over the previous year, to $3.6 billion, thus helping push the ARPU up by 3.8 percent from the same quarter last year.

The rest of AT&T’s business doesn’t look quite as pretty. Revenues for the quarter were $30.9 billion vs. $31.3 billion in the third quarter of 2008. Net income was flat at $3.2 billion. In other words, apart from the iPhone and U-verse TV, there isn’t much for AT&T to get excited about.

For instance, while the company added 252,000 U-verse connections, it lost enough DSL subscribers that the final tally for new broadband subscribers during the most recent three-month period stood at mere 90,000. AT&T now has 1.8 million U-verse TV customers. Consumer voice connections, meanwhile, fell to 45.7 million from 46.3 million in the second quarter. AT&T had 47.5 million voice connections in the third quarter of 2008. (Previously: Why AT&T Is Desperately Addicted to the iPhone and AT&T Beholden to Steve & the iPhone.)

  1. They(new users) must not be from the Bay area, just spend a week there with my iphone. Now I understand why people jump ship.

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  2. This is why Verizon is targeting the iPhone rather than AT&T – because without the iPhone, AT&T has no wireless future. How much better off would we have been with 4 carriers on the same technology?

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  3. I’ve had lots of problems with my service and would switch if I could. Unfortunately I feel locked-in because of some of the apps I use with the iPhone like NeuroMobile that are not available on other platforms yet. If my top apps are ever available on another phone, I will switch just to get better service.

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  4. Compare…

    ( AT&T executive ) “…we cannot build out our network, it’s too expensive, we don’t have the money…”

    with

    “…At&T’s third-quarter revenues totaled $30.9 billion…” ( $120,000,000,000.00 revenue in one year )

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    1. I know that Om dropped his iPhone in frustration with AT&T, but I am yet find a single flesh and blood iPhone user (and I’m absolutely surrounded by them in NYC) who would for second consider giving up their iPhone. Once you get one there is no going back.

      AT&T is a disgrace in NYC and SF, and their continued incomprehension that they need to fix those two metropolitan areas NOW is very disconcerting.

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      1. I gave up my iPhone. Got a Pre.

        There are pluses and minuses to the Pre vs the iPhone; however there’s no overstating how much better the voice and data connection works. Overall I’m much happier now.

        Given the situation with AT&T, it’s not stretching things too much to say that the biggest difference between the iPhone and iPod Touch is the camera ;P

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      2. @Matt

        Not to discredit your experience with the Pre (which features a very promising mobile OS contender) and Sprint, but I have to wonder how bad Sprint’s network would be if the percentage of Sprint users on Pres matched the percentage of AT&T users on iPhones.

        AT&T simply wasn’t prepared for the sum usage of all iPhones within any large local network.

        Yes, the lack of a camera is the biggest downside to choosing the iPod touch over the iPhone. Apple knows this. You won’t see even a lesser camera on the iPod touch any time soon.

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  5. I’ve got nothing against the iPhone, but you have to wonder how long this can go on. It’s about the two year mark for the original iPhone adopters, so there is now a “rolling wave” of people coming out of contract, just as Android is just beginning to surge. It will be fascinating to watch what happens to AT&T’s subscriber numbers of the next 18 months or so.

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    1. Apple is selling record numbers of iPhones each quarter, each with a two year contract (at least in the US) — so while there’s a “rolling wave” of people coming off contract, there’s a much bigger rolling wave of new contracts.

      I imagine almost anyone coming off contract will be interested in switching networks (I sure will) but (a) the folks coming off contract right now have iPhone 2.5Gs — they’re probably going to want a 3G — which means new contract, (b) iPhones aren’t compatible with Verizon’s network. If I have to pick between iPhone + AT&T and SomeOtherPhone + Verizon — that’s a problem.

      It would be interesting to find out if the increasing sales of iPod Touches reflect people sick of AT&T but wanting to keep their iPhone’s functionality and simply switching to a cheap phone on another network + an iPod Touch.

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    2. Android is the latest buzzword in the industry that will come and go. It’s not a monolith and chances of any single Android device actually breaking away from the pack to seriously challenge the iPhone are pretty slim.

      Let me say this with absolute certainty – no iPhone customer will give up their iPhone and switch to some other untested johnny come lately smartphone aside from network considerations. It’s kinda hard to imagine leaving your app library and 2+ years of muscle memory behind for something that’s being coronated by the tech elite as the second coming of Jesus.

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    3. Well, I’m not annointing iPhone nor Android, and I’m certainly not tech elite – but sooner or later, iPhone sales will plateau. I agree that the 2.5 to 3GS argument as well as the $99 low-end option are still driving adoption up, but — short of offering on a second carrier or a model with 4G coverage – -eventually those upgrades end, and the adoption rate levels off.

      @Zamboni – it’s about more than hardware, and Apple’s (fantastic) ecosystem. Lots of people hate AT&T, and/or Apple, and all of the other national carriers are about to have Android phones – which are “good-enough” for a lot of buyers.

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      1. Hamranhansenhansen Thursday, October 22, 2009

        > Android phones – which are “good-enough” for a lot of buyers.

        Android phones are more expensive, they’re not the cheaper option. iPhone is only $99, has an unlimited data plan, and it includes a video iPod which people are used to paying $200-$300 for. So the $99 iPhone is the “good enough for a lot of buyers” choice in the smartphone market.

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      2. Okay, sure guys – you’re right. Android, Windows Mobile, and all flavors of Nokia will soon fade to black, and Apple will continue to sell iPhones with unabated growth until every human on the planet (and some primates and dolphins) have one.

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  6. I live in the Chicago suburbs.

    My household dropped AT&T home voice and DSL as well as DirecTV for the whole suite of Comcast services. AT&T has been around twice “after recent local upgrades” to get us to sign up for U-verse, but I’ve brushed them off both times. I’ll let our neighbors suffer through that experience first.

    We have retained our AT&T wireless plan with two iPhones.

    If someone can promise me any kind of TV service that allows me to record as many as three HD programs at the same time while watching a fourth HD program, I’m all for it. Also, the DVR can’t be a cobbled piece of junk. The only saving grace for Comcast right now is their On Demand service. Almost everything else about their de facto Motorola DVRs is deplorable.

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  7. and yet at&t still treats iPhone users as second class, pirating, network wrecking pigs instead of little stacks of gold bars like they are for the company. I assume the only reason that at&t still is the only iPhone carrier is because t-mobile is the only other national gsm carrier. outside of small technocraty areas of Cali t-mobile’s service just doesn’t cut it.

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    1. @jeremyji, no, AT&T still operates like a telco — plain and simple. The notion of any one device being more important to a customer than the network is completely foreign to them. I hope AT&T is changing their perspective on this, but it is difficult to tell. They are sending mixed signals both internally and externally about their feelings towards Apple, the iPhone, and iPhone users.

      Remember that Apple initiated this partnership with Cingular. AT&T entered the picture between the first iPhone announcement (which featured the CEO of Cingular on stage) and the first iPhone release. No doubt there has been some friction since AT&T’s acquisition of Cingular, but, again, I hope things are turning around.

      That AT&T has effectively blessed VoIP iPhone apps is a sign of some warming up. I would take anything De La Vega said about rate limiting with a grain of salt right now.

      AT&T is supposed to be upgrading and expanding 3G service in at least five major metropolitan areas before the end of the year with others to follow. Let’s hope they do customers right by continuing to help the users who have continued to make their network relevant.

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      1. Jerry Fleckhiemer Thursday, October 22, 2009

        AT&T didn’t buy Cingular…. Cingular bought AT&T and then changed their name to “at&t”. It is complicated to explain. Please refer to Stephen Colberts report from break up to reserection.

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      2. Ah, I forgot the two-step between them. Cingular bought AT&T Wireless in 2004, then AT&T bought Cingular in 2007. Still, this doesn’t remove the possibility there are some high-level wireless managers at AT&T who had no input in the initial relationship between Apple and Cingular, thus coloring their attitude toward Apple and the iPhone.

        Really, I’m just speculating here, but I’ve worked in bureaucratic orgs like AT&T, so I know the types of people in them.

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