AT&T's new CEO Randall Stephenson on iPhone, 1st day jitters and Ed Whitacre

Goodbye Ed Whitacre, Hello Randall Stephenson, the new CEO of AT&T and his new executive team. Long the crown prince of AT&T, Stephenson took over the top job yesterday.

stephenson_sml.jpgWe decided to ask him a few questions, about AT&T, the future and what it means to be the top guy at the biggest phone company on the planet. More importantly, what does it feel to step into the shoes of Ed Whitacre, the outgoing CEO of AT&T. Any first day jitters, we wondered. And is he excited about iPhone like rest of the planet?

Here are excerpts from an e-interview:

Om Malik: How does it feel to be the CEO of new AT&T?

Randall Stephenson
: It feels great and humbling all at once. Ed Whitacre changed the company, he changed the industry, and he revitalized an iconic American brand. That’s a hard act to follow. But he left this company in great shape and that’s very exciting to me and everyone here.

OM: AT&T is a fearsome company now, with a weight of its legacy. Any first day jitters?

RS: Fearsome is the wrong word. The new AT&T is a 6-month-old company with a 130-year legacy of innovation and reliability behind us. When we closed the BellSouth deal in December, we finally put all the major pieces together.

The new AT&T is wireless at the core in terms of great new handsets; in terms of enabling true anytime, anywhere mobility that our customers want and in terms of being innovative and service-oriented. If there are any jitters, it’s from the excitement running through this company about our prospects.

OM: There are a lot of challenges facing the company. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing AT&T as a company and you personally?

RS: Our biggest challenge as a company is to ensure that our customers really understand what the new AT&T is all about. We are the most complete communications and entertainment provider for the way people live–and that starts with wireless. When people recognize that, we win. It’s the same on the business side.

My personal challenge is to make sure that the pieces we’ve assembled–industry-leading wireless, TV, broadband, global operations and local service work together as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

OM: How vital is iPhone to your company? I have never seen AT&T push something so hard that wasn’t developed internally. Why is that?

RS: The iPhone is a radically innovative new device and it only makes sense that AT&T and Apple would partner to bring it to market. This device is very important to us, it’s important to Apple and it is going to do very well with customers. It also reinforces with consumers that AT&T is the place to turn for the latest in wireless devices and services.

OM: Will AT&T change its decision about Fiber-DSL combo (FTTN) and go (all) FTTH in the future?

RS
: It’s never been “either/or” for us. It was always about how to get IPTV to customers the fastest, and that’s what FTTN accomplishes. We have already embraced fiber-to-the-home in certain cases, such as new, greenfield construction.

We like our fiber-to-the-node strategy as well. It lets us deliver multiple streams of IPTV, including HD, to more than 18 million homes at about one-fourth the cost. As compression technology and electronics advance, we’ll get even more bandwidth. The response from customers has been great.

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