By BRIAN X. CHEN MAY 4, 2012
When Randall Stephenson, AT&T's chief executive, spoke about the state of the wireless industry at a conference this week, he shared some surprisingly frank comments about the iPhone. In particular, he said that he wished the company had never offered an unlimited data plan for the device and that he loses sleep over free texting services like Apple's iMessage.
If AT&T hadn't offered unlimited data, it would have been able to get people who used more data to pay up for it, as opposed to having the light data users subsidize the heavy ones, he said.
"My only regret was how we introduced pricing in the beginning, because how did we introduce pricing? Thirty dollars and you get all you can eat," he said in the on-stage interview at the Milken Institute's Global Conference on Wednesday. "And it's a variable cost model. Every additional megabyte you use in this network, I have to invest capital."
AT&T discontinued unlimited data in 2010, and it has since moved to limited, tiered data plans. The switch is working out well for AT&T. In the last quarter, the company reported $6.1 billion in revenue from mobile data alone. Ralph de la Vega, chief executive of AT&T Mobility, said 70 percent of the people on tiered data plans were paying for the more expensive options.