AT&T CEO regrets unlimited iPhone data, fears iMessage

Speaking in a recent on-stage interview at the Milken Institute’s Global Conference, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson made several comments about the iPhone. According to The New York Times, he was particularly hard on the company’s decision to introduce the iPhone with unlimited data. “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. “And it’s a variable cost model. Every additional megabyte you use in this network, I have to invest capital.”

Stephenson also said we worries about potentially disruptive new technologies replacing the company’s own offerings, singling out iMessage as one example. “You lie awake at night worrying about what is that which will disrupt your business model,” he said. “Apple iMessage is a classic example. If you’re using iMessage, you’re not using one of our messaging services, right? That’s disruptive to our messaging revenue stream.”

Finally, Stephenson briefly mentioned the board meeting in which the company discussed whether to carry the iPhone. At the time, the company was named Cingular, and was headed by Stan Sigman; Stephenson was on the company’s board. Sigman was enthusiastic about the product’s potential, even though he had yet to actually see the device. “I remember asking the question: Are we investing in a business model, are we investing in a product or are we investing in Steve Jobs?” Stephenson said. “The answer to the question was, you’re investing in Steve Jobs. Let’s go after this thing. And we went after it, and the rest is history.”

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