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De la Vega talks shared data, subsidies

Thu, 05/17/2012 - 1:52pm
Andrew Berg, Wireless Week

AT&T's Ralph de la VegaAT&T Mobility President and CEO Ralph de la Vega hinted that his company is eyeing shared data plans, similar to those Verizon Wireless has said it will offer by mid-summer.

De la Vega made the comments while speaking this morning at the J.P. Morgan investor conference. He said that getting connected devices, such as tablets, connected to the network will be key going forward.

De la Vega also said that AT&T's data business currently provides $24 billion in revenue annually, with demand on the rise.

High smartphone subsidies, which have a negative impact on a carrier's margins, have been a pain point for carriers like AT&T. De la Vega said that AT&T Mobility is always working to lower those subsidies, saying that OEMs have to deliver a great phone with a low subsidy.

"A bad phone with a low subsidy doesn't sell and gets returned," he said, noting that AT&T is selling Nokia's latest Lumia phones, and sales of those devices have "exceeded expectations."

There have been rumors lately that AT&T has invested heavily in marketing the Windows-based Lumia phones from Nokia because they come with high margins and low subsidies.

It's worth mentioning that de la Vega made scant mention of Apple's iPhone, which is infamous for the high subsidies carriers agree to pay Apple in order to offer the popular phone. During prepared remarks, and in questions afterward, de la Vega repeatedly referenced the HTC One X, as well as the Lumia 900, as the most recent, high-end phones he thought would please customers.

De la Vega said he has been "really, really impressed" with Microsoft and Nokia's work on the Lumia phones, noting that Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system, which aims to merge user experience across devices, will drive adoption of devices running on the Windows Phone.

De la Vega's comments come one day after Fran Shammo, CFO of Verizon Communications, told investors at the conference that Verizon Wireless would be ending unlimited plans in favor of shared data plans.

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