AT&T (NYS: T) Mobility sold more than 6 million smartphones in the first two months of the fourth quarter and is selling new smartphones at a rate of 100,000 per day. According to John Stephens, AT&T's senior executive vice president and CFO, the company will easily surpass its previous quarterly smartphone sales record of 6.1 million, which occurred in the third quarter of 2010.
Speaking at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference, Stephens declined to provide further guidance on AT&T's expected fourth-quarter smartphone sales. But he said that December sales will likely be as strong, if not stronger, than the previous two months, indicating that AT&T may be on track to sell as many as 9 million smartphones in the fourth quarter.
Stephens said that the reason for the strong smartphone sales is the company's diverse device lineup, the fact that many customers are on schedule to upgrade in the fourth quarter, and that customers understand the benefits of the Apple (NAS: AAPL) iPhone 4S on AT&T's HSPA network. "Our iPhone 4S downloads are three times faster and customers can talk and surf at the same time," Stephens said. Verizon (NYS: VZ) Wireless and Sprint Nextel (NYS: S) iPhones operate on the slower CDMA EV-DO standard and cannot conduct simultaneous voice and data sessions. However, Stephens also noted that strong sales of the iPhone 4S will have a short-term impact on the company's margins and earnings per share.
Stephens added that 18 million of AT&T's 37 million smartphone customers are currently on a tiered data plan. He said that approximately two-thirds are on the $25 per month or higher data package and the rest are on the $15 per month plan. "Our churn has stayed at very good levels and we are pleased with the experience," he added.
Stephens reiterated several times during his presentation that AT&T is still moving forward with its proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA and that both AT&T and Deutsche Telekom are motivated to close the deal. He declined to provide any further details on the status of the deal, and also declined to provide information about a possible "Plan B" should the proposed merger fail to close.
Regarding the company's LTE rollout, Stephens said AT&T is on track to hit its goal of 70 million POPs by year-end and is in the process of launching LTE in New York City. He said that AT&T currently has enough spectrum to build 80 percent of its LTE network.
Stephens also noted that AT&T is working to close its $1.93 billion acquisition of Qualcomm's (NAS: QCOM) 700 MHz spectrum. He said that transaction will improve the carrier's spectrum inventory. AT&T has said it plans to use Qualcomm's spectrum to augment its LTE network via carrier aggregation technology.
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