AT&T president and CEO Randall Stephenson said a couple of recent developments in the wireless industry have got the carrier thinking. Speaking at a Goldman Sachs investor conference, which was broadcast online, Stephenson Tuesday singled out Verizon’s $49 billion bond sale, as well as the FCC’s approval of Sprint’s buyout of Clearwire.
“We were very impressed that a deal of that magnitude could get done in the way that they did it,” Stephenson said of Verizon’s massive fundraising effort to fund its purchase of Vodafone’s portion of the Verizon Wireless joint venture. “That Verizon deal, it allows you to think about things maybe different than you did even three weeks ago.”
Stephenson also said that the way the FCC handled Sprint’s buyout of Clearwire was telling. Specifically, Stephenson noted that the FCC had not asked for any spectrum divestures as part of the deal.
“The Sprint, Clearwire deal was very interesting to us,” Stephenson said, adding that the way the deal was handled could signal changes in the way the FCC formulates its spectrum screens.
Stephenson touched on a number of points Tuesday. He confirmed recent news that AT&T as looking to sell some 70,000 cell towers, saying that he looks at owning the towers in the same way he view administrative real estates. At present, he said he thinks there are others who have better tax positions and can turn more of a profit than AT&T would be able to by owning the sites.
Speaking to the business environment in Europe, where AT&T has said it is looking for growth opportunities, Stephenson said poor spectrum policy has hobbled the wireless industry there.
“The key variable there is spectrum policy,” Stephenson said. “In Europe, it depends on what country you’re in, but many countries sell limited life spectrum licenses…you’d think differently about investing in that limited life spectrum than an indefinite spectrum license like we have here in the United States,” Stephenson said.
On the LTE front, Stephenson was upbeat but said that increased investments by Sprint and T-Mobile will continue to increase competition in the market.
He also hinted that within the next 3 years, AT&T would begin broadcasting video over LTE in a thin 10MHz band of E block spectrum that AT&T purchased from Qualcomm back in 2010. AT&T paid $1.925 billion for the airwaves in the lower 700 MHz band.