AT&T CEO Whines About 700Mhz Open Access Rules

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson is whining about the “open access” rules the FCC put in place governing the coveted 700mhz spectrum that is to be auctioned off in the near future, hinting that AT&T might not take part because the rules make buying the spectrum unprofitable.

“Is there a business model there? I’m not sure if there is or not,” he said during a Q&A at the Web 2.0 Summit. “It’s a huge opportunity. It’s beachfront property. When it comes to buying spectrum, it’s the best you’re going to find for a long time,” Stephenson said.

AT&T just paid $2.5 billion for a company that owned a chunk of wireless spectrum. “It’s the first time, I think, that we’ve ever paid $2.5 billion for a company that had no revenue,” Stephenson said.

“It’ll be interesting to see if somebody can go in and pay $4.5 billion for the spectrum, then build a network, then build OSS [operations support systems] and all the other systems,” remarked Stephenson, “then turn that loose, can you make money at it? I don’t know.”

Web 2.0 Summit: AT&T’s Stephenson Doesn’t See Business Model For 700 MHz [InformationWeek]
AT&T undecided about bidding in 700-MHz auction [Computer World]
(Photo:Eddie S)


Edit Your Comment

  1. vladthepaler says:

    So, AT&T doesn’t know how to innovate. This is news?

  2. hmm, if you didn’t think you could make money in it, you would not of bought it right? Stop whning, you figured out your return already. And if you didn’t, shame on you for sleeping thru B school.

  3. ogremustcrush says:

    It is quite fine if they don’t participate too. Let somebody who will obey the spirit of the open access provision, in addition to its word, hold this valuable spectrum. The future will be increasingly wireless, and I hope that companies that realize they can be consumer friendly while still making a profit are able to reap the benefits while companies like AT&T and Verizon slowly wither to death from the competition of those who don’t SUCK.

    For the GoogleNET!

  4. hypnotik_jello says:

    Does open access really mean giving access to the spectrum for free? No, it means that the carriers don’t restrict what devices/services can connect to the network. The end user still needs to pay. There is no free lunch here.

  5. Canadian Impostor says:

    It may have been Tribe Time in that photo, but it ain’t Tribe Time anymore.

  6. Streyeder says:

    Maybe he should read this:

    The wired side of the company has been making money with an open network they built for years.

  7. stinerman says:


    And the point is that AT&T can’t figure out a way of making money unless they can limit the applications on their network.

    I think most people here would agree that if the wireless infrastructure was totally open and carriers had to compete on price and services, consumers would be much better off.

  8. Trai_Dep says:

    I’m sure that AT&T will attempt to retroactively remove the open access provisions they agreed to in the same way they are trying to retroactively remove the sanctions for breaking the law regarding spying on innocent Americans. At least they’re consistant. Oh yeah, Net Neutrality Now.

  9. axiomatic says:

    I’m actually glad AT&T will be late to the 700Mhz game. Good riddance.

  10. Oh, but, c’mon! The RE-BRANDING, guys! The re-branding!

  11. emona says:

    I’m really getting embarrassed about going back to AT&T DSL.

  12. justinph says:

    Someone should remind AT&T that the public owns the airwaves, not them. They’re just temporarily buyinig the right to use them. And I really hope they don’t buy the right to use them. Let soemone else do it, because AT&T doesn’t have the foggiest idea what to do with it.

  13. CoolTri says:

    If i remember right, Out here in San Francisco bay area Pacbell (now AT&T) was told to allow competing broadband company’s access to there network to help bring the price down of high speed. They delayed and delayed to the point that the company’s that wanted to compete couldn’t afford to anymore. They’ll probably do the same thing with the 700 if they win. GO Google (home town company)

  14. shan6 says:

    for anybody who cares has an interview with the CEO of AT&T. It wasn’t very informative, but it’s there if you want it.

  15. JustAGuy2 says:


    This is absolutely true. They’re saying, however, in essence, “these restrictions make the spectrum worth less (not worthless) to us, so we’re not going to bid as much for it, if at all.”

    That seems entirely fair.

  16. sburnap42 says:

    Oh, the irony! He calls it “beachfront property” and forgets that most states have rules that require that all beachs have public access.

  17. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Maybe if AT&T execs hold their breath until they turn blue, the FCC will drop their conditions. Or, more likely, AT&T they will just pass out and hit their heads on their $5000 coffee tables.

    Boo Hoo.

    Greedy scumbuckets.

  18. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Well, hooray, I mangled that post. The sentiment shines through, anyway.