AT&T CEO Predicts “Rocky” Time for Carrier Thanks to Verizon iPhone

In a little under two weeks, Verizon will begin selling the new CDMA iPhone 4, and rival carrier AT&T will finally lose the exclusivity it has held on Apple’s device since it launched back in 2007. Of course, this was never going to be great news for AT&T, and during a conference call with analysts on Thursday, the company’s CEO Randall Stephenson said that Apple’s new deal with Verizon will make early 2011 “rocky, volatile and hard to predict” for the company.

Analysts have predicted that AT&T could lose more than 10% of its current iPhone subscribers to Verizon, but Stephenson remained confident that the company will still enjoy growth:

It may be rocky, volatile and hard to predict, but as the market stabilizes, we will work through it… We feel with a little volatility, we can grow… contract subscribers this year.

Despite Stephenson’s predictions, in the last quarter of 2010, AT&T experienced its biggest ever increase in subscribers, with a total of 95.5 million customers now signed up to the carrier. That’s just over the 94.1 million customers currently signed up to Verizon Wireless. Even though rumors surrounding a Verizon iPhone were rife towards the end of 2010, the AT&T still sold more than 4 million iPhones. Stephenson explained that the device “is still strong, and we had one of the best quarters ever.”

Stephenson also remained positive about the other smartphones the carrier has to offer, with the expectation of increasing its sales of Windows Phone 7, BlackBerry, and Android devices throughout 2011. Although AT&T have been a little quite on the Android front to date, Stephenson said “we will be a heavy participant in the Android market this year.”

One thing for AT&T to look forward to over the year ahead is the activation of its new LTE network due this summer. The carrier will offer HSPA+ network capabilities with speeds up to 6Mbit/sec.

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