AT&T shifts to wireless focus with new ads and color

To those who think the Apple iPhone is just a clever way for AT&T t to grab wireless market share — think again.

AT&T's new chairman and CEO, Randall Stephenson, says the iPhone is just one part of a multipronged global strategy to turn AT&T into a "mobility" play. That's Stephenson-speak for any type communication anywhere, anytime.

"Wireless is the core of the business now," Stephenson says. "It's the core of how we grow the business going forward."

To help drive that message home, AT&T today kicks off an advertising campaign that will underscore the company's new, mobility-centric view of life. The tagline: Your Seamless World.

AT&T is also introducing a new company color for its mobility services: orange.

The choice is a respectful nod to Cingular, whose corporate color was orange. That brand was retired after AT&T bought its Cingular partner, BellSouth. The combined wireless operation now goes by one name: AT&T.

The blue-and-white sphere — AT&T's corporate logo — will not change.

Like his predecessor, Edward Whitacre Jr., who oversaw the transformation of AT&T into a wireless power, Stephenson says he won't be shy about shaking up the status quo.

For years, he notes, big carriers have forced U.S. consumers to buy traditional phone service if they wanted the best deal on broadband and wireless services.

Those days are over, he says.

"We're freeing our broadband customers from having to buy an access line (regular phone service)," he says. Such an approach "is an old mind-set. We need to get over it."

He says a handful of AT&T wireless stores recently began test-marketing a bundle of just wireless and home broadband services.

The $60-a-month package offers customers a 1.5-megabit home DSL connection, 450 anytime wireless minutes, plus 5,000 night and weekend minutes, unlimited calls to AT&T customers and rollover of unused minutes to the next month. Five bucks more gets 200 text messages.

In a first for AT&T, however, customers do not have to buy regular phone service to get the package price.

Stephenson says the response from consumers has been overwhelming. Sales "have jumped."

As a result, Stephenson says, AT&T plans to start selling the package nationally. "We'll blow this out over our entire footprint."

Inherent in the offering, he says, is a message for consumers — and a message for AT&T's workforce. "We're not going to force customers into (a service) they don't want to use."

Stephenson says the iPhone, distributed exclusively by AT&T, has met the company's expectations. The only surprise, he says, is the impact on data usage by iPhone owners. It's double what AT&T had expected, and more than half of that usage is taking place at Wi-Fi hotspots, he says.

Stephenson says he supports Apple's decision to cut the iPhone's price by $200, noting that it should boost sales during the upcoming holiday season. He also thinks the $100 credit offered by Apple to those who paid the original retail price of $599 was "respectful of customers."

The impact of the device on AT&T is undeniable, he says. In India recently to talk with large-business customers about AT&T's product offerings, Stephenson says the first question was one that is becoming increasingly familiar to him: "Do you have an iPhone?" (He does.)

AT&T is beefing up its global profile and trying to cut better "roaming" deals with international wireless carriers to carry calls from iPhones and its other devices.

"We pretty much cover the globe now," Stephenson says. "We just want to cover it cheaper."

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