AT&T Activates Record 5.2 million iPhones, Forgets to Add Device to “Mobile Broadband Leadership” Slide

Published on October 21, 2010
by John Paczkowski

Good thing AT&T Wireless CEO Ralph de la Vega is so certain the end of the carrier’s iPhone exclusivity deal doesn’t portend a mass subscriber exodus, otherwise you might look at AT&T’s latest earnings and the degree to which they were driven by the device and (cough) worry.

Reporting third quarter financials largely in line with Wall Street’s forecasts, AT&T said today it activated 5.2 million iPhones in the quarter–62 percent more than the record 3.2 million it activated earlier this year. Odd then that the device is notably absent from the “Mobile Broadband Leadership” slide in AT&T’s investor presentation. A passive-aggressive jab back at that “rumored” Verizon deal, perhaps?


The company posted a profit of 55 cents per share, up 3.8 percent from the 53 cents per share it managed in the third quarter of 2009 and in line with what analysts had been expecting. Revenue rose to $31.58 billion from $30.73 billion in the same period a year earlier and slightly exceeded the average analyst expectation of $31.25 billion.

So a strong quarter, but one overshadowed by that long-rumored loss of iPhone exclusivity. As Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett observed in a note to investors this morning, the heavy subsidies AT&T offers for the iPhone cut deeply into its bottom line.

“In anticipation of losing exclusivity, AT&T has rapidly served up its own inoculation–a massive campaign to upgrade existing iPhone subscribers to new two year contracts that will lock them in as new options emerge,” he wrote. “The cost of this strategy, of course, is subsidies, and that cost was front and center in AT&T’s 3Q results. In total, Wireless margins were light, but Wireline cost cutting was better-than-expected, and overall earnings were therefore in line at $0.55.”

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