AT&T chief executive eyes European mobile market

27 February 2013 | Kavit Majithia


AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson is anticipating a mobile revolution in Europe as the continent struggles to keep up with mobile internet technologies in the US.

The AT&T head expressed his desire to ensure AT&T enters the European market in some form.

Stephenson told the Financial Times he believes that the present model for the US will be replicated in Europe, despite recurring concerns that of a restrictive regulatory environment and spectrum policy.

Speaking at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Stephenson said: “The mobile internet revolution will take off to the same extent that it has in the US and, if you believe that, and I do, then: how do you participate?”

AT&T, along with Verizon, dominate the US market with coverage to 314 million, but the European market remains fragmented with different national regulators setting precedence and provisions for 4G auctions in different markets.

Neelie Kroes, digital commissioner for Europe, said yesterday it aims to use EU treaty powers to force through plans of a single mobile market in the continent.

Stephenson fell short of committing to making an acquisition in the European market, unlike telecoms entrepreneur Carlos Slim, who invested in Telekom Austria and KPN last year.

“There’s a broad array of options and opportunities to take in Europe, it’s not just M&A,” said Stephenson.

“The place most people’s minds go to immediately is, you go buy something. I don’t know, maybe that is the case, but that isn’t where your head should immediately go.”

He looked, instead, at the possibility of AT&T licensing new services in Europe, including the connected car or home security and collaborating with European operators.

Stephenson added that there will be more cross-border opportunities once European and US operators begin to share 4G LTE technology.

Since AT&T’s failed bid to acquire T-Mobile USA, AT&T has made a staggering 101 separate transactions, and Stephenson praised US regulators for moving quickly to approve the spectrum acquisitions. In Europe, he urged a similar policy to ensure LTE technology proves successful.

“The challenge for policy makers and for those in this industry is to get the critical components right: the spectrum policy, the capital investment policy and fiscal policies needed to foster innovation in the ecosystem.”