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Company says there's no point to have separate product lines for Wi-Fi and 4G variants

In an interview with Tricia Duryee of AllThingsD, Glenn Lurie, President of AT&T, Inc.'s (T) Emerging Enterprises and Partnerships division, said that he envisions a future in which all devices -- be it automobiles, tablets, home security systems, appliances, and, of course, the personal computer -- all have a cellular data link built-in.

Mr. Lurie also took issue with some of his company's partners like Apple, Inc. (AAPL) and Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) who offer a Wi-Fi only tablet and a Wi-Fi+4G tablet, calling the idea of having a separate cellular-lacking product "inefficient".

He comments, "Wi-Fi only is not enough.  We try to look for all the opportunities in the world to get the OEMs to understand that they shouldn’t be building two devices. They should be building one device with Wi-Fi and 4G. It’s more efficient for them than having two [product] lines."

Of course, AT&T is notorious for sticking it to customers when it comes to usage charges or prohibitions.  For instance, it's the only major carrier to lock Apple's FaceTime service out of its HSPA+/LTE network for customers with older contracts.  It also drew flack for being among the carriers to kill unlimited data, though to be fair it does allow existing users to be "grandfathered" in, keeping their unlimited plans, but losing access to certain perks (like FaceTime-over-LTE).  AT&T also throttles the data connections of its cellular users who have clung to unlimited contracts.

AT&T 4G
AT&T says every device should have 4G access.

Mr. Lurie acknowledges these usage concerns in a roundabout way commenting, "You have a whole different ball game of usage it kills me when people still sing the praises of Wi-Fi only."

The real irony is that AT&T has been a tale of extremes.  The company also has offered some of the most novel pricing plans -- just few know about it.  The wildly popular original 3G Kindle 2 reader had a cost-free 3G link courtesy of AT&T (for the international version -- Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) provided a CDMA version).  The link's "price" was banked in as a percentage paid to AT&T from Amazon's customers' device and e-book purchase fees, so the customer never had to pay a bill for the link.  Likewise, the Kindle Fire HD offers users a year of 250 MB/month for one payment of $50 USD.

Perhaps those kind of more consumer friendly pricing schemes lend hope that Mr. Lurie's vision will be realized, but for now costs remain a major hurdle to universal, ubiquitous connectivity.

Source: All Things D





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