At the Milken Institute's Global Conference 2012 Wednesday, Stephenson revealed his regrets over AT&T's decision to offer unlimited data plans when the first iPhone was launched in 2007, which now is costing him his sleep with the fear that the decision might finally disrupt the company's business model.
My only regret was how we introduced pricing in the beginning, because how did we introduce pricing? Thirty dollars and you get all you can eat, said Stephenson. Every additional megabyte you use in this network, I have to invest capital...You lie awake at night worrying about what is that which will disrupt your business model.
The CEO expressed his concerns over Apple's iMessage that introduced in iOS 5 in 2011. iMessage offers iPhone users free text messages using wireless data, eating the revenue that AT&T could have earned otherwise from text messages.
But iMessage is not the only threat, believes Stephenson, as Skype, the Internet-based phone service, can also become another viable threat for the company.
AT&T, however, discontinued the unlimited data plan in 2010 and introduced limited and tiered data plans. And, the result was visibly good for the company as it reported $6.1 billion in revenue from mobile data alone in the last quarter.
In his frank confession about the concern regarding iPhone, the AT&T CEO finally revealed that he never regretted supporting the iPhone as the Apple smartphones accounted for 78 percent of AT&T's smartphone activations in the first quarter of 2012.
Stephenson mentioned the initial conversations that the Apple cofounder Steve Jobs had with Cingular Wireless, which later became AT&T, over the proposed iPhone.
I remember asking the question: Are we investing in a business model, are we investing in a product or are we investing in Steve Jobs? Stephenson said. The answer to the question was, you're investing in Steve Jobs. Let's go after this thing. And we went after it, and the rest is history.
AT&T Mobility chief executive Ralph de la Vega was also present at the conference.