Saturday, July 23, 2016

AT&T, Verizon Strategies Diverge

AT&T and Verizon--like most other tier one service providers--have increasingly adopted different business strategies since the era of competition began in the 1980s. Back then, most tier one providers were very similar to each other in that regard.

These days, firm business and product strategies can be quite different. That is the case for AT&T and Verizon, on the subject of product bundling. Simply, Verizon is less enthusiastic about quadruple play offers, never having found what it believes is clear evidence of end user demand.

AT&T, on the other hand, is much more optimistic about the value of quadruple plays and bundles in general.

In that respect, AT&T holds views more similar to most tier-one service providers in Europe, who generally believe the quadruple play is a fundamental strategy.

To a large extent, the difference in views between AT&T and Verizon also flows from their respective positioning in the market. Verizon has pitched itself as the “premium” brand and generally abhors competing on price.

Verizon sees consumer demand for quad play offers as fundamentally a matter of price savings, something that goes against the company positioning. Also, Verizon has less fixed network revenue to protect and grow, and has focused mostly on its mobile business.

Compared to AT&T, Verizon has less to gain from bundling that lowers churn of its consumer fixed network customer base.

AT&T, on the other hand, has a much-larger fixed network profile and a correspondingly smaller--though still significant--contribution from mobile services. Quad plays arguably represent more value for AT&T, as it has more customers to potentially lose in the consumer fixed network segment.

In the second quarter of 2016, for example, AT&T--which reports its business segments differently than Verizon--said it had about 23 million video accounts and about 13 million high speed access accounts, split between its DirecTV and wireline networks.

In its first quarter of 2016, Verizon said it had about seven million FiOS Internet accounts.

So looking only at consumer high speed access, AT&T has nearly twice the number of fixed network accounts as does Verizon.

Trailing Verizon in the mobile accounts area, but leading Verizon in fixed network accounts, AT&T has more to gain in mobile, and more to lose in fixed network services, than Verizon.

The other notable divergence is international operations. While both AT&T and Verizon sell enterprise services globally, AT&T has more exposure internationally, with its Mexico mobile operations, in particular.

With the exception of its fixed network global enterprise business, Verizon remains a U.S.-focused company.

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