AT&T has a problem on its hands. It's big, but is it big enough? If you're a CEO of a major corporation the answer to that question is always "no." However, the carrier has difficulty expanding on the home front. An overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens have phones with one carrier or another, so there's very little wiggle room to grab new customers. And gaining in market share when you (and all  your competitors!) are dead set on locking people into two-year contracts is very difficult. In short, growth isn't much of an option outside acquisitions, and those haven't gone so well.

Which is why it makes some sense when the WSJ reports that AT&T is looking to invest in European markets. According to "people familiar with the carrier's thinking" (what?), the company is hoping to find a market where it can invest in new infrastructure and play with new pricing strategies. The former sounds like a great idea. Europe historically has not been as aggressive about 4G rollouts as the U.S., so if LTE could be a distinguishing factor of a new venture, attracting customers would be easy.

The second part, though, rolling out "more lucrative" pricing plans could be a much more interesting turn of events. European markets have a higher tendency to buy phones off contract than U.S. customers. Would the carrier try to change this? Maybe pursue a subsidized model that would be attractive across the pond? Or would it simply attempt to shift the focus from minutes and texting (as it is now) to a data-driven model which is by far the big push for monetization today? It's much better for mobile operators' bottom lines if you're using more data, and on more devices. We might see an aggressive shift towards shared data plans and connected devices.

Ultimately, though, AT&T still has to decide if it's even worth it. Getting started in Europe means they need to find a company to partner with and that won't be an easy task. There is also a whole different set of regulations it would need to navigate, and of course merging with any carrier will require billions in investment, not to mention be subject to regulatory scrutiny.

Still, AT&T's CEO sees it as "inevitable" that the company will expand to international markets in order to grow. Well, sure. Just ask Softbank. It is, after all, in a carrier's nature to want to be number one.

Source: WSJ

Eric Ravenscraft
Eric is a snarky technophile with a taste for the unusual. When he's not obsessing about Android, you can usually find him obsessing about movies, psychology, or the perfect energy drink. Eric weaves his own special blend of snark, satire, and comedy into all his articles.

  • http://twitter.com/IamPeePay Tomáš Petrík

    Actually, I would be glad if a new carrier came to our country and, let's say offered an unlimited (really unlimited) 4G data plan for an interesting price...

    • ProductFRED

      HAHAHAHAHA. DREAM ON. Trust me, as an AT&T user, I'm telling you you don't want that. They will absolutely rape your wallet while providing the bare minimum for your money.

      • http://twitter.com/IamPeePay Tomáš Petrík

        Well if they don't persuade me with what they offer and how much they ask for it, I will just not buy it. It's that simple.

        • Jeff

          Then they'll just buy up and shut down all the competition so you have no choice.

          • http://twitter.com/IamPeePay Tomáš Petrík

            I don't think so, because the competing carriers already are subsidiaries of multinational conglomerates, or so called groups.
            Orange, daughter of Orange France.
            Telekom (T-Mobile), daughter of Deutsche Telekom.
            O2, daughter of Telefonica.
            We don't have any "local" carriers that would be available to sale.

          • John O’Connor

            did nobody have any "sons"? or are they all in china?

          • http://twitter.com/IamPeePay Tomáš Petrík

            Subsidiary = daugther company, google it.

          • John O’Connor

            Nobody has a sense of humor anymore.

          • http://twitter.com/IamPeePay Tomáš Petrík

            Oh, I see your point now :D

  • Nik

    No! Send it back! Send it back! We don't want it here!!!

  • mgamerz

    Just raise prices
    it's solved all their problems before

  • http://profiles.google.com/jonbethea Jonathan Bethea

    Its never enough more more more corporate greed has no limit.

  • Bob G

    Testing the waters and learning about unsubsidized phones on their network from Europe, bring it to the USA. Profit!!!

  • http://twitter.com/s99nj S. Ali

    You want growth, lower your prices. I'm paying $100 for a single line, that is extortion. I get three lines on t-mobile for that price and 4G where I live.

  • master94

    Fu@k you At&T, your prices are way too expensive and unlike VZW your service sucks crap.

  • BigMixxx

    so AT&T won't be AT&T if they merge with a company in europe? They would be....et&t or EAT&T

  • Joseph Cascio

    I am so, so, very sorry Europe. Please forgive us Americans. I would never wish this on my worst enemies.

    • Daniel

      Don't worry, unlike the US our regulators do not bow down to bribes. If they don't complete (lol compete) then they will be out within the year as no one will move to them.

  • Daniel

    The EU market is about 50% PAYG (prepaid, and unlike the US, proper prepaid), with the remaining split between contracts (subsidies which are usually free phones) and SIM-only.

    The current model works, so there is no point changing it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rene.lenoir88 René Lenoir
  • spydie

    AT&T sucks big time. They have been known as the "drop-call kings" for a long time, and that's in most of their markets. Why? T-mobile is GSM and I've never had a dropped call. AT&T drops my calls all the time, most of the time before the first "ring." I read about their dropped calls years before I became a subscriber, and then I got to see what all the talk was about. They need to invest their money in their U.S. infrastructure instead of taking OUR money and spending it overseas to give them a better experience than we are getting. Come on AT&T... spend OUR money on US... give us a reason to like you again!