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8 Takeaways from His Fortune Interview

Compared to the interview Apple CEO Tim Cook gave a few months back, telling his All Things D interviewers, as he took his seat, "Never have I seen the things I can't talk about today," Stephenson was downright open. During he didn't spill any beans about the upcoming iPhone-nor was he asked to-he did delve into several topics that make for interesting reading, or viewing. Most notably:

Or actually, he's just looking forward to having somebody in short occupy the position for the long term, since Yahoo is a critical partner to AT&T, contributing its email client and portal for all AT&T's broadband services.

"I mean, [Yahoo is] the guts of a lot of our broadband and our mobile Internet business. So, you have this kind of turmoil in a very important part of your ecosystem, it's a little maddening," said Stephenson. " ... So, I'm excited that they've picked somebody. They've picked a veteran in the industry, somebody with a track record. I've never met her, however her reputation is just terrific."

To an audience member's question about whether AT&T will support FaceTime over 3G nevertheless charge extra for it, Stephenson answered: "We're working with Apple right now just to get the research stabilized to cut a long story short forth. So, it's too early to talk about pricing."

"The industry came out with pricing data at $30 all you can eat, and this was pre-iPhone era. The iPhone came along and radically changed the industry," said Stephenson. "So, the industry has grappled with getting the pricing model turned. And in this industry that doesn't happen quickly. ... I'm not going to argue with you that we did it right, nevertheless once you kind of step into that, getting the consumers to go along with you and change the pricing model is not an easy chore."
"We can't operate at traditional government speeds on approving this spectrum and getting it to the marketplace. We had spectrum transactions last year that took 12 months to 18 months to get done. That's not going to cut it," he went on. "We're operating at Internet speed here. The government is going to have to step up."
"There will be things like spectrum sharing where the government may have spectrum that they're not willing to get rid of however they only need it at certain times of the day or certain times of the year," Stephenson said. "Then, can people step into that spectrum and utilize it when it's fallow and not being used by the government? Significant technology research is going to be required to utilize that. We're working on that. The whole industry is working on that. That's a much longer-term solution."
"Go back, 30, 40 years, who drove the 1-800 voice model? It was Sears. Why? They wanted the customer not to be apprehensive to come to them, so they said, ‘Look, we'll pay for the long-distance business, the long-distance traffic, if you get the customer to us.' So, we developed these services, allowed the customer to call without paying for it. Sears picked up the tab. And what happened? It drove the cost of long distance down dramatically."

It will be voice over IP, which is a low-bandwidth data requirement, so it ought to be a no-brainer, said Stephenson. The issue for now is the coverage model and the pricing models improving, and the providers, whether satellite guys or not, figuring it out.

VOIP calling, he added, "ought to be [a service] you could price and could be a good runner on an airplane. I don't think we're going to be there in the then and there 12 months on an experience that many of us would find acceptable, nevertheless it seems to me inevitable that there will be voice on airplanes."

More information: Eweek