Nearly 30% of AT&T’s DSL growth in the last quarter was of the naked kind – meaning sans a traditional wireline. Half of those new naked DSL lines were sold as a part of a wireless bundle. Presumably, those 75K or so AT&T customers who opted for a mobile-DSL bundle also opted out of a traditional wireline. The details appear in this Telephony Online article. Goodbye wireline – hello mobile and broadband. While the trend is widely known, it does help to validate it when you see real data like this. We’ve seen other recent data on wireless substitution that isn’t pretty, at least from a wireline provider point of view.
So here’s the skinny. If I’m a traditional wireline company, I’m certainly trying to stem the flow of wireline substitution. One potential strategy is to continually try to add value to a wireline through applications like fixed mobile convergence. But even with that, a quantifiable number of customers will leave wireline behind – and a large number at that. So, if customers are going to leave anyway, why not try to sell them broadband at least, and a broadband-mobile bundle at best (if you’re lucky enough to be in a position to offer mobile). I sat through a recent presentation at the MetaSwitch Users Forum, where an AT&T exec spelled it out like this. From AT&T’s perspective, “we’re positioning our product portfolio to meet the needs of customers, whatever their preferences are.” Want wireless and broadband, we’ve got you covered. Want wireline voice triple play, no problem. Want wireless voice triple play, be our guest. Truth be told, I think AT&T would prefer wireless bundled customers over wireline bundled customers. I’ve never heard that from anyone at AT&T, but as the Telephony article pointed out, wireless customers tend to have a higher ARPU than wireline, or at least a better opportunity to increase ARPU. In today’s competitive environment, the name of the game is meet your customer’s needs and expectations with whatever flexible product portfolio you can, even if that means they cut the “bread and butter” wireline. If you don’t have something to sell them at the point they’ve decided to cut the chord, more than likely, you’ve lost that customer for life. Agree?