A Foolish Week of Telecom

After all the animosity that AT&T (NYSE: T  ) has displayed toward the Federal Communications Commission over the last 10 months because of…

  1. The FCC's highly critical assessment of AT&T's proposed merger with T-Mobile USA, and
  2. Fears that the FCC would exclude AT&T from bidding for more spectrum if and when any would become available

…it came as a shock to learn that AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson would actually praise the FCC for anything.

At the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference this week, Mr. Stephenson said he "applauded" the FCC's decision to take another look at how much wireless spectrum a mobile carrier should be able to acquire.

Of course, his shifting stance toward the FCC has less to do with making sure the smaller carriers aren't left wanting, but more with guaranteeing that AT&T's main rival, Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) , doesn't get the opportunity to become even more spectrum-rich.

Indeed, the day after Stephenson spoke, Verizon's CFO Fran Shammo told the Communacopia audience that his company was sitting on enough spectrum to keep it in business comfortably for another four or five years.

Two -- five -- 24
That's 2 million iPhone 5s pre-ordered in the first 24 hours, a new iPhone sales record, according to Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) . Last year's release of the iPhone 4S sold only half that number.

Those sales will certainly help lift revenues for AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S  ) . Smaller carriers, such as Leap Wireless' Cricket brand and Alaska Communications, will get the iPhone 5 in a week.

Will the real iPhone carrier stand up?
The carrier that is the leader in iPhone activations, according to a report from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, is AT&T. Verizon leads in Android phone activations.

AT&T got a huge head start when it became the first -- and exclusive -- iPhone carrier. More than half of AT&T's activations are for the iPhone, and another third are for Android phones. The rest is made up of BlackBerrys and feature phones.

Though Verizon's iPhone activations comprise only one-quarter of its sales, there's a good chance that fraction may get larger. The iPhone 5 being LTE-capable may give the edge to Verizon, with its larger LTE network. Until AT&T can boost its LTE coverage, customers seeking LTE speeds for their iPhones may create an exodus to Verizon.

Is this RAZR sharp enough?
Next month, Motorola will be bringing out what it hopes to be a worthy iPhone rival, the RAZR i. The new phone touts a 4.3-inch edge-to-edge display that is 15% larger than that of the iPhone 5. Motorola also says it will have a more powerful battery than the iPhone.

But -- and a big one -- the RAZR i may also sport an i in its name, but it's missing three other letters that the iPhone 5 can claim: L, T, and E. Without LTE capability, the RAZR i may be able to hold its own with the older models of the iPhone, but against the iPhone 5? Probably not.

Don't let the door hit you in the back
Once upon a time (2008), Time Warner Cable paid $550 million for 46.4 million shares of Clearwire (Nasdaq: CLWR  ) . These days, those shares are only worth around $73 million, and the cable company is now ready to cut its losses and sell, according to a regulatory filing.

TWC is one of several cable companies who bought into Clearwire with the intent of using its wireless spectrum to get into the mobile communications business. Those cables include Comcast and Bright House Networks. After Verizon's spectrum-for-co-marketing deal with those companies was approved just weeks ago, Clearwire's resources have lost their allure to TWC.

Clearwire, though, isn't throwing in the towel. The company's CFO, Hope Cochran, said at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference that Clearwire is going to begin work on its LTE network this quarter, and will really get moving over the next three months.

This new network will not come soon enough for Clearwire. With its long-term partner Sprint throwing fewer wholesale WiMAX customers its way, Clearwire has to get its own 4G LTE network up and running to provide services for customers such as Leap Wireless, with which it signed a five-year wholesale agreement.

The Trojan e-reader
Wal-Mart
has banned Amazon from its stores. The brick-and-mortar retailer finally realized that what the online retailer was really selling was not the Kindle, but whatever media the Kindle displays.

In other words, every Kindle and Kindle Fire that Wal-Mart helped Amazon sell took that many customers looking for content away from Wal-Mart's own book, movie, and game departments, and sent them to Amazon's web site. Target dropped the Kindle last May.

The iPhone 5's record-breaking sales numbers merely underscore the effect Apple has on the whole tech world. To get the full scoop on one of the pre-eminent names in technology today, grab your copy of the Fool's new premium report on Apple. It comes with a full year of updates, as well as an overview of the must-know opportunities and threats for every Apple investor. Click here to get started now.

Fool contributor Dan Radovsky owns shares of AT&T. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave also recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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