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AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson discusses future 'world without screens' at DC luncheon

Randall Stephenson

AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson waved an iPhone as he was interviewed yesterday by Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein at the spring luncheon of the Economic Club of Washington, D.C.:

We carry around these devices and they’re bigger than they should be, because there’s a lot of computing in here, there’s a lot of storage in here. When you get to 5G, all that computing, all that storage goes away — it’s back in the network. These form factors, some would say they shrink.

I say they go away. It is conceivable that we’re going to be moving into a world without screens, a world where this [points to his glasses] is your screen. You don’t need any more of a form factor than this, once the computing and storage requirements move out and into the network. And guys like you [waving to the TV cameras in the back] can think very differently about how you deliver your content to your customers. It becomes a delivery without screens. It’s just a totally different experience. …

AT&T is right at the very center of all this because, if you ask yourself: Five years from now, in this room, will you be consuming more or less global bandwidth. More? Who thinks more? Will you be consuming more or less premium entertainment? More? Well, I like where we are on both of those.

Stephenson recalled a visit from Steve Jobs, before the iPhone’s 2007 launch: “We were building a mobile Internet — that’s what 3G was about. … I didn’t really know what the mobile Internet looked like. … Just build it and people will use it — it’s always been my philosophy. If you make something mobile, utility explodes.”

  • “And the guy  in the black turtleneck shows up with a description, an explanation of a product. He didn’t have a product, he had an explanation of a product: ‘Think about a phone that doesn’t have a keypad. It’s just a screen, and it has little icons that you push [for] stock quotes, weather.'”
  • “The minute we saw that, it was: That’s the mobile internet. That’s something we have to be a part of. That is what we are building the future for.”

SEE ALSO: By buying media companies, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson thinks cable providers can fend off internet rivals

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