AT&T Rustles Up New Subscribers, Beats Street

AT&T on Wednesday posted third-quarter earnings that beat analyst expectations with increases in revenue and net income, thanks largely to solid subscriber growth.

It reported net income of US$3.8 billion, or 72 cents per share, a 4.9 percent increase from the $3.6 billion, or 63 cents per share, it reported in the same quarter a year ago. Revenue was up 2.2 percent to $32.16 billion.

Wireless subscribers increased by 989,000, including 363,000 contract wireless customers, compared with an increase of just 151,000 a year ago and 551,000 during the second quarter.

New tablet users accounted for 388,000 of those users, and postpaid smartphone users for 178,000. AT&T sold 6.7 million smartphones over the three-month period, a third-quarter record.

Win Some, Lose Some

Smartphone subscriber growth, which is helping to offset the loss of feature phone users, likely will continue in the short term, said Credit Suisse analyst Joseph Mastrogiovanni.

“As AT&T’s basic feature phone base becomes smaller, it could reduce the smartphone adds,” he told the E-Commerce times. “However, AT&T still has feature phone subscribers in its postpaid subscriber base which will be enough to fuel smartphone subscriber adds for at least another 12 months.”

Customers left at a slower rate. Churn was 1.07 percent, down slightly from the 1.08 percent during the third quarter of 2012.

Total wireless revenue hit $17.5 billion, up 5.1 percent for the quarter. Wireless data revenue also increased, making a 17.6 percent jump to $5.5 billion.

“AT&T reported very solid results,” Mastrogiovanni added. “The company can manage its way through heavier wireless competition and tighten the spread on subscriber growth.”

Investing in Growth

AT&T is investing in the expansion of both its LTE wireless network and its U-verse fiber-optic service, which saw a 28.1 percent increase in revenue from the same time a year ago. U-verse TV added 265,000 subscribers, bringing its total number to 5.3 million. U-verse broadband subscriptions also were up, with AT&T adding 655,000 subscribers to hit the 9.7 million mark.

That focus in growth outside of phone contracts has served the company well so far, and will be crucial to AT&T’s success going forward, said tech analyst Jeff Kagan.

“The wireless world today is growing, but growth is changing,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “Not every area in wireless is booming, but the industry in general is. The latest numbers from AT&T continue to look positive and strong. AT&T remains one of the most innovative growth companies in wireless today.”

AT&T might not be on track to overtake Verizon, Kagan acknowledged, but as long as it can continue to anticipate consumer demand and invest in growth markets, it should continue to enjoy similar solid quarters going forward.

“Companies like AT&T must continue to stay in touch with customer expectations and demands and continue to offer them what they want,” he pointed out. “So far, they have done an excellent job.”

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Why the Real Estate Industry Should Embrace the Cloud

The increased adoption of cloud computing over the past decade has enabled businesses across industries to meet their growing technology needs while efficiently gaining access to exciting new tools.

However, not every industry has kept up with the evolution of cloud technologies brought forth by digital transformation. A prime example is the real estate industry. Overall, the real estate sector has been slow to digitize operations and move to the cloud; leaving agents, brokers and their clients underserved.

Cloud computing can cover a lot of ground, with both infrastructure-as-a-service and software-as-a service availability. There is great potential for the real estate industry’s future in both areas.

When properly implemented, cloud computing accelerates the innovation and digitization of real estate services, bringing new apps and tools to the market more quickly. This also adds even more value to the buying and selling experience for agents, brokers and consumers alike.

While the cloud offers much potential for the real estate industry, it is important for companies to have an informed idea of what they want to accomplish before moving some or all their IT functions to the cloud. Don’t just jump on the cloud bandwagon; instead, determine what goals you want to achieve by moving to the cloud and develop a plan for an orderly transition.

If a company’s cloud infrastructure ends up looking exactly like its previous on-premises setup, it’s probably not taking advantage of all the benefits the cloud can offer. Real estate companies moving to the cloud need to think strategically about adding value through the transition.

With that caveat, there are tremendous benefits for real estate companies that move to the cloud.

More Data, More Power

A seemingly immense obstacle real estate companies face is the daunting task of implementing cloud-supportive infrastructure. But the truth is that real estate companies don’t have to plan, build, or operate their own data centers.

Instead, the cloud infrastructure providers can set up and maintain the infrastructure while real estate companies focus on what they do best: selling properties, serving customers, and equipping agents and brokers with the best tools to help them do their jobs.

Cloud infrastructure also offers real estate companies the computing power to run modern tools like data analytics and artificial intelligence. These technologies can help real estate companies find new customers, identify people likely to be interested in buying or selling their homes, and match customers to the best real estate agents to service their needs.

Real estate organizations often have access to huge amounts of market and customer data. However, the sheer volume of data makes it difficult to capitalize on. With cloud computing, real estate companies can gain access to the massive computing power needed to crunch the data, while paying only for the time they use that infrastructure.

Mobility and Disaster Recovery Solutions

Another benefit of storing data in the cloud is that it’s accessible from various devices, which is a boon for the growing mobile workforce. Agents, brokers, and home buyers and sellers are increasingly using smartphones and tablets to get work done remotely. The cloud is much more flexible, accessible, and secure than being tethered to a physical hard drive or on-premises server.

Furthermore, companies that transition to the cloud don’t have to build and maintain a remote disaster recovery site, which can be labor-intensive and time-consuming. Instead, critical data in the cloud automatically fails over to a secondary site in the event of a disaster. All that is required to access data in the cloud — anytime, from multiple devices, anywhere — is a solid internet connection.

Budget-Conscious Security

Major cloud infrastructure providers have a security track record that most real estate companies can’t compete with. They have huge teams of security professionals and the best available security technologies, policies, procedures, and controls to protect the information on their servers and data centers 24/7 with little or no human intervention.

Cloud security measures also support regulatory compliance and establish authentication rules for users and devices. This high level of data security is particularly important in the real estate industry, with customers sharing banking and other personal data during what’s often the largest financial transaction of their lives.

Customers want their real estate transactions to be as secure as possible, and cloud infrastructure providers offer that higher level of protection.

Creating an Open Ecosystem

On the software-as-a-service side, the cloud is the perfect way to host multiple apps and software tools that improve agents and broker productivity. One way to approach this is through the development of a real estate app store that includes a range of software, including CRM tools, lead generation software, open house apps and productivity tools, with everything hosted in the cloud.

In doing so, this creates an open ecosystem, where agents and brokers have a choice of software tools to use, including some apps developed in-house and others from third-party partners. The cloud enables an open ecosystem in which agents and brokers simply decide which apps they want to use from a menu of options available. This provides flexibility while also empowering personal choice and customized solutions for home buying and selling and beyond.

Convenience Is the New Normal

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced real estate companies to conduct more business remotely, with documents shared online. Some firms have been moving a greater number of transaction steps to the virtual realm, using cloud-based services to host and gather documents and collect signatures.

While some customers will continue to demand face-to-face contact with agents and brokers, a significant number will embrace the convenience of a mostly online, cloud-based approach.

The industry is already seeing great benefits from cloud computing. Expect many more advantages to reveal themselves as the industry continues to digitize its operations.

Too often, we see that the failure to innovate today equates to playing catch-up tomorrow. The benefits of cloud technologies for real estate services professionals are clear, and the obstacles of price and infrastructure are entirely surmountable.

Business and information technology leaders in this industry must look beyond outdated legacy systems and begin embracing the cloud — now.

Rizwan Akhtar is executive vice president, chief technology officer of business technology, at Realogy. Akhtar holds an M.S. in Computer Science from the University of South Asia and an MBA from the University of Phoenix.

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