Ralph de la Vega, AT&T: Wireline's most powerful people

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Ralph de la Vega

Ralph de la Vega, President & CEO, AT&T

Ralph de la Vega, President and CEO, AT&T (NYSE: T) Mobility and Consumer Markets, oversees not only the profitable wireless business that made Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone a household name, but also the ILEC's  growing U-verse TV and broadband business.  

A 37-plus year veteran who got his start in the Bell System at the former BellSouth (then known in the legacy Bell System as Southern Bell), de la Vega has overseen the growth of its growing U-verse IPTV and broadband data service.

U-verse has become a saving grace in AT&T's consumer wireline unit. In Q1 2011, AT&T added 175,000 new broadband subscribers and 218,000 U-verse subscribers bringing its total broadband subscriber base to 3.2 million.

What's also paying off for AT&T's consumer wireline business is bundling. As of the end of Q1 2011, AT&T reported that more than three-fourths of AT&T U-verse TV subscribers subscribe to a triple- or quad-play option with U-verse triple-play package. Customer ARPU increased 14.3 percent year over year to $168.

Part of that bundling effort includes the growing adoption of VoIP, which is helping to offset inevitable but ongoing losses in traditional PSTN voice business. de la Vega said during the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in March that customers have been adding VoIP to the bundle at a rate between 60-65 percent.

That's not to say de la Vega or AT&T are resting on their laurels.  

One thing de la Vega is doing to crank up broadband and triple play subscriber numbers is luring its strong wireless subscriber base to adopt U-verse services with new discounts. Existing wireless subscribers that sign up for a triple play bundle will receive a $45 monthly discount for six months.

No less compelling is his call to simplify the installation process for U-verse by augmenting its HomePNA wiring scheme for the home network with WiFi to simplify the service installation process. 

De la Vega said he would like to get the installation process to the point where "you can go into a house and not worry about the infrastructure in the house and just connect you wirelessly to the set top boxes."

However, de la Vega has a number of challenges to stem broadband numbers fell short of analyst expectations of 195,000 new subscribers. The challenge that AT&T faces on the wireline broadband side, especially in markets where cable operators are offering 50 and even 100 Mbps DOCSIS 3.0 services.