1. "It happened in 2006 when the company’s COO and soon-to-be CEO, Randall Stephenson, quietly struck a deal with Steve Jobs for AT&T to be the exclusive service provider in the United States for this new thing called the iPhone. Stephenson knew that this deal would stretch the capacity of AT&T’s networks, but he didn’t know the half of it. The iPhone came on so fast, and the need for capacity exploded so massively with the apps revolution, that AT&T found itself facing a monumental challenge. It had to enlarge its capacity, practically overnight, using the same basic line and wireless infrastructure it had in place. Otherwise, everyone who bought an iPhone was going to start experiencing dropped calls. AT&T’s reputation was on the line—and Jobs would not have been a happy camper if his beautiful phone kept dropping calls. To handle the problem, Stephenson turned to his chief of strategy, John Donovan, and Donovan enlisted Krish Prabhu, now president of AT&T Labs. Donovan picks up the story: It’s 2006, and Apple is negotiating the service contracts for the iPhone. No one had even seen one. We decided to bet on Steve Jobs. When the phone first came out [in 2007] it had only Apple apps, and it was on a 2G network. So it had a very small straw, but it worked because people only wanted to do a few apps that came with the phone. But then Jobs decided to open up the iPhone, as the venture capitalist John Doerr had suggested, to app developers everywhere. Hello, AT&T! Can you hear me now? In 2008 and 2009, as the app store came on stream, the demand for data and voice just exploded—and we had the exclusive contract to provide the bandwidth, said Donovan, and no one anticipated the scale. Demand exploded a hundred thousand percent [over the next several years]. Imagine the Bay Bridge getting a hundred thousand percent more traffic. So we had a problem. We had a small straw that went from feeding a mouse to feeding an elephant and from a novelty device to a necessity for everyone on the planet. Stephenson insisted AT&T offer unlimited data, text, and voice. The Europeans went the other way with more restrictive offerings. Bad move. They were left as roadkill by the stampede for unlimited data, text, and voice. Stephenson was right, but AT&T just had one problem—how to deliver on that promise of unlimited capacity without vastly expanding its infrastructure overnight, which was physically impossible. Randall’s view was ‘never get in the way of demand,’ said Donovan. Accept it, embrace it, but figure out how to satisfy it fast before the brand gets killed by dropped calls. No one in the public knew this was going on, but it was a bet-the-business moment for AT&T, and Jobs was watching every step from Apple headquarters."
- Thomas L. Friedman, Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations