While the real value of the concessions AT&T and BellSouth made to the FCC to get their merger approved is debated, the company's discussing its post-merger strategy. Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre says that the real reason for the merger was to consolidate ownership of Cingular -- something we already knew -- and that the new AT&T is "about to become a company with wireless at its heart". So what's this supposedly wireless company's key offering going to be? That old standby, bundles. But AT&T is pitching something new: it says that consumers will get discounts just for buying fixed broadband and mobile phone service from it, instead of insisting on them adding landline telephone service into the mix. That sounds great from a PR angle, since the company can say it's no longer worried about cannibalizing its landline revenues, and that it's positioning itself as the operator of the future and so on. But when it's been so resistant to naked DSL and offered such a paltry cost savings on it, this seems like a rather hollow statement, particularly when the naked DSL they've promised to offer doesn't sound very attractive. Operators tend to act like bundles are this huge improvement, and will allow them to offer all sorts of new services, but rarely is that the case. Cingular and its owners, even without this bundling that Whitacre now says is possible, have been able to offer new services only to people who subscribed to service from both of them, while in many instances the bundle doesn't live up to consumer expectations and serves merely to subsidize the existence of undesirable services. But have no fear, the bundle isn't the new AT&T's only innovation: Whitacre also says advertising will be very important to the company. It says it's moving carefully for fear of upsetting users with intrusive ads, but given some of the ideas its execs have mentioned, that seems like another hollow statement as well.
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