AT&T (NYSE:T) is one company that stays at the forefront of innovation. As it continues adapting and diversifying, and it shows no signs of letting up soon.
The implementation of shared data plans is a major change with wireless carriers that will begin soon. These will allow customers to divide their data allotment between their mobile devices, rather than having separate plans for every device. The two companies leading the exploration of this possibility are AT&T and Verizon (NYSE:VZ). Both companies plan to introduce shared data plans by the end of the year, but Verizon has plans to launch this summer while AT&T has not yet committed to a specific time this year.
As it currently appears, Verizon will probably be the first to introduce shared data plans, and AT&T will be the second. However, this is new territory in the United States that may have positive or negative results. It will most likely draw in more customers initially, but it may also lead to increased prices and more network traffic.
Other companies like T-Mobile USA do not believe families will be as responsive to the shared data plans as others have been suggesting. As a result, it is putting more focus on high-quality plans for individuals and avoiding shared data plans.
Considering the potential issues with shared data plans, AT&T is in a safe position. It will be close enough behind Verizon to remain competitive, but it will have a chance to alter its plans after carefully watching the effects of Verizon's plan. This may even be the reason AT&T is not committing to a specific launch time, as AT&T may want to see how this will impact Verizon before actually implementing this change.
In other areas, AT&T is being more proactive with its innovations. Mobile devices are common in small business settings today, and they will only become more popular as time moves forward. In other words, businesses are important customers to wireless carriers. In response to the needs of these customers, AT&T has become the first carrier to offer a bundle of protection services for businesses through the AT&T Mobile Protection Pack. This provides a better value for companies utilizing mobile technology, and this means a greater number of businesses will likely be using AT&T's services.
Another plan that will be important to AT&T's future is its home security automation system, Digital Life. One writer has commented extensively on the implications of this soon-to-be-released product for AT&T. It will allow customers to monitor and control their home from a variety of devices and locations, and it will be available to customers even if they are not currently with AT&T. There's also speculation that Digital Life will allow AT&T to remain competitive with Verizon's Home Monitoring and Control Package and may help AT&T stock increase $2 per share by 2013. I'm inclined to agree with this analysis, as the product may certainly change home systems for the future, which would mean big things for AT&T if its product does indeed work well.
In more localized settings, AT&T is also responding to its customers' needs. In the Boston area, AT&T has improved its coverage at the TD Garden. In the past, coverage has been a problem for Boston sports and music fans, so AT&T has created more satisfied customers through this improvement.
While AT&T is meeting strong competition from Verizon, it does have ways of keeping up with the competition. It will remain strong as shared data plans become available, and Digital Life helps it compete in home security automation as well. In addition, AT&T has more unique reforms such as localized coverage improvement in areas like Boston and bundled protection services that appeal to small businesses using mobile technology. AT&T is continuing to meet the needs of national and local customers, therefore, while keeping up with the competition from Verizon.
AT&T is also responding to the growing Latino population in the United States through its new promotion in coordination with the television network nuvoTV, which is a network with programs directed at bi-cultural Latinos in America. This will promote the interactive channels of AT&T U-verse and several shows from nuvoTV. The plan to promote AT&T U-verse is one more example of how AT&T is placing an emphasis on continuing to grow beyond the role of wireless carrier.
Addressing the more familiar role of AT&T, however, it does continue to be one of the strongest wireless carriers in the United States. The upcoming Samsung Galaxy S III will be available with AT&T and T-Mobile. In addition, Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows 8 tablets hold promise to increase AT&T stock, as they will probably increase the sales of Windows phones.
Some competitors, furthermore, are struggling. Even T-Mobile is facing difficulties due to the sales of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhones and has had to lay off roughly 900 employees to begin its recovery. In comparison to other wireless providers, therefore, AT&T continues to be a strong force in the industry.
There is some cause for concern, however, as Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has considered changing its Nexus smartphone program, and tech writers have investigated the implications of this possibility. Unfortunately for AT&T stockholders, this would not be good for wireless carriers. It will make it more difficult for carriers to add their own apps and will reduce the ability to keep customers on strict contracts. It is even possible that Google will sell these phones directly to customers.
As a result, this may come as bad news for all major wireless carriers, including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), though nothing is definite as of the moment. As this continues to develop, however, stockholders of AT&T or any wireless carrier should keep close watch on Google's new Nexus smartphone program.
Regardless, the increased demand for Windows and Samsung phones will be good news for owners of AT&T stock. While future Nexus smartphones may provide some competition to wireless carriers as a whole, there is still strong business available to AT&T. Its attempts to diversify through AT&T U-verse and Digital Life give the company access to strong areas outside the industry of wireless carriers. As things currently appear, I believe AT&T is a strong stock that should see increases as a result of its new programs, products, and services. At $33, AT&T appears to be undervalued. Based on the new directions this company is headed in, I would value this stock at around $35.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.