AT&T Best Quarter Earnings

AT&T has released its 4th quarter earnings for 2011 this morning, and it appears that the carrier had a heck of a good time selling smartphones for the three months ending the year.

Big Blue reported record smartphone sales for the quarter of 9.4 million units, besting its old record of 6.1 million set in the third quarter of 2010 by more than 50 percent.  7.6 million of those were iPhones with the lions share being the iPhone 4S.  (interesting side note: the last record was set in the quarter that started one week after the iPhone 4 was released, so it seems safe to say there is a trend here.)  Android also got in on the action, more than doubling sales of its handset year-over-year.

4Q 11 AT&T Smartphone sales

Overall, smartphones are on the rise for AT&T; At the end of the quarter, 56.8 percent of AT&T’s 69.3 million postpaid subscribers had smartphones.

The number of subscribers to AT&T also saw a bump for the quarter, capping off a year of gains.

AT&T 4Q11 Subscribers

Sadly, not everything is good news in the land of Big Blue. AT&T CEO Randall Stevenson took time this morning to talk with the press and investors in a call about the report, and spent some time discussing the government blocking of the AT&T and T-Mobile merger.  He talked about the constraints this would put on spectrum for carriers, and, unfortunately, it looks like consumers are the ones who will pay the ultimate price for that situation.  He said of the company’s possible solutions:

In a capacity constrained environment we will manage usage-based data plans, increased pricing and managing the speeds of the highest volume users. These are all logical and necessary steps to manage utilization.

No word on when we might see any of this come into play, but something to definitely keep in mind. And, sadly, if one carrier does it, you can expect more to follow.

What do you think of how AT&T performed this quarter and what they propose they may need to do due to constrained spectrum?