AT&T's new CEO, Randall Stephenson

AT&T's top lieutenant, Randall Stephenson, 47, assumed the company's CEO responsibilities yesterday, following the announcement of his promotion last month. Analysts say Stephenson will be judged by how well he makes the merger of the three companies (BellSouth, AT&T, SBC) work. The biggest challenge may be making money from AT&T's U-Verse service.

AT&T plans to make its U-Verse service available to 18 million homes by the end of 2008 and is spending as much as $6.5 billion over five years to install fiber optic lines that can carry the service. Originally, the service provider expected to spend about $5.1 billion.

Unlike his predecessor, Ed Whitacre, who didn't use email or have a computer in his office, Stephenson embraces telecom services and even has a 100-inch flat panel TV at home. He has both DISH TV and AT&T's U-Verse installed in his home. Whitacre offered Stephenson three words of advice via text message when the executive change was announced: "Give 'em hell."

While the service provider's recent deal with Apple for the iPhone will certainly be top of mind for Stephenson in the weeks ahead, the two companies' relationship may expand into the IPTV realm as well. See today's number two story for more.

To read more about Stephenson:
- see this AP article