AT&T's Jeff McElfresh warns 5G iPhones may not be 'massive event,' says engineers are working on 6G

Key Points
  • AT&T Communications CEO Jeff McElfresh says 5G adoption may be muted by the recent pandemic job losses and higher costs of unlimited 5G data.
  • 'I've always tried to soften folks' expectations around 5G,' McElresh said.
  • McElfresh defended DirecTV acquisition because the cash flows from the deal helped AT&T invest in fiber.
CEO of AT&T Communications Jeff McElfresh
Source: AT&T

A View from the Top is a Q&A series exclusively available on CNBC Pro. Alex Sherman will regularly speak with a business leader about decision-making, investing and industry news.

AT&T is focusing on three "core priorities" -- wireless, fiber broadband and next generation entertainment services, according to Jeff McElfresh, head of AT&T Communications. That's driven AT&T's push to divest assets, including potentially DirecTV and its advertising platform Xandr.

Still, while AT&T is positioning its company around wireless and high-speed broadband, Apple's 5G iPhones, expected to be announced in October, may not be the major event many are expecting. Economic challenges during Covid-19 quarantines may cause fewer people to upgrade immediately, said McElfresh. If you're not in a hurry to upgrade to 5G, McElfresh shared some additional news -- AT&T engineers are already working on 6G.

McElfresh also defended AT&T's decision to buy DirecTV in 2015 for $49 billion while acknowledging consumers now view satellite TV as "old technology." 

Here's the full Q&A: