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AT&T: We've sold 6.4M smartphones in Q4 already

Mobility chief Ralph de la Vega says AT&T is on a record pace for the quarter, and is on track to exceed its expectations for full-year smartphone sales.

Ralph de la Vega, head of AT&T mobility, speaking at the company's investor conference in New York City in November 2012.
Marguerite Reardon/CNET

AT&T is hoping for a happy holiday when it comes to smartphone sales.

The wireless carrier is selling smartphones at a record pace -- 6.4 million already in the first two months of the quarter, according to Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T's mobility arm. De la Vega, speaking at an investor conference today, said he now expects to sell 26 million smartphones this year, 1 million more than previously expected.

"What we're seeing is tremendous response in the marketplace," he said. "Excitement is at all time high. I feel very good about momentum going into December."

De la Vega said the first two months of sales alone would give the company the second best quarter of smartphone sales, and sales typically ramp up going into the last month.

The company has improved its supply of iPhones, and De la Vega also touted some of the other smartphones in AT&T's lineup, including the LG Optimus G and Nokia Lumia 920.

De la Vega was also bullish on tablets, noting the company's recent $100 promotion and the mobile data share plan have driven interest in the area. It's also the first time all three major operating systems have tablets, from Apple's iPad, to Android tablets, including the Kindle Fire HD, and tablets running on Microsoft's Windows 8 and Windows RT.

"I can't fathom how many tablets will be under the Christmas tree," he said.

He continued to express optimism over the adoption of the mobile share plan, noting that a quarter of the plans use 10 gigabytes or higher, which is more data than the company had expected.

De la Vega also weighed in on some of the key growth areas for the company, including home security and mobile payments. AT&T plans to launch its home security and automation service, which it unveiled earlier this year at the CTIA Wireless trade show, in early 2013, and will offer it at its stores and other distribution channels, he said.

The home security industry is worth $18 billion and operates with margins in the 35 to 40 percent range. De la Vega said AT&T has an even lower cost structure, which could mean big profits down the line.

De la Vega declined to talk about future deployment plans for ISIS, its mobile payment joint venture with Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA. He only said the trials were going well and that merchants have expressed interest in utilizing the near-field communication technology that enables people to tap and pay for goods with their smartphones.

"We like what we see," he said. "But we're still in the early stages of development."

Updated at 6:03 a.m. PT: to include additional comments from the executive.