When the folks attending CTIA Wireless 2008 in Las Vegas stopped congratulating themselves on their “innovation” and “customer dedication” and ceased whining about onerous regulations, they admitted that they have a pretty bright future with the mobile Internet – if they play their cards right.
If there was a universal theme at the show, it was that the Internet is the next great wireless frontier, and it’s there for the taking.
“Internet on the mobile is the new, new thing in the industry,” said Arun Sarin, CEO of Vodafone during a second-day keynote. Mobile, he continued, “will be the primary touch point” for those wanting to go to the Web.
To do mobile Internet right, everyone agreed, there must be more network speed. Third-generation wireless, with its multi-megabit potential, is a good start, but Long-Term Evolution (LTE) and WiMAX will be the transit systems that carry consumers into true broadband wireless.
Vodafone – and by association Verizon (Vodafone holds a 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless) – is an LTE proponent. Sprint Nextel, and by even more tenuous association the cable industry, believes in WiMAX.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) just wants to see broadband wireless succeed and move into the competitive space in hopes that the 700 MHz spectrum it auctioned off to a number of bidders, including big winners AT&T and Verizon Wireless, will make “true wireless broadband an alternative to broadband via cable and satellite,” according to Commission Chairman Kevin Martin.
Martin, during a first-day keynote, made it clear that with the right guidance, such as an open platform the FCC mandated for some parts of the 700 MHz spectrum, wireless could go far, and that the deployment of that new spectrum “has the chance to transform broadband deployment.”
Not everyone needs 700 MHz – something most of the cable industry demonstrated by staying far away from the auction (Cox was the most notable exception). Sprint, with a wide swath of 2.5 GHz spectrum, is plowing ahead with its WiMAX deployments this year, said new President and CEO Dan Hesse.
WiMAX, he said, has “at least a two-year time to market advantage” over LTE and promises “multi-megabit speeds for both downlink and uplink.”
Sprint Nextel’s product, Xohm, will rollout this year as part of a “new era of mash-up in the telecom industry,” Hesse said, though it was later reported that the build-out of the Xohm network would be somewhat delayed.
Of course, each speaker – and many others throughout the event – took time to pay homage to the ones who are causing all of this fuss: the customers.
Wireless, said CTIA Chairman Lowell McAdam, who is also the president and CEO of Verizon Wireless, has “a history of making it happen in response to our customers.”
“The ultimate power, ultimate authority, is in customers’ hands,” McAdam said.
“Our customers want fast wireless broadband,” Sarin said. “The key is just for us to deliver that.”
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