SAN DIEGO – Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets, sounded like a man on a mission in his keynote Wednesday at CTIA. Following on the heels of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski’s keynote, de la Vega aimed to prove that the wireless industry in the United States is indeed the most competitive.
While de la Vega expressed his approval of the FCC’s recent petition to lend a hand in rolling out next-generation networks, he was also cautious.
“We need to be careful when we are dealing with the most vibrant wireless market in the world,” de la Vega said, setting the tone and theme for his talk.
De la Vega went on to outline 10 key facts about the current health of the U.S. wireless industry, which he said should be proof enough that government regulation is not what the mobile ecosystem needs right now.
To be sure, the AT&T CEO had his facts down. For instance, he noted that wireless subscribers in the United States pay an average of 5 cents per minute – in some cases 60 percent less than in other developed countries. Additionally, he highlighted the diversity of handsets available to U.S. consumers – some 630 devices from 30 companies.
By the time he’d addressed all 10 facts, de la Vega had painted a picture of a relatively robust industry. According to de la Vega’s slides, facts and figures, the United States uses more minutes per month than any other developed market, has seen a 5,000 percent growth in data usage over the last three years and tops all developed nations in 3G subscribers.
Having just accepted the revolving CTIA chairman position for next year, de la Vega may have been trying on the role of wireless industry protector a little early. His point, however, was well made. The wireless industry has matured to a complete, and perhaps ironically, fragile ecosystem.
In light of the evidence he’d presented, de la Vega ended his talk with one last cautionary note. Citing an industry that supports 2.4 million American jobs and generates $19 billion in taxes and fees annually, he suggests that the government not try to get overly involved.
“If the government imposes regulation on an industry that is already working, it could have unforeseen consequences,” he said.