De la Vega talks spectrum, competition, handsets

Fri, 10/09/2009 - 8:20am
Monica Alleven, Wireless Week

SAN DIEGO – The incoming chairman of CTIA says he will work to reach out to the entire CTIA membership to align both big and small carriers.

The industry has undergone some fractious times in the areas of roaming and handset exclusivity deals. But AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets CEO Ralph de la Vega, who assumes the chairman post in January, said he wants to reach out to all of the members, including rural carriers. “I hope we act in a more united way,” he says.

In a wide-ranging interview Thursday, de la Vega answered questions about the new Federal Communications Commission, his hopes for the industry’s future, handset exclusivity deals that ultimately expire and AT&T’s decision to go directly to Long Term Evolution without stopping for HSPA+.

Earlier this year, de la Vega didn’t give a huge vote of confidence to the Android platform, but since then, the carrier has become more comfortable with how Android works. “We wanted to make sure our technical people kicked the tires on it, that it would work well. We have done that. We’re through with the evaluation. I think we’re very happy with it,” he said.

As for rumors of an imminent Dell device running Android for the AT&T network, de la Vega said he doesn’t know where that came from. “I am not in a position to comment on it,” he said. However, he did say that AT&T most likely would have Android devices in its lineup next year. “We’re working with several manufacturers,” which he declined to name.

How about the widespread expectation that AT&T’s U.S. exclusivity with Apple on the iPhone is due to run out any second now? There again, AT&T is under a non-disclosure agreement with Apple, so it’s not saying. But de la Vega did say: “We have seen this movie before.”

Years ago, the company had an exclusive for the Motorola Razr, and that had a good run, but eventually the exclusivity period ran out. So, it’s important to have a slew of great devices in the lineup.

A few weeks ago, AT&T surprised a lot of people in the wireless industry when it revealed it would not go to HSPA+ but move more directly to LTE. De la Vega said it’s not so much an issue of spectrum. After seeing how soon LTE will be here and taking into account the need to replace a large portion of antennae, which use MIMO, for HSPA+, the carrier decided not to make that move.

On FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s visit to the CTIA show: “I like the fact he was out here with us. He spent a lot of time listening to people, getting input. I think he is open and will help us with some really big issues, such as getting more spectrum,” he said, as well more expedient siting of wireless gear.

What’s most troubling, he said, revolves around things “we don’t know about, those that have to do with net neutrality,” he said. “I think we have the most vibrant wireless industry in the world. It’s without question the most competitive industry in the world when you look at the number of operators … I don’t see the need for additional regulation.”

Along those lines, “I am hopeful [the FCC commissioners] will take their time, and they don’t put the same regulations on wireless that they put on wireline,” he said.

More Broadband Direct 10/09/09:
•  Comcast serves notice on bots, viruses with new program
•  Bill to curb loud ads moves thru Congress
•  Cable a bastion against the aporkalypse
•  De la Vega talks spectrum, competition, handsets
•  FCC signals new rules on wireless broadband
•  Tech industry braces for more antitrust scrutiny
•  Report: OTT eating into video market share pie
•  Broadband Briefs for 10/09/09



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