Networking

CTIA Wireless 2008: Less regulation, open networks, and a growing demand for data

Bill Detwiler, TechRepublic's Head Technology Editor, is in Las Vegas this week covering CTIA Wireless 2008, which runs April 1-3. During the Day 1 keynotes, speakers discussed the wireless industries top concerns and current trends.

I'm in Las Vegas this week covering CTIA Wireless 2008, which runs April 1-3 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. During the Day 1 keynotes, speakers discussed the wireless industries top concerns and current trends.

Open networks and calls for less government regulation

During his keynote, Lowell McAdam, President and CEO of Verizon Wireless and CTIA Chairman, explained that the "industry is at a critical crossroads." He asked attendees to embrace new entrants into the market (Apple, Google, and others) and said the wireless industry must eliminate industry practices and policies that don't make sense for customers. Not only would this benefit consumers, but help avoid additional government regulation.

Lowell McAdam, President and CEO of Verizon Wireless, at CTIA Wireless 2008

Lowell McAdam, President and CEO of Verizon Wireless, at CTIA Wireless 2008

Credit: Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic.com

As lobbying efforts for phone companies to open their networks grow, several wireless carriers have taken preemptive steps to avoid government regulation. In November 2007, Verizon announced plans to let consumers use any compatible phone on the Verizon network, and let owners run any application on their phones. Other carriers are following along. AT&T has also announced an open network offering. T-Mobile and Sprint Nextel are working with Google in its Open Handset Alliance.

In an apparent nod to the industry's open network efforts, Kevin Martin, Federal Communications Commission Chairman, expressed his hope that the wireless industry would play a larger role in communications and government less. Martin said 93 percent of people in the US can choose from three wireless providers in their area and 90 percent can choose from four. "Wireless is the poster child for competition," Martin said.

Kevin Martin, Chairman of the FCC, at CTIA Wireless 2008

Kevin Martin, Chairman of the FCC, at CTIA Wireless 2008

Credit: Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic.com

In closing, Martin offered a reward to the incumbent carriers. He said it was premature to require any additional regulation, and said he would circulate a proposal among the four other FCC commissioners to dismiss Skype's petition to apply Carterfone rules to the wireless industry. In 1968, the FCC ruled that the Carterfone and other devices could be connected directly to the Bell telephone network, so long as they did not damage the system. Martin's comments drew cheers and applause from many keynote attendees.

Higher-speed networks that can transmit more data

As customers expect instant access to data-intensive applications, the wireless industry must respond. Dan Hesse, Sprint Nextel's President and CEO, said data was the wireless industry's future. He outlined Sprint Nextel's plans to focus on instantaneous communication by:

  • Offering push-to-talk on the company's CDMA network later this year
  • Allowing user to reach groups of individuals through push-to-talk
  • Launching the push-to-X feature which expands the push-to functionality into e-mail and other applications.

Dan Hesse, President and CEO of Sprint Nextel, at CTIA Wireless 2008

Dan Hesse, President and CEO of Sprint Nextel, at CTIA Wireless 2008

Credit: Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic.com

Hesse also mentioned Sprint's Simply Everything plan, which allows customers to use unlimited data, text messaging, voice, and more for a flat $99 monthly fee-excluding taxes. Discussing Sprint's desire to lead the way in broadband wireless, Hesse spoke about the company's WiMax initiative through XOHM-a new Sprint business unit focused on WiMax. Sprint currently owns WiMax licenses that cover 80 percent of the U.S. population, and Hesse believes WiMax will be part of a winning strategy for the company.

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

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