In a rare circumstance, the CEOs of Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon came together at CTIA to talk about the direction of the mobile network platform. Each leader of their respective wireless company began the discussion by talking about the trends of usage by customers, starting with Verizon’s Dan Mead. He began by highlighting Verizon customers will have a need for more wireless data than the company can provide by 2014, which would lead to the tightening of currently available spectrum. T-Mobile’s Philipp Humm expanded on some of Mead’s spectrum concerns by highlighting the need for access to new bands if the current capacity can grow alongside the ever-growing demand. He also talked about having to better manage existing spectrum.
AT&T and Sprint gave their two cents too during the introduction. Sprint leader Dan Heese discussed how wireless carriers need to improve their reputation in the eyes of consumers. Coming off the heels of problems such as the Carrier IQ controversy, Heese adds that smartphone owners need to be better educated on how to use their phones securely. Heese adds that the public is currently uncertain of what the true definition of “4G” is, so there needs to be a uniform agreement of having a real 4G LTE meaning. Ralph De La Vega of AT&T went a different route by talking less about smartphones and more of its purpose as part of a broader ecosystem of connected devices. De La Vega highlighted the Digital Life project which visualizes an online-only “smarthouse”, which includes smartphones and tablets giving individuals to ability to control everything.
The actual roundtable began afterwards, which was moderated by Jim Cramer of CNBC. Cramer began the discussion which centered around innovation. Examples of this include AT&T’s interest in mobile payments, Sprint not focusing on data speed– but rather focusing on mobile security and both Verizon and T-Mobile focusing on increased usage for data as its users make less voice calls and text messages. Cramer quickly took the discussion to another level when he posed the question of whether it’s fair or not that certain carriers have greater spectrum access than others. No one answered the question directly, but each carrier talked about how there’s a need to prove to the government its not wasting the current spectrum available now in the hopes they’ll deserve future access to additional resources.
The discussion then turned to advertising— specifically how carriers advertise against each other and the love for social media. Essentially all the carriers they’re the best carrier in regards to 4G speed, so in order to highlight being the best, each company has to either manipulate information or present it in a way favorable to itself. And finally, the discussion came to a close when each CEO highlights carriers’ love for social media— which is one of the major reasons for why smartphones have seen such explosive growth in recent years.