The carrier executives also called for spectrum harmonization across countries. Apple's iPhone 5 put the spotlight on spectrum fragmentation last year when it launched with support for just three LTE spectrum bands, said Franco Bernabe, chairman and CEO of Telecom Italia and chairman of GSMA, which puts on the show. The iPhone 5's limited LTE support meant buyers would be able to take advantage of LTE only in certain countries. As yet there is no single broadly accepted LTE band that would let international mobile users roam widely on the cutting-edge network system.
Several CEOs said they see great potential in NFC (near-field communication) for mobile commerce, even if it may not generate much carrier revenue.
"NFC is probably not going to be a huge amount of money for us, but it is a fantastic customer experience," saving consumers from having to carry several cards and letting them buy things just by tapping their phones near a seller's device, Vodafone's Colao said. Vodafone has sold 210,000 SmartPass NFC payment apps in Italy and plans to launch the system in five more countries before summer, according to Colao.
What may hold mobile commerce back is fragmentation, with different carriers as well as different banks taking their own approaches, Colao said.
AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson held up the Isisprogram in the U.S., a joint venture between AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA, as an example of carrier coordination on mobile payments.
"I don't know exactly what the monetization model looks like for this thing," Stephenson said. "But I do think it's very, very important as an industry that we propagate this capability as quickly and as pervasively as we can."