May 09, 2012, 9:07 PM — In an industry marked by heated rivalry and frequent corporate sniping, the top executives at the nation's leading wireless carriers are united in their call for policymakers to free up more spectrum to boost the capacity in their mobile broadband networks.
Slideshow: CTIA Wireless 2012 Product Primer
During a keynote session at CTIA Wireless 2012, the CEOs of Verizon Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile USA and AT&T took turns on stage to offer their chief priorities and updates on internal projects.
Aside from the drive to expand and improve 4G LTE coverage, no refrain was heard more often than the need for wireless spectrum to help the carriers cope with the spiking data volumes that users are generating with a burgeoning crop of tablets and smartphones.
"On our new 4G LTE network, after just six months, data usage was at levels that were not reached for years on our third-generation network," said Dan Mead, head of Verizon Wireless, who noted that the data volume traversing his company's network has doubled each of the last three years.
Mead also put in a plug for the $3.6 billion deal that Verizon is trying to move through a regulatory review that would see the company obtain a set of spectrum licenses from a consortium of leading cable companies, saying that the spectrum would be put to use in short order should the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice each bless the transaction.
More recently, Verizon announced that if it should win approval of the deal with the cable companies, it would sell off some of its current spectrum holdings that it would no longer need, a move that critics have argued shows that Verizon has been warehousing spectrum, but that Mead defended as a prudent move for his company that would also help the broader wireless ecosystem.
"No one is forcing us to sell those licenses," Mead said. "We believe both of these initiatives demonstrate we're responsible stewards of these high-value and extremely costly assets."
Sprint's Dan Hesse, though equally hungry for spectrum, focused his remarks on the tarnished image the wireless industry has in the public imagination, stressing the need for carriers both to rehabilitate their reputations and take steps to shore up security, safety and privacy.
Hesse noted in a 2012 ranking of industries from the Reputation Institute, the wireless sector netted the lowest score of any major category, pointing out that wireless was viewed as less reputable than the cable and oil industries, hardly the darlings of Americans consumers.
"With the issues lying ahead [for] our industry -- financial and regulatory -- it has never been more important for wireless carriers to gain the public's trust.