Wireless industry executives have to make numerous decisions every day on everything from business costs and capital spending to which devices to carry and what partnerships to strike. Looking back, it is easy to see what decisions should have been made--or not made. What partnerships should have been forged? What concepts should have been abandoned?
Executives from across the industry probably have many regrets or decisions they would like to do over, especially when it comes to preparing a network or choosing (or not choosing) to promote a particular device on an exclusive basis. However, it is rare that executives admit publicly that they, or the industry, could have pursued a different course. When that does happen, it is worth taking note, not only for the lessons that can be gleaned from such retrospective analysis, but also for the candor with which it is issued.
Here's what they had to say:
One of things that I had accomplished at AT&T Wireless was that I had gotten rid of subsidies on postpaid plans. Part of the benefit of Digital One Rate was that Digital One Rate was incredibly simple. A part of Digital One Rate was to get customers to pay for the migration to the next generation. You needed a digital phone and you needed to pay for it. It was $200, which is what we [the carrier] paid for the phones back then. If I could do it all over, I would just wish the postpaid industry didn't get back into the subsidies game. That's probably the single largest financial challenge for our industry."
--Sprint Nextel CEO Dan Hesse
As so many times before, we tend to overestimate the short-term effects but underestimate the long-term effects of technology deployment and the uptake of new services. I didn't expect the uptake of mobile telephony and later on the data traffic growth to be so incredibly fast. Today's more than 1 billion mobile broadband subscriptions are predicted to be some 5 billion in 2017, and we expect global mobile data traffic to grow 15 times by the end of 2017. With the knowledge I have today I am happy with our prioritizations, putting us in the forefront in mobile technologies and making our business an integral part of people's everyday lives."
--Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg
I'd make the hard calls faster. When I joined Isis, we were focused on building a new payment network--which would compete with the existing networks (from Visa, MasterCard, etc.). After some exhaustive due-diligence, we began to realize that rather than building a new, proprietary network, the right approach was actually going open--that is, creating an ecosystem of consumers, merchants and banks with a mobile commerce platform. It was the right step for the business but it was hard to walk away from all the momentum as well as a central business proposition of our newly formed company. But with the benefit of hindsight, it was absolutely the right move and I now wish we had done it sooner."
--Isis CEO Michael Abbott
The response to our introduction of republic wireless last year blew us away. What do you change about that? In retrospect, I would have partnered earlier and more deeply. Allies matter in challenging the status quo. Our partners today (including Sprint, Let's Talk, Motorola and Devicescape) add significant breadth and depth to the foundation we have for republic now. They enable us to disrupt and innovate more aggressively, on a grand scale, faster than we could on our own. That's because the right partners lend their competitive advantage to ours, freeing us to focus on what we do best. For a startup like republic in a complex and competitive industry, that focus is the ultimate currency."
--Brian Dally, general manager of Republic Wireless
The biggest challenge still facing Wilson Electronics is the lack of consumer awareness of cellular signal boosters, and how they can enhance the usefulness of their devices. Looking back, we should have put more emphasis on marketing to consumers (pull marketing) as opposed to the many years spent marketing to resellers (push marketing). Since we changed to this strategy, our business has been booming."
--Wilson Electronics COO Joe Banos
If I were starting in this business all over again, I would want to gather all of the government regulatory entities throughout North, Central and South America for a two-week-long wireless technology summit on the importance of spectrum harmonization in the Americas. The summit would be a two-week working session regarding how careful spectrum planning and the mobile broadband ecosystem can transform healthcare, education, transportation and the economy."
--Chris Pearson, President of 4G Americas