Claure, Mittal note importance of immigrants in U.S. tech industry

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure speaks at Mobile World Congress Americas.

SAN FRANCISCO—Plenty of eager investors and a large pool of talented workers from overseas are fueling innovation and growth in the U.S. wireless industry, industry executives said during the second keynote presentation at Mobile World Congress Americas Tuesday.

“We are at center stage of innovation across the globe,” GSMA Chairman and Bharti Enterprises founder Sunil Bharti Mittal said during a fireside chat with Mats Granryd, director general of the GSMA. “Why is that happening? One, I think, is that access to capital is phenomenal. The amount of money that is available here to entrepreneurs is incredible.

“The second, I would say—it may be a bit controversial at this time—is the amount of high-quality immigrants coming here and settling down,” the billionaire Indian entrepreneur continued. That combination “has made this place the real mecca” in the global wireless marketplace.

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure—who has a firsthand view on both subjects—agreed. Sprint’s parent SoftBank operates a $100 billion tech-investment fund, and the executive was born in Bolivia and moved to the United States as a teen, giving him perspective on both fronts.

Claure cited a forecast released by CTIA this week that predicted North American operators will spend as much as $136 billion in capex from 2017 to 2020 as 5G networks and services come online. And that spending will create three million new jobs over the next few years, he said.

“There’s a lot of talk (nationally) about jobs, jobs, jobs,” he observed. “I don’t see any other project that has been presented in the United States that has the ability to create three million jobs.”

Immigration has become a particularly hot-button topic under President Donald Trump, of course, and both speakers steered clear of addressing any specific bill or legislation. But Claure made clear that immigrants play a key role in technology industries in the United States.

“There’s so many immigrants in so many cases who are the ones who are creating these companies, causing this disruption,” he said.

And like many other speakers at this year’s show, Claure urged federal authorities to help streamline processes for small-cell deployments.

“We’ve got to find a solution and fast (for small cells) if we want to continue being a leader,” he opined. “I think it is so important for the U.S. government … once and for all to get our act together.”