Incentive auctions, data roaming will likely dominate discussions at CCA show

Sue Marek

U.S. wireless operators will be flocking to New Orleans in a couple of weeks to attend the annual Competitive Carriers Expo, which takes place April 17-19 at the New Orleans Marriott. I expect such hot-button topics as incentive auctions, data roaming and IP transition will likely be debated at the conference.

According to CCA President and CEO Steve Berry, attendance for the show is likely to surpass last year's event, which broke past attendance records. Although Berry declined to provide specific attendance numbers, he said that registrations are tracking above last year's figures and added that the exhibit hall is sold out. He also noted that international attendance is growing with groups such as Enterprise Ireland exhibiting for the first time at the show.

Berry noted that attendees at the conference will likely be hearing a lot about the upcoming incentive auctions. In 2014, the FCC plans to hold incentive auctions for TV broadcast spectrum in the 600 MHz band. Berry noted that the incentive auctions will be very complicated, but smaller operators are hopeful that this spectrum will be affordable and desirable.

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) CEO and President Dan Hesse will kick off the show with a keynote address April 18. Hesse and his company have been in the spotlight lately as Japanese carrier Softbank attempts to acquire 70 percent of Sprint in a deal valued at $20.1 billion. Concurrently, Sprint wants to acquire the approximately 50 percent of Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) it does not already own in a deal valued at $2.2 billion. The companies have said they expect the deals to close by mid-year. It's uncertain whether Hesse will be able to elaborate much on this, but I'm sure attendees will be interested to hear his perspective on the industry.

Berry also noted that CCA's pre-conference day, April 17, will include a program about FirstNet, the First Responder Network Authority, which is creating a blueprint for a nationwide 700 MHz broadband network for public safety. Berry noted that smaller operators are very interested in being a part of this effort and can look to this event to help them understand how to get involved in the program.

The pre-conference day will also feature a breakfast panel, "Strategies for Today's Wireless Landscape," that will be hosted by FierceWireless in partnership with the CCA. I'll be moderating the panel, which will look at how new competitors such as MVNOs, CLECs and over-the-top providers are impacting the core business of wireless carriers. I'll be joined by panelists Lon France of Republic Wireless, Linda Martin of Immix Wireless, Slayton Stewart of Carolina West Wireless, Don Stroberg of Clearwire, and Eric Woody of Union Wireless. To register for this breakfast, click here. --Sue