Largent on CTIA Wireless 2010: 25 years of showcasing innovation

CTIA Steve LargentFor the past 25 years, the CTIA Wireless show has served as the premier event to experience what's new in this vibrant mobile industry. To say we've come a long way is a major understatement.

Some of the first cell phones were called "bricks" because of their enormous size and weight. Five years after the first cell phone service was available, the average consumer in 1988 used his phone for 122 minutes and paid $98.02 per month. We also had approximately 1.6 million subscribers.

Speed dial to 2010. Cell phones weigh ounces, not pounds. Many offer diverse and personalized capabilities ranging from using GPS to taking pictures to browsing the mobile Internet. The average consumer uses his device for 829 minutes and pays $50.07 per month. We have more than 276 million subscribers, or approximately 89 percent of the total U.S. population.

But beyond the numbers, what's most striking is the change in how people are using their mobile devices. It is no longer "just" to make a phone call. We are seeing an increasing number of people go "wireless-only" and use it as their sole means of telecommunications. There is an unprecedented growth in data usage, whether it's to check emails, access the mobile Web or download the newest app. Wireless allows us to access information anytime and anywhere. It delivers broadband to the person and empowers us to live better and work smarter. Wireless has forever changed how we interact with the world. 

In short, the focus of mobile technology has shifted from what it is to what it can do. 

We believe 2010 marks the beginning of the "mobile decade," where wireless consumers across the globe have more freedom and choice than ever before. 

So what do we have to look forward to in this mobile decade? The sky's the limit. But we're not just talking about ideas and inventions for the future; instead, we're seeing many of these new technologies and devices being implemented today.

One area that I am particularly interested in is how wireless deployment increases other industries' productivities and efficiencies. 

For example, while many in the wireless market are bolstering their own environmentally responsible business practices by reducing their waste and emissions or deploying energy-saving IT, we are also providing innovative solutions and applications for other industries. Currently, there are thousands of companies around the nation--and world--that have improved their operations and reduced their environmental burdens by receiving orders and payments or managing and routing their fleets (from buses to garbage trucks to farm equipment) using wireless technology. 

Whether it's through smart grid systems that help conserve energy or applications that remotely monitor a patient's health, mobile technology is improving businesses as the workplace evolves beyond the office. Areas such as healthcare, transportation, education and energy are seeing dramatic increases in productivity, efficiency and to their bottomline, thanks to cutting-edge mobile solutions. 

These are just a few examples of the wireless innovations that will be on display at the annual CTIA Wireless show. This year, CTIA continues its long-standing tradition of assembling a dynamic group of world leaders and visionaries who will provide insight on upcoming trends and technology and address issues of importance to all segments of the wireless industry. Thought-provoking keynote addresses, educational sessions and special interest seminars will address important policy issues such as net neutrality and spectrum, and highlight the vast and positive benefits wireless is bringing to our personal and professional lives. In addition, CTIA is pleased to introduce "Innovation Hall" where attendees will be able to see the future of mobility with pavilions focused on mHealth, eco-friendly products, and technology to combat distracted driving.

While the current economic situation has brought challenges for many, our show is a great reminder of all that this industry provides. Besides the countless new technologies and devices, we also directly or indirectly employ more than 2.4 million people and pay them more than 50 percent higher than the national average for other production workers. Over the past 10 years, our members have invested more than $200 billion to upgrade their networks and infrastructure (not including the cost of spectrum). The wireless industry's 16 percent economic contributions have grown faster than the rest of the economy at three percent. 

Our industry has a tremendously positive impact on our economy, whether it's from its straight-forward investments or by empowering us to live better and work smarter. There's no doubt that the wireless industry, with its relentless competition and awe-inspiring innovation, has a prominent role in our country's continued success. 

I look forward to seeing you on the show floor!

Steve Largent is president and CEO of CTIA, the wireless industry's main trade group.

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