MWC Scorecard: U.S. operators

Whose profile is rising: Verizon Wireless.  Die-hard CDMA operator Verizon Wireless made its first trip overseas to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and created a big splash by having keynote speaker Dick Lynch, Verizon Communications' EVP and CTO, talk about the operator's LTE deployment and announce its vendor selections. After his keynote, the show floor was buzzing about Verizon's LTE vendor picks.

Naysayers have speculated that Verizon will not be able to meet its aggressive deployment schedule because it must have backward compatibility to 1xEVDO. But the savvy carrier is pulling out all the stops to make sure it's ready by launching the LTE Innovation Center. Lynch says this center, which will be in a suburb of Boston, will bring together the company's selected infrastructure vendors along with M2M vendors, the consumer electronics community and the automotive industry so they can see how LTE works and get an idea of its potential.

This outreach to non-traditional wireless device firms is a smart move and one that will likely jump-start the embedded wireless strategy that companies such as Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile USA are all envisioning.  Lynch says that many consumer electronics makers are confused because they hear that LTE won't be ready until 2012 or 2013. "What I want to do with the Innovation Center is tell them that the time is now. If you get ready today you will have product. When the other parts of the world launch LTE, you can move to other locations as the systems turn up," Lynch says.

Whose profile is falling: AT&T Mobility. Unlike Verizon, AT&T Mobility's message at Mobile World Congress was lost.  During the opening keynote on Tuesday, Ralph de la Vega, the CEO of AT&T's consumer & mobile group, issued a call to action for the industry to stop the operating system fragmentation and develop common APIs. The goal, de la Vega said, was to allow developers to make apps for multiple platforms so consumers will no longer be frustrated with apps that work on one device but not another. Mobile developers would also benefit because many cannot afford to develop for all platforms across all devices even though that is what consumers and carriers want.

Unfortunately, panel moderator Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal quickly discounted de la Vega's comments--saying that the market would resolve itself just as the computing industry did several years ago. He also said that the operating system vendors would never go along with de la Vega's plan. 

Unfortunately for AT&T, de la Vega's message, which is important for the industry, didn't get the traction it deserved. During the rest of MWC, several companies announced app stores, which will likely create further fragmentation in the market, a situation de la Vega clearly is trying to avoid. At this critical juncture, it would have been nice to hear other industry heavyweights consider de la Vega's message but no one seemed to be aware it. The message failed to gain any traction at a time when the U.S. wireless industry clearly needs some solutions to the growing market fragmentation.

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