Wireless CEOs Talk Spectrum Expansion, Building Customer Trust at CTIA 2012

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This year's CTIA conference veered away from the norm with an afternoon keynote involving some of the biggest names in the wireless industry. Called "Beyond LTE-Carrier Innovations," the keynote afforded participants the rare opportunity to witness CEOs from the four biggest U.S. carriers speak in one venue: Dan Mead of Verizon Wireless, Dan Hesse of Sprint, Philipp Humm of T-Mobile USA and Ralph de la Vega of AT&T Mobility.

Across the board, speakers emphasized the need for expanded wireless spectrum, a theme which didn't stray far from today's earlier keynote.

Mead of Verizon Wireless reiterated this point. "Greater use of phones, tablets and other devices with a growing appetite for data is facilitating the need for spectrum," he said.

Sprint's Dan Hesse, on the other hand, focused his attentions on how highly the company regarded values. In his address, the CEO detailed measures by which Sprint put the customer's safety, security and privacy at the forefront of their business. Sprint has formed various partnerships to protect consumers, he asserted. He also stressed how the company also serves up apps--like Family Locator, Drive First and Mobile Controls--that provide valuable services to the customer, and now even includes eco-friendly devices as part of its offerings.

T-Mobile's Humm continued to acknowledge spectrum shortage. He said the carrier wants to continue offering flexible, consumer-friendly plans, but that it "wouldn't be enough." He underlined the need for more efficient technology and still more spectrum.

De la Vega of AT&T returned to values in his speech. He spoke of wanting to give people peace of mind and freedom to live their lives through innovating. Thus, he lingered on details about Digital Life, the carrier's newly-announced home automation and security system.

"Digital Life will change the way people live, work and play," the AT&T CEO said.

At the end of the keynote, all four CEOs came on stage and fielded questions pitched by Jim Cramer from CNBC. All in all, the keynote provided some interesting insight into the dynamics of how these four carriers co-exist with each other. While each player took the opportunity to poke fun at each other (via a number of snarky commercials), and at times, had to valiantly defend their services, at the core they face similar problems and opportunities.

At one point during his speech, Hesse expressed disappointment in the public perception of his industry. "It's never been more important for carriers to gain the public's trust," he said. "The reputation of our​ industry has dropped to the lowest of any major industry. Even cable and oil industries rate higher​ than mobile. And that's a bummer."

Indeed, that is a bummer. But it's up to these four carriers to change that.

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