Ina Fried

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CTIA Boss Steve Largent Prepares for the Wireless Industry’s Super Bowl in Orlando

There may have already been plenty of cell phone and tablets announcements this year, but next week’s CTIA trade show in Orlando is still the Super Bowl when it comes to the North American wireless industry.

At least that’s the perspective of Steve Largent, the former Seattle Seahawks wide receiver and U.S. congressman who now heads the trade group that puts on the event.

“This is still the No. 1 show for the wireless industry, particualrly the wireless industry in North America,” Largent told Mobilized by phone this week, adding that the show floor will take up 300,000 square feet, the most since he joined the group in 2003.

That said, the organization is shaking things up for 2012, moving its event later in the year–to May–and changing the location to New Orleans. Largent insists it wasn’t a direct impact from CES and Mobile World Congress, but said that exhibitors did want an event that was later in the year.

“They’ve told us they want more opportunity to unveil their back-to-school and year-end products and services and we are going to give them that opportunity in May.”

As for next week’s event in Orlando, one of the highlights is likely to be the opening keynote on Tuesday which features top executives from the top four cellular carriers duking it out on stage in a forum moderated by CNBC’s Jim Cramer.

“I think our CEOs are a little nervious about having Jim Cramer be the emcee,” Largent said, but added the format should give the audience a great time and a good snapshot of where the industry is at.

Mobilized will be at the CTIA event all next week, providing lots of on-the-ground coverage from the event as well as moderating a panel on augmented reality.

Of course, no conversation with Largent would be complete without talking about policy concerns, so we also chatted briefly about taxes and spectrum issues.

Getting more spectrum for his industry continues to be the main issue for the CTIA, Largent said. Things are largely where they stood when Mobilized chatted with Largent back in December, with one slight negative being the stance taken by the National Association of Broadcasters.

“The biggest thing that is new and slightly disturbing has been NAB’s reaction and their growing hostility to having an auction of spectrum they now have and are not using,” Largent said. Still, Largent said he is hopeful some middle ground can be reached enabling more spectrum to be auctioned off sooner.

“I think some accommodation will be made for the broadcasters, but we desperately need that spectrum and need to get it teed up sooner rather than later,” he said.

As for tax issues, Largent said he is pleased that once again the House has taken up a measure that would put a freeze on new wireless taxes for the next five years. Wireless consumers, he said, pay on average 16.3 percent of their monthly bill in various taxes and fees.

“We think that is more than enough,” Largent said.


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