Ina Fried

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ATT, Verizon and Sprint Face Off at CTIA

In the wake of AT&T’s blockbuster T-Mobile USA deal, top executives from the three big U.S. carriers are set to share the stage in Orlando.

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse, Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead and AT&T President Ralph de la Vega are set to speak in a discussion moderated by CNBC’s Jim Cramer. T-Mobile CEO Phillip Humm was also set to be on the panel, but dropped out following AT&T’s announcement that it plans to buy T-Mobile USA for $39 billion.

Before the CEOs take the stage, though, there will be comments from FCC Chair Julius Genachowski.

Mobilized is here in Orlando and will have live coverage when Genachowski starts speaking in just a short while.

6:24 am: Still speaking is Sprint CEO Dan Hesse, acting in his capacity as Chairman of the CTIA.

6:28 am: Hesse has covered off on a laundry list of stuff from distracted driving, to the explosion of apps to recycling cell phones, to the role cell phone cameras have played in uprisings in the Middle East.

He’s finally wrapping up with a plea for the FCC to free up more wireless spectrum.

“Spectrum is also the oxygen that gives our industry life and growth,” he said. “But we are running out of oxygen.”

Genachowski takes the stage, reading his remarks off a tablet.

6:34 am: Genachowski addresses the elephant in the room: the AT&T-T-Mobile deal. Of course you will understand I am not going to comment on that.

6:35 am: He switches back to a popular topic in the crowd–freeing up more spectrum.

6:36 am: Surely it is just a matter of time before 5G will revolutionize the industry, Genachowski quips.

6:38 am: Genachowski is making the case that the mobile sector is critical to U.S. leadership and talking about the importance of the industry. But he’s preaching to the choir.

6:48 am: A lot of carbon dioxide being expended at CTIA talking about how spectrum is the industry’s oxygen.

Starting to wonder when we are going to get to the CEO panel. This keynote only scheduled to run until half past the next hour.

6:51 am: First potentially adversarial comments come as Genachowski extols virtues of open internet.

6:53 am: Now back to talking about spectrum. Everyone can breathe now. More oxygen.

Genachowski touts benefits of voluntary incentive auction where broadcasters and others get a piece of the revenue generated by auctioning off their spectrum.

“it’s the right idea at the right time.”

6:55 am: (Methinks wireless industry would prefer mandatory auctions and sooner rather than later.)

6:56 am: Voluntary incentive auctions could raise $30 billion, Genachowski says. “Not pocket change.” Costs of inaction exceed that, he adds.

6:58 am: Genachowski wraps up and hands off to CTIA president Steve Largent.

6:59 am: Largent mentions that NTT DoCoMo was planning to exhibit at CTIA but says they are understandably not here in wake of Japanese quake.

Largent encourages audience to text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate to relief effort.

7:01 am: Largent said he was on plane when he heard about AT&T-T-Mobile deal.

7:02 am: Jim Cramer introduces Ralph De La Vega and other panelists with a hearty “booya”

7:03 am: Cramer: Other than this weekend’s news, how did you like the play, Dan Hesse.

7:03 am: After joking about the elephant in the room, Cramer asks Hesse about the role cell phones have played in recent revolts in the Middle East.

“I think we are going to play a big role in social change,” Hesse said.

7:05 am: Is any government safe from power of tech, even China, Cramer asks.

“I think mobility creates democracy,” AT&T’s De La Vega. People around the world are speaking and it is our technology that lets it happen.

7:08 am: Cramer: What’s the next equivalent of text messaging — which was huge boom for the industry.

De La Vega says video communication is probably the next big wave. (Of course, video takes up a lot more capacity than texts)

7:09 am: Cramer: Why is my bill so high and why does he have to subsidize the people downloading so many movies.

Verizon’s Dan Mead: First of all, we appreciate your business. Mead says unlimited data plans have been key to fostering growth. However, the whole industry is looking at whether there should be caps or metered use like a water bill.

“It’s certainly an area of interest for the industry,” Mead said.

Hesse is asked if Sprint will have to shift. “Not necessarily,” he said. He notes that home internet is still unlimited, although there clearly is a difference, he said.

“Customers will actually pay a premium for simplicity,” Hesse said. “For now we are monitoring usage very closely” but we are maintaing unlimited.

7:11 am: Cramer asks De La Vega how much of the T-Mobile buy was about spectrum.

De La Vega says it was important, but doesn’t quantify, but notes it’s one of the reasons why the deal is “in the public interest.”

Cramer: Dan Hesse, Do you agree?

Hesse: “My opinion doesn’t matter. I think the FCC and DOJ will have the say on that.”

Notes that if the deal goes through 80 percent of power in two companies.

“i do have concerns that it would stifle innovation and too much power would be in the hands of just too,” he said.

Mead says Verizon is interested and will be observers, but notes that its company was built through acquisitions and that is how it got its spectrum position. “We’ll be watching what goes on here. There may be some things market by market that will be of interest. We are not going to be distracted by this.”

7:11 am: Cramer asks De La Vega how much of the T-Mobile buy was about spectrum.

De La Vega says it was important, but doesn’t quantify, but notes it’s one of the reasons why the deal is “in the public interest.”

Cramer: Dan Hesse, Do you agree?

Hesse: “My opinion doesn’t matter. I think the FCC and DOJ will have the say on that.”

Notes that if the deal goes through 80 percent of power in two companies.

“i do have concerns that it would stifle innovation and too much power would be in the hands of just too,” he said.

Mead says Verizon is interested and will be observers, but notes that its company was built through acquisitions and that is how it got its spectrum position. “We’ll be watching what goes on here. There may be some things market by market that will be of interest. We are not going to be distracted by this.”

7:15 am: Mead said Verizon never really looked at buying T-Mobile.

7:16 am: Cramer asks why his video freezes.

Hesse quips “Because you are on Verizon.”

7:23 am: Cramer: Has AT&T lost a significant number of customers with Verizon getting the iPhone.

De La Vega: Still hasn’t been a quarter. Can’t really comment, he says.

7:31 am: Cramer asks who is a friend and who is an enemy.

Panel lists Microsoft, Google, Twitter and Facebook as all friends, though Facebook could be a “frenemy” if it became its own carrier.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work