Ina Fried

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ATT Technology Chief Insists T-Mobile Deal Won’t Stifle Innovation

AT&T’s technology chief insisted on Tuesday that the company’s planned $39 billion deal to buy T-Mobile USA will spur, rather than squelch, innovation.

Sprint has argued that the rapid pace of innovation in the wireless industry will slow if the deal is allowed to proceed.

“I think it is quite the opposite,” CTO John Donovan said, speaking at the VentureBeat Mobile Summit in Sausalito, Calif.

Donovan reiterated AT&T’s case that the deal offers one of the few short-term ways to improve use of limited spectrum, a key driver for innovation.

However, Donovan noted that many of the factors that are choking wireless networks, including his own, can’t be improved as quickly as people would like. He echoed the observation raised by Verizon network VP Nicola Palmer that one of the big challenges is trying to get city and landlord approval for improvements to individual cell sites.

One of the possible solutions, smaller micro-cells known as femtocells, has some benefits, but is not the cure-all that some would argue.

He also rejected the notion that the company should have been able to forecast the huge surge in demand. Before 2007, Donovan said, it was hard to predict a world in which a group of hedge fund managers would be standing at a Manhattan intersection downloading 20MB of data apiece while waiting for the light to change from “don’t walk” to “walk.”

“I don’t think anybody contemplated that world would be upon us (so quickly),” he said.

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I’m a giant vat of creative juices.

— David Pogue on why he’s joining Yahoo