Wireless trade association CTIA announced that industry veteran and former Federal Communications Commission commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker will take the reins of the trade group effective June 2. Baker will replace current CTIA President and CEO Steve Largent, who announced his retirement plans last October.
Baker had previously served as director of congressional affairs at CTIA between 1998 and 2000, and most recently served as SVP of government affairs for Comcast-NBCUniversal. Baker also served two years as a commissioner at the FCC from 2009 to 2011. Perhaps highlighting the slide CTIA has felt over the past several years, Baker noted plans to bring a new focus for the trade organization.
“I plan to bring new ideas and new initiatives to the association that will take it from good to great. We will recruit and keep the best and brightest experts in spectrum and wireless communications,” Baker explained. “CTIA must be the ‘go to’ organization on wireless issues for both industry and government.”
CTIA last year announced plans to consolidate the two trade shows per year it had been conducting for more than a decade into one event beginning later this year. That show is scheduled to overlap with one of the Competitive Carriers Association’s two trade show events in Las Vegas.
CCA has seemingly stolen some of CTIA’s thunder in recent years as it has strengthened its connection to the nation’s tier-two and tier-three wireless carriers as well as having attracted membership from the industry’s No. 3 and No. 4 carriers Sprint and T-Mobile US. This has left the impression that CTIA has been catering more exclusively to the nation’s two largest operators Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility.
In a statement, Baker cited a handful of initiatives she is looking to undertake in her role at CTIA. Those included placing more emphasis on “technical and engineering expertise” connected to spectrum and wireless technologies; working with “commercial and government users” to produce a five-year plan for the future of wireless spectrum usage; begin to “regularly asses how efficiently spectrum is being used.”
The emphasis on spectrum appears to coincide with the FCC’s plans to conduct a pair of spectrum auctions over the next 18 months, including the AWS-3 auction scheduled for later this year and the 600 MHz incentive auction by mid-2015. The FCC recently wrapped up its H-Block spectrum auction.
Baker’s close relationship with the cable industry could also signal a shift for CTIA in attempting to lure non-traditional wireless players into the trade group’s fold. Comcast, for instance, has recently ditched plans for traditional cellular service in favor of a broad deployment of Wi-Fi hotspots tied to its Xfinity cable offering and in partnership with the CableWiFi initiative.
The move also continues to close relationship between wireless industry trade organizations and the FCC. Wireless trade group PCIA named former FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein as president and CEO in late 2012, while current FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler formally headed up CTIA.
Largent, a former republican senator from Oklahoma and professional football player for the Seattle Seahawks, took over leadership at CTIA in 2003 following the departure of Wheeler.
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