Stars of the show

The annual CTIA show is always a good time to take stock on where the domestic wireless industry has been over the previous 12 months, and where it’s headed over the next 12. This year’s event in Orlando, Fla., was no exception.
As usual wireless carriers were the 800-pound gorillas of the show-though with their insatiable appetite in gulping each other up they are more like half-ton gorillas-but this time it was for different reasons. Unlike past events, this year’s CTIA show did not feature any groundbreaking news from the carriers.
Oh sure, Verizon Wireless touted its Vcast Mobile TV offering, but that service was quietly launched several weeks ago and has been covered ad nausea. AT&T finally seemed to have given the axe to its beloved but short-lived Cingular brand as nearly all of the press announcements from the industry’s No. 1 operator omitted the Cingular name in favor of a straight AT&T reference. Bye, bye Jack.
Sprint Nextel unveiled updates to its mobile music offering. The carrier dropped the price of over-the-air downloaded tracks to 99 cents, which undercuts Verizon Wireless but only matches offerings from Amp’d Mobile and the industry-standard iTunes. Sprint Nextel did trot out a new Samsung device for its remodeled music offering that sports a two-faced approach to combining a cellphone with an MP3 player. (Side note: I found the device cool, but the $150 after rebate pricing is too cheap. Carriers need to take a lesson from Apple in pricing their ultra-cool devices at a level where consumers think of them as a premium device instead of a standard mass-market phone.)
T-Mobile USA and Alltel were nearly invisible.
Even CTIA seemed to diminish the huge carrier impact by not running the usual carrier CEO roundtable event during one of the opening keynotes. From what I have seen in the past these are usually the most lively formats, as the CEOs bypass the typical this-is-our-company-and-this-is-what-we-do introductions that take up most of the time, and instead plunge right into a question-and-answer format that is always littered with great responses.
Here’s hoping the next 12 months have more in store.


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