LAS VEGAS—While the spring CTIA trade show historically showcased new handsets, much of the talk during this year’s event focused on things other than cell phones.
Throughout CTIA Wireless 2009, carriers and vendors touted the mobility aspects of netbooks, the ability to get broadband speeds anywhere while on the go and generating network traffic with devices other than traditional cell phones.
During an event Thursday where AT&T hosted press and analysts, small portable computers were on display around the room. “We think we’re … at the beginning of the next wave of growth in wireless, and it’s mobile broadband,” said Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets.
Glenn Lurie, president of emerging devices at AT&T, said the emerging area may be the single biggest opportunity in the wireless industry today. AT&T is working with emerging device suppliers, big and small, to get their devices on AT&T’s network, which, while structured differently, is similar in concept to what Verizon Wireless is doing with its open development initiative.
This week, AT&T also announced the launch of its AT&T Apps Beta, an initiative that gives developers the chance to test applications with AT&T customers and get direct consumer feedback before making their applications broadly availably.
AT&T has had a long-standing relationship with developers. Chief Marketing Officer David Christopher noted that AT&T introduced a developer program in 2002 and has been running its FastPitch program, where developers get five minutes to make their pitch, at CTIA shows for some time. Last year, ChaCha won, resulting in a strategic relationship with the carrier.
In a question-and-answer session, de la Vega was asked about AT&T’s plans for Android. He said the company continues to look at the possibility of Android devices to make sure it does “what we want it to do,” and is closely watching developments. “Stay tuned” was the message.
Asked if AT&T might do more acquisitions now that Verizon Wireless, with the acquisition of Alltel, has grabbed the title of No. 1 carrier based on subscribers, de la Vega said he isn’t interested in doing acquisitions just to get that spot back. “I think we’re large enough right now that we’re getting all the benefits” of scale, volume and partnerships that come with size. “What’s important is to make sure we continue to win in the marketplace.”