Verizon CEO: Speed spurs wireless services

Mobile phones are on the verge of becoming the centerpiece of personal computing, with higher data transmission speeds and a wireless infrastructure in place, spurring demand for services, Dennis Strigl, president and chief executive officer of Verizon Wireless Inc., said Thursday in a ComNet keynote speech.

"The day is coming when wireless will no longer be thought of as a separate and distinct form of communications," Strigl said in the final keynote of the trade show. "I would predict ... that the qualifiers wireless and wired will disappear as wireless actually becomes the centerpiece."

Stressing the importance of speed, Strigl said that Verizon, formed in the merger of Bell Atlantic Corp. and GTE Corp., is already testing 144K bps (bits per second) service, and the company plans to offer it commercially later this year. The trials are testing technology known as 1XRTT on equipment made by Lucent Technologies Inc. and Nortel Networks Corp. to check the mobility of the service, speeds and spectral efficiencies, and will continue the trials for about six months before the services go on the market. The next evolution, including speeds of 2.4M bps is coming rapidly behind the 144K bps trials, he said.

Speed and the built-out infrastructure combined with factors such as the acceptance of applications such as e-mail and a cell phone market penetration of about 40 percent in the U.S. have brought wireless data to a critical juncture, Strigl said.

"In short, the technology is real, the demand is real because the function of mobility has ever-increasing value to our highly mobile American lifestyle," he said. "So it is not a stretch to say that the wireless phone is on a fast track to becoming the very centerpiece of information and services any time anywhere."

Over the past few years, Strigl admitted he has not been "bullish" on wireless data, but he's come to see its potential.

Strigl said Verizon is moving aggressively on wireless data, but will not replicate what is done on the desktop. The services will deliver a unique Internet experience that will couple microbrowsing and dialup Internet services with SMS (short message services) and allow for "deep customization of mobile content," he said.

"Instead of browsing being our focus ... we are creating a tool that enables customers to put critical and time-sensitive information on continuous monitoring, allowing customers to check status, get alerted and make transactions when they want to," Strigl said.

This will include a service that can monitor messages sent by a school, for example, so that parents can be alerted if an unusual circumstance, such as bad weather, closes the school early. The services will be customizable and will include not only alerts, but also the ability to conduct transactions and receive regular notices, such as stock prices. Eventually, carriers will offer various price packages for the service that are a better deal than the per-minute fees charged now, he said.

Partitioning of the wireless spectrum is critical and must be done on the basis of open competition, Strigl said, offering his observations about the market. Verizon bid aggressively in the recently concluded U.S. Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) auction for 1900MHz licenses, he said.

The intelligent wireless network is the foundation for delivering quality, speed, innovation and maximum value, and spectrum is the "life blood of what we do for this network," he said. Demand for wireless data will require more and more spectrum to deliver the speeds promised, he said. He also said that he opposes caps on spectrum, limits on the amount of spectrum that carriers can get in a geographical market, and restrictions based on set asides for various groups.

"When spectrum is awarded on a fair and competitive basis it ensures that spectrum is in the hands of those who value the spectrum the most. They have a vested interest in developing this raw material and the best incentive to find and employ technologies to use spectrum ever more efficiently," he said.

Strigl added that the FCC's decision to postpone the 700MHz auction until September was the right move, but he declined to speak further about Verizon's bidding strategies, citing an FCC-imposed quite period.

Verizon Wireless, in Dallas, Texas, can be reached at +1-972-860-3200 or http://www.verizonwireless.com/.

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