Wireless business called model for telecom

The wireless telecommunications industry, like the PC industry, is a thriving model of the kind of market that can produce innovation and valuable services if it is allowed a free hand, said U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell and other speakers on Monday at the opening keynote session of the CTIA Wireless trade show.

Also in the session, executives of mobile operators, phone makers and chip makers expressed optimism about emerging phone capabilities such as shooting and sending photos, playing games over the Internet and watching streaming video. LG Electronics Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) John Koo even showed a video of a working mother controlling a home air conditioner, washing machine, refrigerator and other appliances via a mobile phone.

Regulation of the telecommunications industry needs to move beyond the traditional approach that addressed centralized telephone networks, said Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association President and CEO Tom Wheeler and other speakers. Wheeler asked Powell how to rework regulation.

"The first thing you do is you start listening to Gordon Moore and (Robert) Noyce and all those who invented the microprocessor and the computer revolution and the Internet," Powell said. Like industry has, regulators have to make a radical change, he said. For one thing, it's too cumbersome for the government to dictate what a slice of spectrum is for and who can bid to use it. The FCC needs to move to more flexible allocations of spectrum, he said.

The mobile industry is the one success story resulting from the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which promoted deregulation and competition, said Representative William "Billy" Tauzin, a Louisiana Republican and co-author of last year's Internet Freedom and Broadband Deployment Act, intended to loosen the rules for incumbent carriers to open up their networks to competitive broadband providers.

"We ought to follow the example of cellular and wireless and explore the boundaries of competition and choice and consumer innovation. ... We have to approach it with a mind that is not locked into the old structure of the switched network and the notion that telephony is something that must be regulated, otherwise it won't work," said Tauzin.

Cameras, color screens and other visually oriented features of phones are leading the use of data services on phones, several executives said.

"We have taken a device that was originally for the ears and made it a device for the eyes," CTIA's Wheeler said.

Speakers also gave glimpses of products in the pipeline. LG plans to deliver in the U.S. in the second half of this year a phone that uses the CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) 1xEV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized) technology, the next generation of CDMA data infrastructure. Texas Instruments Inc. Monday announced a working concept design that would combine GPRS (General Packet Radio Service), Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technology, said Tom Engibous, chairman, president and CEO of Texas Instruments. By the end of next year, it will be possible to build a one-chip phone, which open up dramatic possibilities for small size and low power consumption, he added.

Intel Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Paul Otellini demonstrated a video game on the Samsung I600, a phone built with Intel's PXA262 processor, which uses the company's XScale architecture and includes 128MB of integrated memory.

Power consumption is the most important problem to solve, TI's Engibous said. He sees one revolutionary way to solve it: Eventually a low-end phone should be able to power itself by picking up energy from the heat of the user's body, he said.

CTIA Wireless continues through Wednesday.

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