Verizon CTO: Innovation Hinges on Spectrum

GRAPEVINE, Texas -- TIA 2012: Inside the Network -- Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)'s Executive VP and CTO Anthony J. Melone emphasized the need for open standards, mobile device and network security, and -- wait for it -- the industry's dire need for spectrum during his keynote address today.

Most interesting in Melone's keynote was a nod toward innovators and the losers in technology shifts. Melone said the losers in the world's major technology shifts "wasted time trying to protect old business models." He cited the example of Kodak, where the digital camera prototype was invented but then ignored, ultimately to the demise of the company.

He wasn't being ironic.

The telecom industry, he noted, is in the middle of a technology shift now, given the accelerating pace of broadband, Internet video, and machine-to-machine communications. "We see machine-to-machine revenues growing at over 40 percent over the next few years," he stated.

To make his case that Verizon was not among those companies that lose out to technology innovation, Melone cited Verizon's four foundational technology platforms -- a global IP network, FTTP, LTE and cloud services -- and he spoke briefly about the company's progress in each area. Read Verizon's latest annual report at a medium pace if you'd like a synopsis.

The threats to innovation are arguably more interesting to discuss and debate, but as this was a keynote, we settled for a brisk drive-by tour. Melone listed these innovation threats, but only sounded direct and fired up when he discussed spectrum and how the government is messing things up.

Before that, he noted the threat of network security breaches, especially on mobile devices. "Security and privacy must be preserved across our network," he said. He also urged companies to be transparent about how they're using data on mobile devices and wireless networks.

Then, like his fellow captain of industry, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) CEO Randall Stephenson, said here Wednesday, Melone noted that the government is largely perceived to be the problem that keeps service providers from moving forward at a pace they'd prefer. Like Stephenson, Melone noted that regulators need a faster review process for spectrum transfers. "Government and industry must find ways to work together to use the spectrum more effectively," he says.

Finally, Melone said the industry needs more open standards: The "do-it-yourself" way of innovating won't work in today's marketplace. On that topic, Melone offered nothing concrete, just the usual nudge for everyone to work together.

That would have been a perfect moment for Melone to invite the industry to bill a stiff drink to his hotel room, but, alas, we'll use our own cash as we contemplate the industry's innovation curve.

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— Phil Harvey, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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