What We Learned at CTIA
I don't think there was a single earth-shattering device to be found in the long stretches of halls or reams of PR announcements at the show. I still found the event enlightening, however, from the perspective of how 4G networks are evolving as billing and apps continue to develop.
On the network side, Long Term Evolution (LTE) was on every major carrier's agenda this year. This is good news for the small cell sector as the tiny radios appear to have finally found a niche as a way of eventually delivering better 4G coverage indoors and outside.
Mobile video, meanwhile, was driving the app chat at the show.
I found the conversation between John Donovan, senior EVP for technology and network operations at AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), and Tony Melone, CTO at Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), at the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) event at CTIA interesting too. Both were concerned with how contextual networks -- systems that know what you're doing, where you are and what you like to do -- will affect both them and their subscribers.
Donovan said that it will initially be "spooky and creepy" for users but that, in the future, all wireless services will be contextual because of the time-saving services that can be built with that data.
Melone was a little less future-focused. Contextual networks have obvious benefits for the consumer, he said. The carrier could offer "toll-free billing" if it has an agreement with the building the user is currently in, Melone suggested.
Device stasis As to why devices have started to take a backseat at this show, well, major vendors tend to like to make a big splash outside of shows these days anyway.
Also, how many more processor cores can you add to a smartphone before you totally kill the battery life? Sext-core? Octa-core? There has to be a stop point somewhere and maybe quad-core is it.
Great device software design and apps are key to the consumer anyway, same as it ever was.
Meanwhile, LTE networks are still growing, and there's a distinct lack of roaming agreements between carriers in place. LTE is a global standard but users are stuck with limited access from town-to-town right now.
And we should all be thinking about the burning privacy issue of a contextual network that knows more about what you're doing than your own mother does on any given day.
Who watches how the carriers use that data as these networks arrive?
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile