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The CTIA at War

NEW ORLEANS – CTIA Wireless 2003 – The average springtime temperature in New Orleans is about the same as it is in Baghdad.

That might not have meant much last year, but it was one of the strange facts floating 'round a telecom tradeshow where there was more talk about war than there was about wireless.

All week, Unstrung has been asking people what they think will happen to the wireless market as a result of the conflict.

The answers can be split roughly into three categories:

The Optimist: John P. Stautner, head of technology and new markets at Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), thinks the conflict might actually encourage more use of mobile and wireless technology, because people will want to be able to work from home and keep in contact at all times.

"There's a greater demand to be able to do that in times of trouble," he says.

The Pessimists: Unstrung had dinner with a group of Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) executives on Monday night. Understandably, these infrastructure-focused people felt that conflict could not be good for their sector of the market.

Motorola, they say, is already looking at a flat-to-down market. War is likely to tighten the carriers' grip on their purses even more.

The Pragmatist: Dr. Paul Jacobs, group president of Qualcomm Inc.'s (Nasdaq: QCOM) wireless and Internet group, is hoping the conflict will be over quickly, so it doesn't damage relations between the U.S. and Europe. [Ed. note: Hate to break it to you, Dr. Paul, but in case you haven't noticed...]

"It's not helpful for anybody to have strained relationships between the U.S. and Europe," he says. "At the end of the day, we have more common interests than not."

For some people, there's a sense of déjà vu about all this. Perry LaForge, executive VP of the CDMA Development Group (CDG), remembers coming out of a meeting at the CTIA show 12 years ago to find that the first Gulf War had started.

"It's going to be interesting," was his terse comment on the whole affair.

— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung
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