Question: How much mobile data is downloaded by U.S. enterprises and consumers every hour of every day? Answer: 1.5 times the information housed in the Library of Congress. That’s a lot of bits and bytes, and wireless carriers along with application developers and equipment suppliers continue to grapple with how to monitor and monetize this phenomenon that continues to drive the industry and the economy.

The recent CTIA Enterprise & Applications gathering in San Francisco is the new iteration of CTIA Wireless IT, with the wireless association deciding it’s not all about the technicians anymore. According to CTIA President/CEO Steve Largent, “As we enter into the ‘mobile decade,’ our focus has shifted from what mobile technology is to what it can do.”

Kicking Off

The opening-session crowd was not the largest CTIA has ever seen, but it was perhaps the most targeted; attendance at the session topped only 600. CTIA Chairman Ralph de la Vega (whose day job is president/CEO of AT&T Mobility) started the ball rolling by pointing out the three drivers for enterprise wireless adoption: better device operating systems, more cloud-based applications and a ramped-up adoption of tablet computers ( i.e., the iPad). (Editor’s note: During the course of the two-day event, it was clear Apple wasn’t the darling of the industry anymore due to the great strides made by Android devices and apps.)

His conclusion: “2011 will be a transformative year for enterprise mobility.”

Sybase CEO John Chen emphasized the profound impact of mobility without losing sight of industry challenges that may hinder its pervasiveness. “Mobility is going to be the backbone of the economy,” he said, “and it will have to be global.”

Chen also noted that more people are opting for smartphones than for PCs. Because of this shift from the desk to the streets, he urged the wireless industry to come together to simplify the myriad ways people access business and personal data on the go, creating new specs that would make such operations as mobile banking accessible through fewer clicks. If the industry itself tackles this problem, it would preclude government initiatives to do so, thus making sure such things as cross-border data storage of business information would be assured.

And then attendees heard the words for which they were waiting all morning: that the nationwide rollout of Long Term Evolution (4G LTE) will be a reality. Speaking on behalf of his company, Verizon Wireless President/COO Lowell McAdam unveiled the network launch in 38 major metro areas, covering more than 110 million pops, by year’s end. In addition, the carrier will cover more than 60 U.S. airports with LTE, and it is offering to partner with rural carriers to get the network out even farther. Some 200 rural carriers have petitioned to be partners, and five have been approved so far. (Note: Verizon, however, is not the first U.S. carrier to offer LTE. Metro PCS cut over to that technology in its markets in September.)

The Last Puzzle Piece

The Open Mobile Video Coalition, representing nearly 900 U.S. TV stations and a lot of public broadcasters, wrapped its Washington, D.C.-based consumer testing last month and released some early findings of that trial: local news is the most popular program watched on the small screen, video viewing ins increased because it’s so convenient on the handset (even at home) and inpending weather or public-safety emergencies spike viewing.Those participating in the "showcase" were exposed to interactive advertising, e-service guides, closed captioning and emergency alerts.

The group also transmits in more than 14 other U.S. markets, including New York City, Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago, Orlando and Los Angeles.

According to Sandhi Kozsuch, director/Mobile Broadcasting at Cox Media Group, five of his 11 stations have gone mobile, and two more are coming. “Broadcasters have a great marketing platform,” he said, “and there are other inherent strengths, like content and infrastructure. It’s the last piece of the digital-transition puzzle.”

What’s Really New?

Here’s the view from 36,000 feet of the myriad items of interest on the show floor or in private demos. CT will report more in depth on some of these in future issues:

  • LXE, a division of EMS Technologies, is testing a great tablet computer for techs in the field (but you watch how others will pick this up) called the Marathon Field Computer. Great form factor and design, rugged, big-enough keys, nice screen size and resolution, connects to the Net via Wi-Fi, and it can interface with other test equipment. Cable/telco is one of its target six groups but this could become a consumer device someday. (www.lxe.com/marathon)
  • Quickplay Media was showing its “Multi-Screen Movie Solution” that’s hot in Canada for mobile video on demand, and it’s powered by AT&T U-Verse, Motorola, Cricket and U.S. Cellular here. Most programming costs $9.99 a month, and content is downloaded via Wi-Fi so that a customer’s data plan isn’t impacted. It also can stream SiriusXM. More on this in the January 2011 issue. (www.quickplay.com)
  • Want full-length TV programming streamed to your phone along with behind-the-scenes footage and trailers? Bitbop can stream or download content, and it features a “discovery” app that watches your preferences. It’s almost like a mobile DVR. Today, there’s programming from 25+ providers, including A&E, Bravo, CBS, Fox, FX, NBC and Lifetime. (www.bitbop.com)

— Debra Baker

The Daily

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