NEW ORLEANS — In what he characterized as “the speed-dating round,” "Mad Money" man Jim Cramer reprised his role as financial interrogator extraordinaire this year during an International CTIA Wireless 2012 panel that put the country’s Top Four wireless CEOs on the grill.
Cramer started out by asking each man what had changed the most in the wireless industry during the last 12 months:
>> Ralph de la Vega, AT&T Mobility: “The mobile Internet has come to life; there are more smartphones being sold than PCs. This is a great growth opportunity.”
>> Dan Hesse, Sprint Nextel: “The United States clearly is recognized as the leader in Long Term Evolution (LTE).”
>> Philipp Humm, T-Mobile USA: “4G has been brought to life.”
>> Dan Mead, Verizon Wireless: “Video delivery over mobile devices.”
And what will the industry look like a year from now when the industry reconvenes in Las Vegas?
>> Mead: “There will be difference consumer adoption of LTE as they figure out what they can do with it.”
>> Humm: “The access that will be provided to value-added-service providers. And the use of voice and texting will decrease.”
>> Hesse: “It will be about privacy, safety and security. There will be a lot more focus on how to protect wireless devices.”
>> de la Vega: “The rise of mobile payments. The smartphone will replace the wallet.”
And what about your company 12 months from now and in the future?
>> de la Vega: “4G LTE is amazing. Handsets are amazing. Applications are being developed for an unstoppable wave of data demand.”
>> Hesse: “We have the iPhone and a network vision plan. And our iDEN will be turned off.”
>> Humm: “We will be concentrating on restarting the company and on LTE. And we will have a strong presence in the B2B market.”
>> Mead: “It’s LTE. The whole ecosystem has moved with us; we do 60 percent of global LTE activity.”
What about getting more spectrum?
>> Mead: “It’s an industry issue to free more government spectrum and to get incentive auctions going. There is unused spectrum in secondary markets.”
But don’t you own the most spectrum?
>> Mead: “We don’t own the most spectrum but we use it better.”
Now that the AT&T deal is dead, could T-Mobile be sold?
>> Humm: HuHumm: “There is no second ‘AT&T’ deal around the corner, but we could sell some strategic assets, like towers. But we have been winning marketshare and building out more fiber backhaul.”
Will there come a time when the wireless industry hits the wall?
>> Humm: “There will come a time when the price becomes too high, but that time isn’t now. We want to make sure our customers don’t go over their data limits. We are looking at more unlimited, price-inclusive data plans.”
Friend or foe? Apple.
>> de la Vega: “Friend.” (Big laughs from the audience.)
Friend or foe? Skype.
>> Hesse: “Friend. It isn’t a threat. We offer bundled, unlimited plans, so the bill remains the same.”
Friend or foe? Amazon.com.
>> Humm: “Friend. We all live with ‘coop-itition.’”
Friend or foe? Comcast.
>> Mead: “Friend. (More laughs). We are creating a level playing field with video. They will become my agent.”
— Debra Baker