Sprint CEO: Wireless industry can help our troubled economy

Dan Hesse also uses CTIA keynote address to take a quick jab at rival AT&T executive. Fellow telecom execs from Verizon and AT&T talk up their respective companies while keeping it largely congenial.

Dan Hesse speaking at the CTIA Enterprise & Application conference today. Roger Cheng/CNET

SAN DIEGO--Sprint Nextel Chief Executive Dan Hesse said the wireless industry can help get the troubled economy back on track.

"Mobile has a direct and powerful impact on efficiency, productivity, and the economic performance of any business in this country," Hesse said during his keynote address at the CTIA Enterprise & Application conference today.

Hesse, Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead, and AT&T head of mobility Ralph de la Vega reunited for another round of keynote addresses at CTIA. Unlike the last CTIA gathering in March, the executives were scheduled to speak in separate addresses, avoiding the colorful barbs and jabs that were the highlight of their last discussion, which came shortly after AT&T announced its plans to buy T-Mobile USA.

Notably, T-Mobile USA wasn't invited to speak today in an event billed as the titans of the industry.

The separate speeches didn't stop Hesse from taking a shot at de la Vega, saying he looks like John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated President Lincoln. He attempted to make nice by calling it a "compliment," and said he actually likes his fellow telecom executives.

De la Vega, during his address, responded by calling Hesse "the best actor we have in the industry today."

The executives, however, were largely congenial with each other, contrasting some of the sharp shots delivered a few months ago.

Beyond that, the executives played it safe. Hesse talked about the CTIA's "green" initiative, as well as the trade group's focus on preventing distracted driving. He even complimented Verizon Wireless and AT&T's own initiative.

He added that a competitive U.S. wireless industry can generate an additional $800 billion to the gross domestic product through increased productivity.

The speech was a far cry from Hesse's investor presentation on Friday, in which he laid out the company's 4G plan to a sometimes testy audience. That was followed by a series of downgrades from Wall Street yesterday. Hesse didn't mention the company's 4G plans during today's speech.

De la Vega, meanwhile, talked up the company's open nature and the company's AT&T Foundry locations, innovation centers that are based in various areas, including Palo Alto, Calif. He talked up the company's ability to work with the startup culture to tap into new talent.

AT&T has also embraced a venture capitalist model, de la Vega said, noting that the company is getting more than 500 ideas a month and funding more than 50 projects. One such project came to fruition through AT&T Toggle , which allows phones to juggle two separate identities: one for work and one for personal use.

De la Vega also touted the company's early entry in the emerging devices business through the creation of a specific group. The group has enabled AT&T to connect everything from e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle to picture frames with a cellular connection. The company is working to connect cars and devices in industries such as health care.

Verizon's Mead, meanwhile, also talked about the need for collaboration in the industry for the common good. He cited as examples the aid that the wireless industry has been able to deliver during times of natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires.

"Even though the wireless industry is fiercely competitive, it's been able to grow because of mutual cooperation," Mead said.

Like de la Vega, Mead talked about the benefits of connected devices, citing as an example a suitcase that can tell you its location and a car that takes a picture and alerts you when it gets hit while parked.

"We're helping our customers envision the scope of possibilities that come from machine-to-machine," he said. "We have an exciting future, and we're just at the beginning."

 

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