Verizon's CES keynote hails a 4G world

The devices shown off at the talk--the Droid Bionic, the Motorola Xoom tablet--had already been previewed to a gadget-hungry public. Verizon instead focused on talking about the power of the network.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
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Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes (left) talks with Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg at the CES trade show on Thursday. Screenshot from Verizon livestream

It's all about the network: Verizon's new 4G LTE broadband infrastructure was the cornerstone of Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg's keynote address on Thursday morning at the 2011 CES trade show in Las Vegas, where he hailed the possibilities of the "creative revolution" stemming from the increasingly hyperconnected world we live in.

"Wireless data is now more than doubling every year," Seidenberg said. "Smartphones are growing at almost 90 percent a year, and a whole new computing platform for mobile broadband has emerged."

This power of the network was key to all the topics Verizon touched upon in its talk: faster broadband's evolution into a more connected world, the new Droid Bionic dual-core smartphone and Xoom tablet in partnership with Motorola, and the power of Google's Android operating system (and its new Honeycomb edition for tablet computing).

Motorola Xoom running Android 3.0 Honeycomb (photos)

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There was not, as some had eagerly hoped, the announcement that Apple's iPhone would finally be available on Verizon.

President and Chief Operating Officer Lowell McAdam joined Seidenberg on stage to talk about Verizon's development of its 4G network, and its 2007 promise to build "the fastest, most advanced network in America."

"We sent a signal to the entire consumer electronics industry that this market would develop very quickly," McAdam said. "In 2011, that vision becomes a reality. One month ago, Verizon launched commercial LTE service in 38 major markets."

He also talked about "big broadband," the fiber infrastructure needed to power 3D technology and media-heavy activities like holographic games and high-quality videoconferencing. McAdam predicted "huge growth in video traffic" and claimed that there is "no practical limit to the speed that this fiber can deliver."

Ultimately, he said, this will result into an even more hyperconnected world.

"Network innovation not only changes what we can do, it changes what you can do with us," McAdam said. "Your home will be a smart hub for managing your energy use, your health care, your security system, and your appliances...I call these high I.Q. networks, and these networks are the hubs of the wheel that will drive this industry forward."

The Verizon executives paraded out Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes--now that Time Warner Cable is a separate company, Bewkes no longer runs a competitor to Verizon's broadband service--who talked about the need for good infrastructure to power consumer demand for "TV everywhere," on mobile devices as well as throughout the home. "All of that is going on-demand, on every device, in ever higher quality, HD soon 3D," Bewkes said, "and it is an explosion of vitality that is moving from the TV screen, still on TV, but to every other screen that you have."

He name-checked the Verizon FlexView on-demand service that the company offers for its Fios home access service.

Many of Verizon's CES-related announcements had already trickled out over the past few days or through weeks of a constant rumor mill: the first phones to use its 4G LTE network, like the Motorola Droid Bionic, which is shaping up to be one of the must-see mobile devices at CES; and the Honeycomb-powered Xoom tablet, which Motorola had unveiled on Wednesday. Indeed, Verizon's focus was less heavy on the news and more focused on the power of the network in the future.

"The sheer scale of connections in this new world will be truly mind-boggling," Seidenberg said at the conclusion of the event.