"Just because we can do something doesn't mean we have to do it," Galvin told an audience of thousands of wireless executives on Monday during his keynote address at the CTIA Wireless 2003 spring convention.
Galvin's comments run counter to what other CEOs had to say in their keynotes. Instead of stressing the voice call, most wireless companies are using the show to introduce even more complex data services such as behind-the-firewall access for mobile workers, or the ability tofor high-speed Web connections, as Verizon Wireless announced Monday.
said such ventures are fine, but not while America's cell phone networks still need to be worked on to improve the quality of a call and to expand networks' geographic reach. If infrastructure isn't improved, Galvin said, the industry could seriously delay the day when more phone calls are made by cell phones than landline phones, something he predicted would happen. Already, 5 percent of U.S. adults use cell phones exclusively, eschewing landline phones and services, and more than half of all U.S. citizens now own a cell phone.
But not being able to rely on a cell phone because a network is shoddy will turn back the expected tide of new users, Galvin said.
"We really have to look at the relevant problems that consumers want solved," and more reliable voice calling is highest among their concerns, Galvin said. "We're going back to an era where we have to build real solutions."
Galvin is touching on what is a divisive point for the wireless industry. Carriers make nearly all their money from voice calls, yet they've each spent billions of dollars tocapable of high-speed Web access. To earn back their construction dollars, every major carrier is developing and selling downloadable applications and e-mails. Wireless carriers, which believe such services will help dig them out of two years of slowing growth, are now selling hundreds of different applications for entertainment or for getting behind corporate firewalls.
It seems Galvin and Motorola may be fighting a losing battle, for now. Nokia Chief Executive Jorma Ollila said during his keynote that "it's all about people creating their own content."
Ollila was showing off one of his company's latest wares, the n-Gage, athat also includes an MP3 player and an FM radio. Though the n-Gage is part cell phone, Ollila never mentioned that during his 20 minutes on stage.
LG Electronics Chairman John Koo was on Ollila's side. Koo told convention attendees that "People want the bells and whistles." LG plans to introduce a cell phone in the United States this year that can remotely tap into a home's network to turn on a washer or dryer or to check the view from a security camera, he said.
"We've sold some of these phones in Asia, and we will be seeing lots of them in the United States," Koo said.