Winners and losers in wireless CEO industry leadership pageant

11 October 2011 by Steve Blum
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CEOs from the big three U.S. mobile phone companies gave keynote speeches at the CTIA Enterprise and Applications conference in San Diego this morning.

It’s a chance for CEOs to step out as industry leaders. Or it’s a chance for them to deliver their sales pitch of the day.

Dan Hesse, the CEO of Sprint Nextel, took the high road. As CTIA chairman this year, he had some extra incentive to play the industry statesman role, but others have had that opportunity and taken a pass on it.

Hesse talked about CTIA’s common goals for this year – improving the industry’s environmental performance and reducing distracted driving and added some priorities of his own. Mobile technology can reduce medical costs he said, claiming that if doctors and other health care providers can remotely monitor patients with chronic conditions, that alone would cut health care spending in the U.S. by $21 billion a year.

Dan Mead, president and CEO of Verizon Wireless, only gave in once to the temptation to be a corporate pitchman, showing a Verizon promotional video. Otherwise, his ideas on promoting innovation – inside and outside of the traditional wireless walled garden – and cooperation within the industry could be taken up by anyone in the room.

“A customer driven market with limited government intervention is the only way to ensure a competitive and vibrant future,” Mead said, coming back to his theme of encouraging innovation and embracing cooperation. There was more substance to his speech, even if he just missed maxing out on the statesmanship scale.

AT&T Wireless CEO Ralph de la Vega made many of the same points, but focused on his own company. His talk featured several AT&T promotional videos and slides, and might as well have been delivered by (or to) his marketing team.