By Carol Wilson
Jun 20, 2007 12:00 AM
One stressed mobility and the other collaboration as two of the industry’s most powerful men shared the NXTcomm opening day keynote session.
Randall Stephenson, the new chairman and CEO of AT&T, declared the company under his watch to be “a wireless-centric company” and announced the availability of Video Share, a video-sharing service via wireless phones. John Chambers, chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems, challenged the industry to recognize the second phase of the Internet, building on Web 2.0 to create new services that enable collaboration toward common goals.
A third powerful individual, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, appeared via videotape from Washington, where the birth of his second child is imminent. He also threw a spotlight on wireless, calling the upcoming auction of 700 MHz spectrum an important step forward for consumer broadband access.
Stephenson launched his first major address as leader of the world’s largest telecom services provider with some self-deprecating humor, noting his new title hasn’t relieved him of some household chores such as feeding the dog and taking out the garbage. But he quickly segued into more serious topics, saying service providers must navigate today’s currents of change or risk being swamped.
Chief among those currents, he said, is the acceleration of fixed/mobile convergence for all services: voice, broadband and entertainment. In addition, the transition to an all-IP network, the need to include entertainment as part of a service package, the move from subscriber-supported to ad-supported Internet business models and the need to let customers call the shots are all significant trends, he said.
“For AT&T, the conversation begins with wireless,” Stephenson said. “We have an advanced network with a robust set of products and services. The most important decision a consumer makes is their wireless service because it is the most personal. It is the one device we all take with us.”
Owning “100% of the largest and best wireless company in the world” is just table stakes, he added, because “to succeed, we must become wireless-centric; that’s what the new AT&T is all about.”
Stephenson pointed to the iPhone, due out in 10 days, as “the embodiment of innovation” that is needed and a “game changer” for AT&T and the industry at large. AT&T is changing the brand name of its Cingular stores in advance of its release, training hundreds of new employees and working to make sure its network is ready to support what is expected to be unprecedented demand.
“One million-plus people have contacted AT&T about the iPhone, and 40% of those are not AT&T customers today,” he said.
With wireless-centricity comes mobility for all services, including delivering services anytime, anywhere and to any device, and incorporating wireless broadband, Wi-Fi hotspots and home networks, added Stephenson, who included a Video Share demo in his presentation (see story on page 2).
The new chairman added that being wireless-centric doesn’t mean neglecting AT&T’s wireline services or its network and pointed to the ongoing U-verse rollout as proof. “Our confidence in this service is stronger than it ever has been,” he said.
Chambers—who, in his usual style, brought the house lights up and roamed throughout the cavernous hall as he talked—devoted much of his presentation to illustrating Cisco’s success in predicting past trends three to five years ahead of the market, including the movement of all services to IP and the use of the Internet to improve productivity by automating internal processes and communications.
The second phase of the Internet isn’t about the individual, as many have claimed, but will be focused on collaboration and sharing of information via voice and video instead of the “thumbs” involved in text messaging today, he said.
At the same time, he said, “we need to make our definition of broadband broader, and we need to make it easier to use. I want access to anything at any time and get it over any device, and it needs to be simple: One click, one answer.”