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CTIA kicked off this morning with the association’s Chairman Lowell McAdam of Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) addressing the crowd. He talked about how much innovation has taken place over the last 20 years. He also discussed regulation, saying that if the industry continues to offer what the consumers want, unwanted regulations won’t be placed on the industry. Although he didn’t say it, Verizon Wireless is a good example of that after first opposing the open-access rules in the recent spectrum auction, and then embracing them by saying it will open up its entire network.
Next up, was CTIA’s CEO Steve Largent, who provided an annual update of some of the industry’s key measurements:
— There’s 255 million wireless subscribers in the US, covering 84 percent of the population, increasing by 22 million in the past year.
— Wireless data revenues are soaring, hitting $23 billion in 2007 (17 percent of overall revenues), jumping 53 percent year over year.
— 48 billion text messages are sent every month, a 157 percent over last year,
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin: The FCC chairman took the stage to discuss regulation, picking up on some of the messages that McAdam touched on. He said he’s happy about how the industry has remained competitive at the benefit of the consumer. He said 95 percent of the U.S. has access to at least three carriers, and 90 percent has access to four, and 82 percent of the country is now covered by mobile broadband. As for future wireless regulation, he said for now, he feels his job is done for now that the auction is over and Verizon Wireless and other carriers are embracing the idea of open access.
Richard Branson Virgin’s Sir Richard also keynoted, covering everything from how he named the company to how he launched an airplane, train and space flight business. He also talked about a new project he’s doing with Google, (
which can only be considered an April Fool’s joke). He said the project will be called “Virgle.” The company will be like a big Noah’s Arc that ships animals to Mars, where they will build a civilization. The space ship will be powered by the sun, and carry 30 passengers, “A catch is that for the people who are going — and unlike Virgin Galactic — they may not come back,” he quipped. At the end of his presentation, he invited everyone on stage who wanted a one-way ticket to Mars. Audience members eagerly took the stage to shake his hand.