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US wireless pioneer to carriers: Don't be European

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CTIA Wireless John Stanton - co-founder of US wireless pioneer McCaw Cellular and a three time head of the national wireless association - has urged the big-name carriers to restore their vice-grip on the American airwaves.

After the CEOs of T-Mobile, Sprint Nextel, and Verizon Wireless spent the morning discussing their gradual transition to so-called open networks - networks that accept any device and any application - Stanton questioned their sanity.

You see, he doesn't buy the idea that wireless carriers are access providers.

"We talk about open networks," he told an audience at the CTIA wireless association trade show in San Francisco. "That, in effect, defaults us back to the notion that we're access providers. Access is a commodity business or is going to be a commodity business.

"If you can innovate, you can develop profitable business models. If you become a pure access technology, in a saturated environment, you’re ceding yourself to growing at the rate of the economy."

The big European and Asian carriers are already limited by economic growth, he said, and US carriers are well on their way to the same fate. "If you sum up the revenues for the major operators in Europe, they're growing at about a 3 per cent rate, and major carriers in Asia are growing at about a 4 per cent rate - essentially at the rate of the economy.

"The US is still flirting with double digits...but we're drifting down."

Carriers, he insisted, must go back to the future. "Docomo, nine years ago, did a better job of developing a service that integrates device, content, and network in a way that’s meaningful to the customers - better than any of the national traditional networks do today.

"[Carriers must] embrace broadband, embrace content, own content. Why is it that none of the carriers own significant content? They have essentially ceded that to the Googles."

Stanton - who now oversees the Trinity Partnership, an outfit that invests in wireless-related companies and runs various international mobile networks - also urged those mega-US carriers to follow his lead and start investing aboard.

"We [Trinity] have businesses in our little partnership in places like Boliva and New Zealand. We...are among the largest US operators of foreign systems," he said, "The major American companies have essentially retrenched, which means scale is going to be ceded to foreign companies."

So, John Stanton believes that American wireless carriers should control everything on every network across the globe. ®

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