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Tech Leaders Cheer Wireless in CTIA Kickoff

LAS VEGAS -- The CTIA Wireless conference kicked off in grand fashion today, with several industry leaders celebrating the current benefits of wireless technologies with any eye toward the future.

Of the handful of keynote speakers to take the stage today, Glenn Britt's presence probably stood out the most. Why would the Chairman and CEO of cable giant Time Warner Cable (TWC) want to speak at a convention of wireless buffs?

He wasted little time in answering.

"The consumer is the reason cable is focused on wireless," Britt told a packed audience at the Las Vegas Convention Center. "I could have said we are interested in wireless because of convergence in content. Both of those words are overused and I think they missed the point."

"We are in the business of using technology to meet consumer needs." He said TWC is looking to match technological innovation with consumers' needs.

Britt went on to reiterate the maxim that "content is king" and that consumers are looking to receive cable programming on-demand through their wireless smart phones and other devices such as Blackberry wireless handsets and handheld computers.

Moreover, consumers are increasingly sharing content via wireless gadgets, including photos and other information. The sharing requires distribution companies, which is where Time Warner comes in, he said.

The CEO said TWC, along with Sprint Nextel, are working on ways to program a digital video recorder from a mobile phone and access programming that's recorded on the DVR on a mobile device. Over time, he said users will be able to access clips of content from the DVR via the wireless gadget.

TWC's future goal is to offer a communications and entertainment wireless device that works in and out of homes and link video, data and phone platforms to Sprint Nextel.

While Britt talked about Internet and cable convergence for mobile devices, NTT DoCoMo President and CEO Masao Nakamura discussed his company's current and future wireless achievements.

Nakamura, whose company has 90 million wireless subscribers in Japan, said more than 10 million of them are using NTT DoCoMo's phones as virtual wallets.

He said some DoCoMo customers in Japan have wireless phones fitted with an infrared chip.

This chip allows users to run the phone across a scanner that allows them to pay for groceries and commuter tickets for subways. It also permits them to unlock the doors to their homes.

Looking forward, Nakamura said DoCoMo is currently making prototypes for high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA).

HSDPA is high-speed packet transmission technology that experts believe will offer a maximum downlink speed of about 14 megabits per second. The prototype handsets have maximum speeds of 3.6Mbps, 10 times faster than current 3G Docomo handsets.

While DoCoMo continues to impress with its wireless innovations, wireless pioneer and Nokia CEO Jorma Ollila said in his portion of the keynote said that despite the rising tide of new mobile applications for bringing TV, e-mail and search to the small screen, voice remains the main killer application for cell phones.

Ollila also said that wireless is beginning to penetrate even more markets, particularly in India.

Karim Khoja, CEO of Roshan, a telecom development company in Afghanistan, vouched for this in his presentation, noting that wireless subscriptions are booming in Afghanistan among those who have the financial means.

Why wireless in Afghanistan? Khoja said a major reason is that the abundance of land mines in the country make installing fiber for broadband a prohibitive task.

The keynote also included a question and answer session between CTIA President and CEO Steve Largent and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin about the government's support for wireless.

Martin acknowledged the importance of allowing wireless technologies to blossom.