CTIA updates: Verizon on 4G LTE cruise control

Whether by luck or by design, the decision by Verizon Wireless to basically do nothing public at last week’s CTIA show worked out perfectly, leaving the nation’s top wireless carrier (for now) looking unruffled, unworried and pretty much unconcerned about the pending acquistion of T-Mobile by Verizon’s biggest competitor, AT&T.

It is somewhat understandable that Verizon took a break at CTIA — after all it’s had a pretty busy news schedule for the start of 2011, what with its over-the-top LTE device announcement at CES in January followed by the “We’ve got the iPhone” gymnastics in early February. Still, by not having any public event at CTIA Verizon didn’t have to spend time on its own stage answering questions about AT&T or T-Mobile. Instead, Verizon execs like wireless CEO Dan Mead got to play it cool whenever they were asked about the pending deal, as if there were a corporate edict to simply shrug and look unconcerned whenever the topic came up.

Mead’s reluctance to say anything at all about the AT&T deal, much less denigrate it in any fashion, is perhaps borne a bit by necessity — should Verizon want or need to do a deal of its own in the future, it doesn’t want any hypocritical comments out there. So for Big Red the big wireless show was all about execution and talking as much as they could about their 4G LTE network, which finally got its first smartphone just before the show opened up. (And that device earned a quick rave review from the notoriously tough Walt Mossberg, more good news for Verizon and HTC.)

For the rest of 2011, it looks like Verizon is in full execution mode as it tries to sell consumers and business users on the merits of its 4G implementation, even though the plans associated with the network only allow “unlimited” use via the phone handsets so far, and not through bandwidth-crunching devices like tablets or USB modems for laptops. The only announcement the company made during CTIA was to more clearly list all the small cities that will get LTE service sometime in 2011, a year during which Verizon should overtake Sprint and Clearwire in the number of markets served by a true 4G service.

Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead at CTIA keynote panel. Credit: Sidecut Reports.

That’s a lot of blocking, tackling, and tower-site building, so perhaps Verizon can be excused for being so boring at CTIA. Mead, for one, could only ironically thank motormouth Jim Cramer for being a Verizon customer, and stayed out of any verbal jabbing with his CEO counterparts Dan Hesse of Sprint and Ralph de la Vega of AT&T Mobility during their joint panel session. The most stirring things said by Mead were straight promo stuff, like this line — “This is the most robust network in the world. We’re proud of this LTE network.”

Not the kind of thing to grab a headline, but for Verizon that’s not what CTIA was about. Instead, it’s about building success on top of the 4G network they have already launched, and making it live in more places with more devices. Not a bad kind of boring, from many points of view.

About Paul Kapustka

Paul Kapustka is a longtime journalist who has spent more than two decades covering the information technology business, Paul most recently has been focusing on mobility and how it has changed the computing and collaborative landscape. His newest project outside Mobile Enterprise 360 is a research and analysis operation called WiFi Journal. He is also editor in chief of Mobile Sports Report, which covers the intersection of mobile technology and sports business. Paul is also the founder of Sidecut Reports, a research firm that covered the emergence of 4G technology in the cellular marketplace.