AT&T CEO: 'Don't Over-Regulate Us'

LAS VEGAS ( TheStreet) -- During his CTIA keynote speech held earlier today, AT&T ( T) CEO Randall Stephenson urged Washington not to over-regulate the telecom sector.

"Historically, there has been a light regulatory touch in this industry," he said, a comment clearly directed at lawmakers. "The results are indisputable -- the U.S. is first in 3G subscribers, the U.S. is first in mobile apps."
AT&T

Last month, a number of companies pressured Washington to ignore calls for increased broadband regulation. Verizon ( VZ) and AT&T, along with Time Warner Cable ( TWC), Qwest ( Q) and the CTIA itself, urged the FCC to ensure that broadband does not fall under the same regulatory framework as telecom services.

Stephenson nonetheless stuck an upbeat tone during his address to a packed hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

"This is one of the most exciting times this industry have seen," he explained. "The growth we're seeing as a result of mobile networks is unprecedented."

The mobile Internet, said the CEO, has revolutionized the way business is conducted and is expected to grow twice as fast as fixed broadband did.

Rapid growth, however, is not without its challenges, something that the government has already acknowledged.

In the recently-announced national broadband plan, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it will free up 500 MHz of the wireless spectrum over the next decade. Some 300 MHz of this will be available for mobile communications in the next five years, according to officials.

Stephenson said that he is encouraged by the FCC's decision. "This is a very clear indication that spectrum is the backbone of our industry," he added. "I think that everyone that is in this room has a stake in this."

Unsurprisingly, the executive did not discuss the status of AT&T's exclusive iPhone deal with Apple ( AAPL), but he did give CTIA attendees a glimpse into other parts of the company's roadmap.

AT&T is working on an application called U-Verse Mobile, which will let users download TV content onto their Wi-Fi enabled devices. "I think this is a very exciting step forward for mobile entertainment," said Stephenson.

The Dallas firm also unveiled the AT&T Workbench. Aimed at businesses with a lot of iPhone users, the Workbench software lets companies to deploy Web-based enterprise applications in a very secure manner.

"This is the first mobile platform that brings full enterprise Web applications to the iPhone users," said Stephenson.

AT&T has had to weather a recent marketing onslaught from arch-rival Verizon, which has been wielding its network coverage like a cudgel. There have also been rumblings that Verizon could eventually end up selling the iPhone, although AT&T recently scored a major deal to start selling Apple's iPad.

Inevitably, 4G featured prominently during keynote speeches at CTIA on Tuesday. Ralph De La Vega, CEO of AT&T's mobility and consumer markets division, predicted that LTE will be the leading 4G technology.

Unlike Sprint ( S), which is blazing a 4G trail with WiMax, AT&T is championing LTE, another form of next-generation network technology.

"LTE is inherently a more efficient technology," said De La Vega. "The U.S. is taking the lead in launching LTE."

Rival Verizon is another LTE devotee, and there had been talk that the company will make a major 4G announcement this week. On Tuesday, Verizon and Skype announced that Skype Mobile will soon be available on Verizon Wireless, starting with nine 3G smartphones.

-- Reported by James Rogers in Las Vegas

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