15 Insights from Wireless Industry Leaders at Connect (X): All Access

Innovation, resiliency and the importance of wireless connectivity were themes during the opening day of Connect (X): All Access, the Wireless Infrastructure Association’s virtual trade show. A lineup of high-profile leaders and visionaries provided their thoughts on the global COVID-19 pandemic, how it is changing society and why the wireless industry is now more important than it ever has been for keeping people connected, allowing education to continue remotely, providing crucial telehealth services and more. Soundbites of their thoughts and perspectives are below.

These keynote addresses along with WIA’s signature Tower Executive Roundtable will be available for 60 days for registrants to view at their convenience. Visit https://connectxallaccess.vfairs.com/ to access the full keynotes, panel sessions and virtual exhibitor booths.

Jonathan Adelstein, President and CEO, Wireless Infrastructure Association

“As we see COVID-19 destructing so many sectors of the economy, it’s really shined a light on the wireless industry and how much we’re contributing. Now everybody recognizes how essential having reliable wireless service is, whether it’s telehealth or remote education as we are training our kids at home and working from home. All of this has generated an unprecedented demand on wireless connectivity. It’s become a lifeline.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

“We want the U.S. to lead in 5G as opposed to other countries that are looking to seize the mantle of wireless leadership. We can only do that if we continue to execute on the 5G FAST Plan that I introduced a couple of years ago – a core plank of which is promoting more wireless infrastructure of the future, both small cells and reforming the rules on macro towers. I know a lot of people look at spectrum issues, which are important to 5G, but the infrastructure has got to be there as well. All the spectrum in the world won’t matter if we don’t have the wireless infrastructure in place to enable innovators to succeed.”

Doug Smith, President and CEO, Ligado Networks

“One thing I can’t stop thinking about during this crisis is how much it reminds us of the importance of this industry’s work and how much work we still have ahead of us. It’s not lost on any of us that even the fact that we are able to attend this conference virtually in the midst of a global crisis is a testament to how far technology has taken us.”


Bala Ganesh, Vice President, Advanced Technology Group, UPS

“What’s the difference between a hallucination and a vision? If I painted a picture and the only person who saw it was me, we would have a problem. But if other people start seeing it and buying into it, now that’s a vision. When we started off with cell phones, they were big huge bricks. Nobody thought about 5G. It was a hallucination. Today, we have this conference. Other people are seeing the vision come true. Wideband with 5G is a reality. That is the same journey we are on with drones today.”

Edward Parkinson, CEO, FirstNet

“FirstNet is so much more than just a connection. It’s more than a network too. FirstNet is driving innovation for all of public safety. In the past two years, the network has opened the door to a new marketplace where innovators, entrepreneurs and developers are finding opportunities and a mission to deliver cutting-edge technologies for our first responders. The network is enhancing emergency communications with access to mobile data like never before. But we are only beginning to scratch the surface on innovations for first responders.”

FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly

“I’m really excited to see what happens from (the 900 MHz re-alignment order). At 3 by 3 it’s not going to be revolutionary. It’s not going to provide huge changes to capacity and speeds, but for those who are looking for broadband in that space, whether it be utilities, shipping or a lot of other industrial segments, it’s going to be very important. The good thing about the commission order is it doesn’t mandate most of these things. It lets the marketplace resolve the different negotiations that have to happen. We do a lot of prep work. We do a lot of heavy lifting on our end and then we put it out there and let the carriers, the providers, the industry, the entities really take it from there and see where it goes. It’s always gratifying to see the work that you’ve done turn into something very beneficial for the American people.”

Niklas Heuveldop, President and CEO, Ericsson North America

“I want to impress upon you that 5G is here. It’s no longer hype or a vision. We need to come together as an industry to re-accelerate the buildout of the 5G network platform across the U.S. … It’s fundamental that we collaborate across the industry to make sure that our consumers, industries and society at large get access to well-built-out, high-performance 5G network platforms because that is when entrepreneurs and venture capital will drive the next wave of unprecedented innovation on top of that network platform. That will be fundamental for the U.S. to lead in the 4th industrial revolution, which will very much be built on wireless networking technologies.”

Marc Ganzi, Chief Executive Officer of Digital Colony and CEO–elect of Colony Capital, Inc.

“Network demand is now mission critical, and this is where the investment opportunity sits for all of us as a sector. As the pandemic puts high capacity demands on the network and data usage requires more bandwidth, additional digital infrastructure is needed to deal with these unprecedented times as workloads begin to shift from the core to the perimeter and the periphery. A sharp rise in network traffic and application use has led to an acute demand for infrastructure investment not only in the core but at the edge of the network.”

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr

“There’s no pixie dust that lights up wireless networks. There’s no magic spell that turns steel into a tower. The country is aware of our country’s tech talent. The legend of a young person with only an idea and a garage is familiar to them. What is less known are all the other 5G workers. Those who trade hoodies and coffee shops for hard hats and steel towers. If it weren’t for those 5G workers, none of the rest of the 5G economy would even exist.”

Jeff Stoops, President and Chief Executive Officer, SBA Communications

“Do you know that a doctor visit is often not reimbursable unless there is a visual connection? If you are unable to get to a doctor, and particularly people of low income who rely on public transportation or many other affected populations in this time, they are unable to do that and they can’t afford to pay for it out of pocket. Telemedicine is unbelievably important. We’ve all seen children out of school and the importance of a strong internet connection, and we see it ourselves sharing connections just in our own homes if you have children and other users. So we only come out of this with a greatened and heightened sense of importance for broadband, which I think can only speed up the appreciation and awareness and importance of moving quickly for nationwide strong, deep 5G services.”

David Weisman, President, CEO, and Co-Founder, Insite Wireless Group

“No doubt we are fortunate to be in this particular industry. I think all of us sit here and see that we shall never be the same again after COVID-19 as a country and as a world, but we also see the validation of the fundamentals of our particular industry providing that infrastructure on multiple platforms to the same carrier customers. I think the future here is just really exciting. The platforms are just beginning to recognize this industry, which started some 20 years ago as a few high sites, is now just taking off and I think all of us recognize the opportunity, whether you are a public company or a private tower company or private tower developer. We are all going to share in that same acknowledgement and benefit.”

Jay Brown, President and Chief Executive Officer, Crown Castle

“5G isn’t going to be a one-year buildout and then everybody’s going to have to go find something else to do. We’re probably in a buildout of 5G for a decade or a decade and a half. And these jobs that are created are going to be great-paying jobs with good career opportunities for a very long period of time. It’s a great chance for us to tell the story of our infrastructure business. If you think back over the past two decades as we’ve gone through various downturns, there were periods of time when people looked at our industry and thought it was too niche or that it would be something that would go away over time. The reality is innovation has happened and the technology has developed. We have become a more critical part of what’s happening in our society and I think 5G is going to bring that to an even greater degree.”

Steven Vondran, Executive Vice President and President, U.S. Tower Division, American Tower

“If you think about open architecture — which is really moving  some of the compute into more  cloud-based computing and taking some of the equipment that would have otherwise been at the base of the tower or in the switch and moving it to more of a cloud-based architecture — what that could do is free up more capital for more siting. It’s not going to decrease the demand for tower space and it’s not going to decrease the demand for more elements on the active network. It could promote rural broadband in that it makes each cell site a little cheaper to deploy, and it could create some opportunity for expanding there. I think it’s an exciting technology. We’ll have to see how it plays out.”

Alex Gellman, Chief Executive Officer, Vertical Bridge

What an exciting time for our industry. We have lots of commitments from at least two of the major carriers about expanding coverage beyond what they’ve done before for various reasons. We have new spectrum coming to auction—predominantly CBRS and C-Band, which will drive carrier investment. Usage is spreading out and we’ve had this incredible validation for the importance of wireless communications. I can’t remember at time that was this exciting and we knew it. We’ve been through some exciting times, but I don’t know that we saw it coming as clearly as we all can now.“

Neville Ray, President of Technology, T-Mobile

“Just as 4G enabled companies like Uber, Snap and Venmo, 5G will unleash a whole new round of innovation, spurring services and economic growth. We all know 5G will supercharge the internet of things and we’ll see a whole slew of new connected applications and devices. It will unleash breakthroughs in mobile HD video, AR and VR, education, public safety, health care and more. 5G will also disrupt other broken industries and bring more choice particularly for home broadband. With high prices, no choices and terrible customer service, ‘cableopoly’ is failing Americans. We intend to help out there and bring a whole new level of competition to millions of Americans as we get this 5G network rolled out across the nation.”