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CTIA Wireless Show to Focus on Open Network Opportunities

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NEW YORK (Dow Jones) The wireless industry will tout the benefits and business opportunities from open networks at this year's CTIA Wireless IT and Entertainment trade show when it starts Wednesday.

The San Francisco trade show, sister to the main CTIA Wireless event in the spring, focuses more on the programs and content found on cellphones. Core to many of the participants' minds is how the industry will be able to make a profit off these open networks.

Other areas of focus will be on mobile video and content and how advertising and location-based services will play with consumers. These services are becoming more important as carriers look for ways to augment their revenue beyond voice.

The keynote speakers, including Verizon Wireless Chief Executive Lowell McAdam and Sprint Nextel Chief Executive Dan Hesse, will focus on open networks. Verizon Wireless in March unveiled its plan to open its network to any device or software that met its basic requirements. Sprint, meanwhile, has pushed for a more open Web experience.

"We're not scared of the walls of the garden from coming down," said Steve Elfman, president of network operations and wholesale at Sprint, referencing the term "walled garden," which describes the closed and tightly controlled networks the U.S. wireless carriers have historically preferred. Sprint wants to push itself as a more open and data-friendly service in a bid to win over customers it has lost in the past few years.

Others have gotten in on the open networks game. AT&T and T-Mobile USA have professed to be more open by nature because users can easily switch phones by slipping in a sim card.

Apple has shown that a handset maker can make money through third-party developers with its App Store. Chief Executive Steve Jobs said at an Apple event Tuesday that users have downloaded 100 million copies of software programs, some of which users paid for.

Google is pushing its open source Android operating system to get its browser on more smartphones. Google eyes the advertising opportunities in mobile as potentially more lucrative than the Internet because of the personal nature of the handset.

The carriers will also be demonstrating some new services. AT&T, ahead of the show, launched a downloadable social networking program, My Communities, on its wireless phones. The program allows the user to connect to MySpace and blogging sites like Xanga, view and respond to messages, and approve friend requests through a dashboard. The program is available on 32 models of handsets.

Verizon Wireless unveiled a number of content partnerships for its V CAST video service, including a DC Comics channel featuring Batman and Superman, and another channel featuring HGTV and Food Network programs. In addition to shorter clips, V CAST will begin offering longer full-video segments. The carrier is expected to focus on mobile games Thursday.

The show is also an opportunity for small companies to show off their services and programs to the larger carriers. For example, privately held Quattro Wireless Inc. will demonstrate an advertising system that targets users based on where they are. The system combines Quattro's targeted advertisement and sponsor partners such as Sony with uLocate Communications's Where location-based services application for the iPhone. The targeted ads are potentially more lucrative to sponsors because of their relevancy and effectiveness.

Privately held Vantrix Corp. will be pushing its software, which allows carriers to improve the quality of the video and media delivered over the network to a large number of users. Chief Marketing Officer Patrick Lopez said carriers lack the infrastructure to provide video service to all of their customers at the same time.

Vantrix works with a number of overseas carriers and wireless content companies like Motricity Inc. and Crisp Wireless but doesn't work directly with a major U.S. carrier.

PointRoll, a unit of Gannett, will announce at the show the first mobile video ad similar to the interactive Flash video ads found on the Web. The first ad will appear on USA Today's mobile site and is only accessible through the iPhone. Cellphones generally can't run Flash, so video ads have been difficult to put on the phone.

-By Roger Cheng, Dow Jones Newswires; 201-938-2020; roger.cheng@dowjones.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

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