CES historically is not a big mobile industry conference. But with smartphones having now eliminated the line that once separated mobile phones from consumer electronics devices, mobile operators flocked to the conference this year to tout their new lineup of handsets, network upgrades, and services.
Verizon by far dominated the news, unveiling a lineup of four new phones, two tablets, two notebooks and two MiFi (mobile WiFi) hotspots.
Smartphones included the HTC ThunderBolt, Droid Bionic 4G, Samusng 4G LTE, and the LG Revolution. These phones utilize Verizon's new LTE network, also dubbed "4G," which allows for transmission speeds of up to 10 times faster than today's 3G networks--specifically, 5 to 12 megabites per second downloads.
Not surprisingly, Verizon heavily emphasized the content and services these phones and networks provide.
On the music side, the big news was the addition of the MOG music streaming service preinstalled on select devices, with the ability to pay for the monthly $10 fee through the Verizon phone bill. Additional content announced at launch is a new version of Rock Band that enables multiplayer gaming over wireless networks, and the Ustream live video streaming service.
But phones aren't the only devices that can access the new network speeds. Two tablet computers will feature wireless Internet access through Verizon accounts. They include a new version of the Samsung Galaxy, and the newly announced Motorola Xoom, both running on the Android operating system.
AT&T also made LTE announcements at the show, which did more to illustrate how it's still behind Verizon in terms of rollout. The mobile operator said it plans to have its network upgraded complete by 2013, and noted it will introduce 20 devices by the end of the year that will be LTE compatible.
AT&T is also reaching out more to developers. It's spending $70 million on three "innovation centers" in Dallas, Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv Isreal aimed at attracting developers by offering access to APIs that tap into AT&T network data like location, messaging, etc.
Remember AT&T offers more than just the iPhone. And AT&T, like all other mobile operators, want developers to create apps and services specific to their networks and non-iPhone devices. Good timing because it's virtually certain that it will lose its exclusive on the iPhone as Verizon is expected to announce an iPhone deal sometime this year.