February 25, 2013 – AT&T Inc., the biggest U.S. phone company, says a combination of faster fourth-generation networks and cloud services that give users access to content anywhere will drive a “new era” in the mobile industry.

“We’re at the beginning of a new era, and it’s an era that is being defined by LTE and the cloud,” Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson said at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today. “The potential for this thing is off the charts.”

Expanding the services will enable users to stream stored data and content from cloud services at faster rates and with lower delays, Stephenson said. This will drive increased data usage and require more investment in spectrum and networks, he said. Dallas-based AT&T experienced a 30,000 percent increase in data traffic in the past six years as more customers use mobile phones to check e-mails and watch video.

Regulators should use a “light touch” and keep taxes “very, very low” to encourage new investment and allow more data traffic, Stephenson said. His sentiments were echoed today by the CEO’s of Telecom Italia SpA and Telefonica SA who called for a change in the regulatory environment to allow more consolidation among European carriers.

By the end of 2017, there will be 9.7 billion wireless connections worldwide as the industry brings mobile communications into cars and other consumer electronics, according to the GSMA industry association.

“There’s no industry on earth that has greater potential than this one,” Stephenson said. “The challenge for regulators and the carrier community is to get the critical components right.”

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