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Verizon CEO: Better wireless networking coming

Tech titans Philippe Dauman (left) and Ivan Seidenberg discuss the future of Viacom and Verizon respectively. Image: Russ Curtis

By Yi-Wyn Yen

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. – A common beef among U.S. business travelers is that wireless networks are often much faster and more reliable overseas. Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg acknowledged Tuesday that broadband coverage isn’t ideal today in the States, but he defended U.S. networks as the drivers of wireless innovation.

During a Fortune Brainstorm Tech panel on digital transformation, Seidenberg was asked by a venture capitalist why he could get e-mail on his cell phone while riding an elevator in London but not in San Francisco. Seidenberg says that the major carriers – Verizon (VZ), AT&T (T) and Sprint (S) – are focused on providing a more “seamless” customer experience in the future. “The difference in the U.S. versus other places is that we’ve allowed different standards to be introduced in the bandwidth game,” Seidenberg said. “With 4G technology we’re working on a common architecture.”

“The underlying U.S. business is light years ahead [of Europe],” he added. “Over the next couple years, you’ll see the wireless handset world and consumer electronics coming together and you’ll see this explode in the coming years.”

Both Seidenberg and Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman spent much of the 30-minute session moderated by Fortune managing editor Andy Serwer discussing how their businesses – content and distribution – feed off each other. Dauman says Viacom’s strategy is to create original content that’s tailored for the small screen or big screen. “There’s never been a better time to reach more consumers in a much deeper way than you ever could,” said Dauman.

Seidenberg says that that content providers like Viacom (VIA) who are eager to distribute media – whether it’s for the mobile phone or on the web – places carriers in a good position. “You can put content anywhere in the cloud,” he said. “You don’t need to have a connection of content and distribution to be successful. We like [this] because it creates competition among content providers.”