An uneasy relationship between telecom and tech

An uneasy relationship between telecom and tech

For the next four days, a sprawling conference center here will become the global hub for the telecommunications and technology industries.

More than 80,000 people — including heavy hitters like Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook; Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission; and Vittorio Colao, chief executive of Vodafone — will gather to sign contracts and share contacts.

Yet despite the numerous networking events and business deals, there is a love-hate relationship involving some of the world’s largest mobile carriers and tech giants like Facebook and Google.

Both sides rely on each other to provide customers worldwide with high-speed Internet access and online services like music streaming and social networking. Yet as smartphones increasingly become the principal means by which people manage their everyday lives, the telecom and tech giants are jockeying to position themselves as consumers’ main conduit for using the Internet on mobile devices.

“There’s a lot of anxiety,” said Adrian Baschnonga, a telecom analyst at the consulting firm Ernst & Young in London. “No one wants to be overshadowed. Everyone is questioning their role in the industry.”

While sales of traditional laptop computers have stalled worldwide, shipments of smartphones — some of which now sell for as little as $25 — are expected to hit almost two billion units this year, according to the technology research company Gartner.

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