Qualcomm chief: Wireless industry 'caught by surprise' about wireless data traffic

Mobile is "dominating" the broadband landscape, according to Jacobs, who cited a "a perfect storm of innovation and opportunity."

Seventy-five percent of total broadband subscribers will be mobile broadband subscribers by 2014, he said, calling wireless the "the largest platform in the history of mankind."

Going forward, the phone will become a sixth sense, he said, figuring out what users are interested in.

"This may sound a little way-out but when I started talking to the wireless Internet fifteen years ago, people said 'what are you talking about?' " he said.

He cited how a phone could control devices in the real world with sensor cameras (similar to a remote control). For instance, he showed a phone changing the image in a picture frame and said people will increasingly rely on such functions.

Jacobs also touted the social benefits of wireless broadband. People in emerging markets will use cell phones, rather than PCs, to gain their first connection to the Internet, he said. He also pointed to hospitals and schools as beneficiaries.

"It is absolutely going to impact education," he said, for instance, by extending the school day. "Right now teachers think about the phone as a distraction." Giving students smartphones with math curricula allowed a trial group of students to increase their proficiency by a third, he said, since it enabled students' lessons to be personalized and enabled students to help one another.

And no more "lugging around 50-pound backpacks," he said.

Meanwhile, in the health sector, a phone can allow elderly people to dial up remote specialists who can give them attention and care, he said.

In opening remarks, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) — who represents San Diego where Jacobs's corporate headquarters is located — called him the "innovator in chief" in telecommunications.

"He's someone who understands what the next generation will need or he will provide and they will grow to want and need it," he said.