Cellphone lobbying chief to step down

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Steve Largent, the president of cellphone industry lobbying group CTIA-The Wireless Association, said Friday he will step down by the end of 2014.

Largent, a former Republican congressman and Hall of Fame football player, has led the group since 2003.

The cellphone industry has grown dramatically over the past decade, and CTIA, which represents Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and other wireless carriers, has become a lobbying force in Washington.

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The number of wireless subscriptions has increased from about 158 million at the end of 2003 to more than 326 million today, and wireless data traffic has grown 674 percent, according CTIA.

The group's lobbying clout has grown along with the growth of its industry; CTIA spent $12.35 million on lobbying in 2012, compared to just $2.79 million in 2003, according to lobbying disclosure forms.

“I am extremely proud of the many achievements our team has accomplished over the past decade, and believe they have played a significant role in the fantastic and unparalleled growth of the U.S. wireless industry over that period of time," Largent said in a statement.

He won his Oklahoma congressional seat in 1994 and served until 2002, when he launched an unsuccessful bid for governor. He played football at the University of Tulsa and went on to a 14-year career with the Seattle Seahawks as a wide receiver. He is tied for seventh in all-time NFL touchdown receptions. 

“Steve has done an outstanding job of effectively advocating on behalf of the industry, and the contributions of his team under his leadership have been invaluable in helping us grow as impressively as we have and to assume the role of the world leader in wireless services and products,” Dan Mead, Verizon Wireless CEO and current CTIA chairman, said. 

CTIA's board of directors will launch a search for Largent's successor.

The group's top goal in Washington is to get access to more airwaves for the wireless industry. The skyrocketing demand for streaming video on mobile devices has strained the carriers' networks. 

With Largent at the helm, CTIA successfully lobbied Congress to pass legislation encouraging TV broadcasters to give up their licenses for auction to the cellphone carriers. But it will be up to his successor to ensure that the Federal Communications Commission's implementation of the auction is a success for the industry. 

The wireless carriers also have their eyes on the large chunks of the wireless spectrum currently controlled by federal agencies. 

—Correction: This article previously stated Largent will retire at the end of this year. He will step down next year.