Jonathan AdelsteinAT&T and Verizon may have declared their LTE networks "nationwide" but Jonathan Adelstein, CEO of The Wireless Infrastructure Association (PCIA), says there’s more work to be done. 

“The idea that they’re tailing off is overstated,” Adelstein said. “They say that they’ve built out these networks, and you look at a map, it’s not about coverage anymore, it’s about capacity.”

As PCIA gears up for its annual conference (May 19-22) in Orlando, Adelstein eyes the much-hyped data crunch as a major topic at the show. 

“I call it the wireless data crunch purposely—some people call it the spectrum crunch—but spectrum is just one of the ways carriers can deal with the problem,” he said, noting that the infrastructure vendors near and dear to PCIA are offering a variety of tools to help improve capacity and coverage. 

“At this show, we’re looking at all different aspects of the industry, you’re seeing co-locations picking up speed, small cells, DAS, Wi-Fi,” Adelstein said.  “The use of data is going up so quickly that the carriers are scrambling to keep up with the demand from their customers, which is a good problem to have, but they’re looking at every tool at their disposal right now to deal with that and it requires enormous CapEx.” 

It’s that CapEx that Adelstein points to as a sign of health, noting that forecasts put carrier expenditures over the next five years in the $35 billion range, or about $5 billion per year. 

“Who wouldn’t want to be in a business that you know is going to grow 10X in the next 5 years? We’re very fortunate,” Adelstein exclaims. 

And while competition continues to rage amid some high-profile M&A talks, Adelstein says the infrastructure side of the equation can’t do wrong. 

“The big infrastructure companies are the darlings of Wall Street, because no matter what happens with consolidation, the inexorable drive for more data keeps them whole no matter what,” he said.

And it appears that Wall Street can rest assured that investing in the networks does have result in a return for investors. According to a new study commissioned by Ericsson, a 10 percent increase in CapEx by carriers in the U.S. resulted in an average +5.1 percent increase in service revenues and a +6.8 percent increase EBIDTA. 

Working on a truncated schedule in 2014, Adelstein said interest in the PCIA is already up over last year. 

This year’s keynotes will include presentations by Vish Nandlall, CTO, Ericsson of North America; Bill Smith, President of AT&T Network Operations, AT&T Services; and FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai. 

“I think we’re going to have an extraordinary gathering at the show,” Adelstein said. “Whenever I come to these shows, I have people coming up to me and telling me how fortunate they feel to be in this industry.”