Wireless broadband was the key theme at this year's Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA) Wireless 2009 trade show in Las Vegas.

And that trend looks to be not only a boon for operators, but for industrial and public-safety entities as well. During his keynote address last week, Ivan Seidenberg, CEO of Verizon Communications, now the largest mobile operator in the US, said the next generation of wireless will be one that ushers in penetration rates for the wireless industry of more than 500 percent.

Specifically, Seidenberg said Verizon Wireless' choice of all-IP Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology in the 700 MHz band will enable a connected world that not only connects people but people to machines and machines to machines.

"In this model, there is literally no limit on the number of connections that can be part of the mobile grid: cars, appliances, buildings, roads, sensors, medical monitors and someday even inventories on supermarket shelves," Seidenberg said. "All of these have the potential to become inherently intelligent — perpetually connected nodes on the mobile web."

Verizon Wireless, along with other major players in the industry such as AT&T and Sprint, have already been pushing this connected concept through their 3G network initiatives. Verizon Wireless established an Open Development Lab in 2007. To date, the operator has certified 36 devices, including a smart-grid device that monitors energy consumption and a wireless tablet for the healthcare industry that serves as a portable medical chart, Seidenberg said.

For its LTE network, Verizon Wireless has introduced the Verizon Wireless LTE Innovation Center that will continue to foster solutions to connect more places, things and people in the all-IP environment, Seidenberg said. The center will help build a broad ecosystem of devices to come on line as Verizon aggressively deploys its LTE network at the end of this year and throughout 2010.

Last October, AT&T announced its initiative to bring wireless connectivity to new consumer electronics devices and applications, ranging from personal computers to cameras and machine-to-machine communications solutions. The operator recently announced a relationship with SmartSynch to provide electric utilities with a smart-grid solution for individual homes. The two are combining a suite of wireless service plans from AT&T designed specifically for machine-to-machine (M2M) communications with SmartSynch's smart grid, which is deployed in more than 100 utilities throughout North America.