CTIA Super Mobility Week: Day Three – Was It a Worthwhile Show?

Peter Jarich
Peter Jarich

Summary Bullets:

  • The question of whether or not CTIA’s Super Mobility Week was a successful event is more than just an interesting topic of conversation; it’s an important consideration for any vendor or service provider investing their time (and trade show budget) in it.
  • The answer to the question is “it depends,” with the greatest value coming to anyone who wants to hear from, or message to, major U.S. service providers.

If you’ve read our last few posts about Day Zero, Day One, and Day Two of CTIA’s Super Mobility Week, you already know that we think 5G, IoT and SDN/NFV were the most important themes. Our assessment is hardly unique. Most people we talked with agreed that IoT and 5G (including 5G technologies like virtualization) dominated the trade show floor discussions in Las Vegas.

There was a greater diversity of opinion, however, on a different topic – whether or not Super Mobility Week is a meaningful event circa 2015 and going forward. While the date may already be set for Super Mobility Week 2016 (September 7-9, in Las Vegas) every “show floor traffic has been light” or “we’ve had some great engagement” comment pointed to an unspoken question. Whether or not exhibiting – or even attending – the show is a good use of anyone’s time and money.

To suggest there’s any sort of definitive answer to that question would be wrong. However, a look back at what happened at the show this year from a mobile network perspective – beyond the stuff we’ve already covered – might help.

  • Nokia and Samsung Came Out to Play (Competitors…Less So). In addition to outlining its Vision of 5G, Nokia leveraged the timing of Super Mobility Week to talk up IoT work with Intel and Ericsson, its Het Net Engine Room service, a new small cell, 5G solutions, consolidation services, analytics services, and a myriad of other innovations. Samsung didn’t even attempt to match this breadth, but showed up with network products that stretched from C-RAN to small cell, massive MIMO to LTE-U, and public safety offers. Of course, getting named a part of Verizon’s 5G plans and supplying the operator with LTE-U products helped its profile. Major mobile competitors (say ALU, Cisco, Huawei, ZTE) were at the event, but clearly not worried about matching this pace of announcements.
  • The FCC Was Everywhere. From CES in January to MWC in February and NAB in April, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler made the rounds at major trade shows earlier in the year. Of course, then, he showed up at Super Mobility Week. Yet beyond simply showing up, he seemed to be everywhere. Vendors of all types – location infrastructure providers, service providers, network vendors – all claim that the head of the FCC stopped by their booths. The topic of discussion? Take your pick: 5G, incentive auctions, public safety, new indoor location mandates, LTE-U.
  • AT&T and Verizon Acted Like Good Leaders. AT&T and Verizon are the biggest mobile service providers in the U.S. You’d expect them to take a lead in highlighting wireless innovation at a show like Super Mobility Week, right? If not, you’d be disappointed. Verizon, after all, talked up its 5G plans and launched its “go90” mobile video service into Beta. AT&T went for a “more is better” strategy with a myriad of IoT announcements and a handful of wins at this year’s CTIA Awards.

Is there a thread connecting all of this? It would seem so.

When the two biggest service providers in the US and the national regulator put in considerable face time at an event (on the show floor and in keynotes/panels), it only makes sense for anyone looking to understand and/or shape the market to show up. That includes vendors looking to prove their commitment in the U.S. as well as those looking to push deeper into it.

Does that mean it’s going to be a valuable show for everyone? No. But if the U.S. mobile market is important to you, then it’s likely to remain a must.

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