The U.S. wireless industry goes global at MWC Americas

CTIA 2016 (Monica Alleven)
Attendees walk the halls of CTIA’s Super Mobility conference. This year's Mobile World Congress Americas event effectively replaces that annual gathering. (Monica Alleven)

FierceWireless is publishing a five-part overview of the upcoming Mobile World Congress Americas show, which debuts in San Francisco next week. In addition to a general introduction, we've focused on the IoT, the state of wireless hardware and how policy will shape the next generation of the mobile industry. Mark Lowenstein, the managing director of Mobile Ecosystem, has also shared his wish list for the show.

The biggest wireless-industry trade show in the United States will take a broader world view than its predecessor when it makes its debut next month. And it’s shaping up to be a larger show as well.

The event, cumbersomely dubbed “GSMA Mobile World Congress Americas, in partnership with CTIA,” will open September 12 at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. The two organizations are equal partners in the show, which effectively replaces CTIA’s annual Super Mobility gathering.

“There will be broader subjects” at the upcoming show than past Super Mobility events, said Reed Peterson, head of Mobile World Congress Americas. “We’ll have a lot more focus on the global industry, including an increased focus on Latin America and Canada.”

The exhibition floor will be 25% percent larger than last year’s show, Peterson continued, and the conference program will feature more keynote addresses and sessions. The groups are targeting roughly 1,000 exhibitors and 30,000 attendees and are “hitting or exceeding those targets,” he said.

It’s worth noting that CTIA last year declined to disclose attendance figures for the 2016 show.

Exhibitors will include companies from countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Greece, Korea and Spain, and 15% to 20% of speakers will be from countries outside the Americas. Indeed, that global flavor is apparent from the opening keynote, which features industry heavyweights such as América Móvil CEO Carlos Slim Domit and GSMA Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal as well as Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure and CTIA CEO Meredith Attwell Baker.

The agenda for the inaugural show will be more wide-ranging as well, underscoring the fact that mobile has grown to have an impact on a staggering array of consumer and business markets. In addition to wireless-focused topics such as the IoT and policy, the event will cover blockchain, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. Another focal point will be media, which has become a top priority for Verizon and AT&T as they look to create new revenue streams in a saturated U.S. mobile market.

“The other thing I think you’ll see here is that this isn’t just a telco show,” Peterson continued. “It might have been in the past. Obviously we’re to have the telcos—those are the rails on which this is built—but this isn’t just about the telcos; it’s about all aspects (of wireless). We’re casting a much wider net.”

This year’s event marks the first under the 10-year partnership the GSMA and CTIA inked last year. Generally speaking, the GSMA is handling the operational aspects while CTIA is tasked with running the policy-focused elements, and the two groups work together on other components.

Organizers hope to eventually bring more overseas companies into the fold as the show evolves, including those from emerging markets in Africa and elsewhere. And they clearly believe that taking a page from the long-running Mobile World Congress show—which is held every spring in Barcelona, Spain—can breathe new life into the American event.