Down but not out in Geneva

The telecom industry may have avoided the worst of the global economic downturn, according to an ITU report this week, but the same can’t be said of Telecom World 2009.
 
What a difference three years makes. Back in 2006, when the event for the first time moved away from Geneva, 62,000 visitors packed the halls at Asia World expo in Hong Kong, covering 41,000 square meters.
 
The event this week is just a shadow if itself, occupying just three of the seven halls at the Palexpo. That is with generous spacing between booths and a gigantic registration area and cafes in prime locations.
 
Looking back to 2003, the ITU reported 83,000 visitors and the seven halls were at capacity.
 
During the opening ceremony on Monday ITU secretary-general Hamadoun Touré said they were expecting 40,000 visitors. Yesterday, the official count on the number of people signed up was 15,000. The big question is how many actually turned up.
 
The forum sessions were well attended, with many sessions for the first two days packed. There were standing room only for the opening ceremony and open forum.
 
Looking across the venue, one couldn’t help but ask, where are the Europe and US vendors?
 
The Asian exhibitors dominated and accounted for well over 50% of the space and seemed to attract the most visitor interest. China was represented by Huawai, ZTE, China Mobile and China Unicom, while Japan’s NTT Group, KDDI and Fujitsu showed up. Beyond that were few tier-one vendors – save for Cisco, IBM and Microsoft – all with smallish booths compared to China and Japan.
 
The developing world, particularly Africa, was well-represented with country pavilions from Egypt, Iran, Burundi, Uganda, Malawi and Iran.
 
On the plus side was the lack of queues at cafes and restaurants. But security into the main forum venue was tight, visitors taking up to 15 minutes to clear the security scans on opening day.

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