What makes him powerful: Not just a technology cheerleader or lobbying presence, the GSM Association trade organization has emerged under the leadership of Rob Conway as a major force in the worldwide development of the GSM platform. Since spearheading the GSMA's evolution to a board-led structure in 2003, Conway has established the group as a pivotal contributor to the creation and launch of new wireless services spanning from IM to video to the mobile web, nurturing an ecosystem that connects across networks and international boundaries. The GSMA also has taken the lead on introducing voice and text services in emerging markets, and at last count more than 3 billion subscribers--roughly a third of the overall global population--now use GSM products and services. The group's membership roster has accelerated in tandem with GSM's growth, and presently totals more than 700 operator members (including AT&T, T-Mobile USA and dozens of regional U.S. carriers) and 200 manufacturer and supplier associate members in 218 countries--in all, GSMA affiliates represent 86 percent of mobile phone connections worldwide.
But the GSM Association is about more than scale. Conway works side-by-side with member companies and other industry leaders on initiatives that impact all facets of the marketplace, from public policy to strategic initiatives to new revenue opportunities. GSMA efforts of note include the Personal Instant Messaging program, the GSMA Development Fund, Mobile Money Transfer (in partnership with Western Union) and the 3G for All campaign. Conway also masterminded the GSMA's signature event portfolio, highlighted by the annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona--the 2008 conference attracted more than 55,000 visitors in all, and generated more headlines than any other wireless industry trade event during the calendar year. Look for the GSMA to continue playing a significant role in 2009 as Conway and his staff gear up for an inevitable skirmish with EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding, who has vowed to cut the costs of cross-border text messages by more than 50 percent. And although the global economic crisis may impact attendance at next year's Mobile World Congress, there's little doubt it remains the place to be for anyone with a vested interest in the wireless industry's future.