Super Mobility Week's vision unfulfilled as competing events detract from show - CTIA 2014 Scorecard

Sue Marek

Every industry needs an annual conference--a place where the major players can gather to debate the state of industry, discuss new business models, show off new products and mix and mingle. But without support from key members, no convention will be able to fulfill that vision. And in an industry as vibrant as wireless, the absence of an annual convention is a sad state of affairs.  

Unfortunately last week's Super Mobility Week at the Sands Convention Center in Las Vegas, which was pegged as being CTIA's merger of its two annual trade shows into one "super" wireless industry event, was left lacking.

To see all our coverage from Super Mobility Week, click here. Also, to view a video from my FierceWireless event, "The 5G Roadmap: How do we plan for Tomorrow's Wireless Networks," featuring Verizon's Mike Haberman, AT&T's Kris Rinne and more, click here.

CTIA tried to respond to its members' wishes by merging its two annual events into one and moving it to September and away from the glut of major events that used to happen in the first quarter of the year with the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January followed by the GSMA's Mobile World Congress in February in Barcelona.

The association also forged partnerships with other events like the Competitive Carriers Association show, 4G World and IFA (the big consumer electronics trade fair held in Berlin every year). Although that helped round out its vision of a "one-stop shop" for all things wireless, unfortunately, those partnerships didn't seem to pay off. The IFA integration was supposed to result in co-located press conferences but instead the only press conferences that happened occurred at IFA several days in advance of Super Mobility Week.

4G World panels seemed to attract an audience if you were willing to ride the escalator up four floors above CTIA to get to the sessions. In fact, navigating the various floors of the Sands Convention Center to find the different partner events was challenging at best.

Meanwhile, the CCA show, which was held down the road at the Cosmopolitan hotel, was business as usual with members attending the keynote session discussions, meandering the show floor and of course, attending the cocktail parties. However, very few CCA members seemed interested in what was happening at the Sands Convention Center. Those that I spoke with said they were planning to spend most of their time at the Cosmopolitan and only visit the Sands when the CCA show was wrapped. 

I guess it's no surprise then that the CCA is not planning to collocate its event with Super Mobility Week in 2015. CCA President Steve Berry said that the group will announce the dates for its fall show in the next 30 days.

But aside from IFA stealing Super Mobility Week's thunder with some big device news, the show was also hindered by Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone 6 launch event in Cupertino, Calif., on Sept. 9, the opening day of the show. Apple's event was revealed less than two weeks in advance of SMW, and CTIA should be commended for trying to counter the impact of Apple's announcement by offering a live webcast of the event and then compiling a panel of experts to talk about the announcement.

However, Apple's news event did create quite a lull in show, particularly on the floor where I saw a lot of empty booths during the Apple event.

But perhaps the biggest problem CTIA must overcome before next year's Super Mobility Week, which is slated to occur Sept. 9-11, is to figure out what it can do to get all its members to participate in the show in a substantial way. Beyond AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ), CTIA should try to figure out why major operators like Sprint (NYSE: S) and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) seemed uninterested in the show. Sprint, of course, has a new CEO with less than a month on the job. Former Sprint CEO Dan Hesse had been scheduled to give a keynote address, but those plans changed when Marcelo Claure was named to replace him. However, it would have been a huge win to get Claure on stage at the show. Everyone is interested in hearing what he has to say.

And T-Mobile's entertaining and outspoken CEO, John Legere, would have also been a big draw. But CTIA needs to convince him that Super Mobility Week is relevant--because he doesn't think it is. Not only did T-Mobile schedule its "Uncarrier 7.0" event in San Francisco on Sept. 10, the second day of SMW, but Legere also openly bashed the show, saying he heard nothing was happening there. 

When I asked a T-Mobile spokeswoman why Legere was so critical of SMW, especially since T-Mobile is a key member of the organization, she said he views the annual conference as the "old way" of doing things.

If CTIA's operator members do not think Super Mobility Week is relevant, then how will this show continue to draw exhibitors and attendees? I think new CTIA CEO Meredith Baker and her team have a big challenge ahead: what can be done to shake up this convention and make it thrive again?

FierceWireless was out in force at Super Mobility Week. We also have a rundown of our takeaways from the show, from issues carriers are facing to device announcements and network technology developments. Let us know what you thought of SMW as well.--Sue

Super Mobility Week's vision unfulfilled as competing events detract from show - CTIA 2014 Scorecard
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