At Mobile Carriers Show in Nashville, smaller carriers to address auction, IoT, VoLTE, 5G and more

Mike Dano

The wide range of topics affecting the nation's smaller carriers are on clear display in the agenda for the Competitive Carriers Association's upcoming Mobile Carriers Show in Nashville next week. On the schedule is everything from how to repair a smartphone to how carriers can position themselves for the Internet of Things.

And it's clear that CCA is working to address this changing market: The association even renamed its spring show from Global Expo to, this year, the Mobile Carriers Show.

"This is our launch for the new branding for the show," CCA President Steve Berry told me. The new name "is something you don't have to explain. … That was the goal, to brand that and make it easier for those people that work with and create the ecosystem for the carriers' networks, to recognize that this is a gathering place for carriers."

And there will be plenty of reasons to gather this year at the show; the CCA's membership includes Sprint and T-Mobile US and smaller carriers that, collectively, serve well over 100 million Americans and spend around $15 billion annually on products and services related to the wireless industry. This year, Berry said CCA will keep its Mobile Carriers Show floor open longer to encourage more interaction between attendees and exhibitors. He also said new sessions this year will cover the Internet of Things, handset repairing services and MVNOs. Also new this year is the CCA's speed networking program, which will give vendors and others two minutes to sell their wares to CCA members.

Although CCA doesn't distribute attendance figures for its shows, Berry said the association expects to host about the same numbers of attendees as it has in previous years, though he said there will be two or three fewer exhibitors, a shortfall he attributed to interest in the FCC's ongoing 600 MHz incentive auction of TV broadcasters' unwanted licenses. However, due to the FCC's anti-collusion rules, Mobile Carriers Show attendees won't be able to discuss their bidding strategies for the auction during the show.

Berry added that CCA hopes to show more progress on its Data Services Hub and its Device Hub at the show. The programs were launched in 2013 and geared toward ensuring CCA's various members can provide nationwide services and access to the latest and greatest devices.

"We've made substantial progress on the Data Services Hub," Berry said. "That's one of the things that I think we're going to talk about." He said Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and roughly a dozen other carriers are connecting services via the Hub with an eye toward ensuring LTE roaming and seamless VoLTE services.

"The concept of one connection too many means a whole lot in the 4G, 5G world," Berry noted.

And Berry said CCA has made progress in recent months on the Device Hub, which he described as the "honey that draws the bees." He said the association has done some mock handset test launches through C Spire, Nex-Tech and Carolina West Wireless and unnamed handset suppliers. "It's working," Berry said, noting the CCA hopes to have a commercial launch through the Device Hub shortly.

"We have some carriers that want to place orders [through the Hub] as soon as we ensure their network and devices are compatible," he said.

Key events at the CCA show this year will include a CTO roundtable with executives from Sprint, C Spire and U.S. Cellular, as well as a presentation from FirstNet's president, T.J. Kennedy. And I will be moderating a FierceWireless breakfast event, From LTE-Advanced to 5G: How Operators Can Prepare Today for the Network of the Future, Wednesday, April 13 at 8 a.m. Speakers include:

  • Dan Boyette, VP of Wireless Services, GCI
  • Glenn Laxdal, CTO & Head of Strategy for North America, Ericsson
  • Michael Murphy, Global 5G Head of Technology, Nokia
  • Steve Sharkey, VP, Government Affairs, Technology and Engineering Policy, T-Mobile US

Smaller wireless carriers, from Sprint and T-Mobile on down, continue to face serious business challenges in a tightening market. At this year's CCA I'll be looking for insight into how they plan to respond. --Mike | @mikeddano