CTIA to kick off Super Mobility with a focus on networks, CIOs and CMOs - but Apple's iPhone 6S looms overhead

Phil Goldstein

CTIA's Super Mobility conference kicks off next week from Sept. 9-11 in Las Vegas, the second annual incarnation of the trade organization's supershow that combines and co-locates multiple conferences under one umbrella. CTIA rightly revamped its show format last year after hearing from members and attendees about the need to spread out the industry's main trade shows, which had all been grouped in the first quarter of the year.

However, last year the results were largely uneven, as competing events drew attention away from Super Mobility. The conference last year seemed disjointed with far-flung co-located events and the absence of the fastest-growing U.S. wireless carrier, T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS). Will this year be any different?

For one thing, the event is no longer called "Super Mobility Week," and is instead just called "Super Mobility." Rob Mesirow, CTIA vice president and show director, said the group made the change because adding "Week" in the title seemed to denote that attendees needed to commit an entire week to the show.

Part of the allure of the Super Mobility show as a concept last year was that CTIA partnered with different conferences like the IFA electronics trade show in Berlin, 4G World, the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) and The Money Event for co-located events. CTIA is essentially attempting to do the same thing again this year, with some notable exceptions:

  • CCA is holding its annual fall convention in October.
  • This year, Super Mobility isn't doing anything on mobile payments, in part because Mesirow said there is little adoption so far in the market.
  • IFA ends the day Super Mobility begins, and not many smartphone vendors are expected to have major presences at CTIA's show, having unveiled their major new products already. However, Mesirow said CTIA is still partnering with IFA and that CTIA is trying to use the lack of overlap to its advantage and get device makers and those peddling smart TVs and other appliances to bring their wares over to Las Vegas in time for CTIA's show.

CTIA is also hoping its own mini-conferences and events will be big draws. One is the Northwestern University Mobile Intelligence Conference, which will feature an opening panel with top network executives from Verizon (NYSE: VZ), AT&T (NYSE: T) and T-Mobile. Another is the Open Innovation Summit, CTIA's event aimed at the enterprise market and CIOs. A new addition this year is also the Media Tech Summit, which is billed as "a highly curated two-day event experience strictly limited to an elite group of 350 senior executives, investors, entrepreneurs, and media dealmakers." The event is aimed at CMOs and those who specialize in advertising, content and media, and features speakers like iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman, AOL CMO Allie Kline, Chip Hall, managing director of programmatic platforms at Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), and Carolyn Everson, vice president of global marketing solutions at Facebook (NASDAQ: FB).

"I think that's a really important component to the event," Mesirow said of the Media Tech event. "That was really the one leg of the stool we were talking about bringing in."

Not to be forgotten are the CTIA keynotes this year, which will lead off on Sept. 9 with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who is certain to discuss the upcoming incentive auction of 600 MHz broadcast TV spectrum and its importance for the future of the industry. The following day will feature keynote appearances from AT&T Mobility CEO Glenn Lurie, Sprint (NYSE: S) CEO Marcelo Claure and Marni Walden, EVP and president of products and new business innovation at Verizon. Walden likely will talk about Verizon's forthcoming over-the-top mobile video platform; her keynote is titled, "Future of Mobile Video."

Hovering over the show, just as it did last year, is Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), which is hosting an event on Sept. 9 that starts during CTIA's opening keynote. Apple is expected to unveil its latest iPhones at its event in San Francisco, and Mesirow said CTIA will "probably make some provisions so people can experience that and have that be a part of Super Mobility."

"We're not worried about Apple making announcements at this time of the year," he said. "It's the appropriate time of the year to make the announcements." The danger, of course, is that Apple's iPhone announcements will suck away attention from CTIA events.

Also hanging over the event is that, just like last year, there is no official presence from T-Mobile or its outspoken and brash CEO John Legere. Last year T-Mobile held one of its "uncarrier" events during CTIA, and while there's no indication yet T-Mobile will follow suit this year, I wouldn't put it past them. Even though Legere purposefully ruffles the feathers of executives in the industry, T-Mobile's absence from the keynote stage continues to be a black eye for CTIA. The show would benefit from Legere's energy.

Last year's Super Mobility show attracted 30,000 attendees, according to Mesirow, and he said he is optimistic CTIA will grow that figure this year. However, it's still an open question if the organization and its president, Meredith Attwell Baker, can make all of the component parts of the show cohere into a unified experience -- and not get overshadowed by outside events in the process.

As always, the Fierce editorial team will be bringing you coverage from Super Mobility as well as all the other events occurring next week. I'll be at the show along with my colleagues Sue Marek and Monica Alleven. Check out our coverage in the newsletter, at FierceWireless, FierceWireless:Tech and on the CTIA Live web site here. I hope to see many of you in Vegas next week. --Phil

P.S. FierceWireless will also be holding two breakfast panels at Super Mobility. I'll be moderating a panel "Inside the Building of a Smart City" on Sept. 9 and my colleague Sue Marek will be leading our second event, "Behind the 5G Crusade: How to Define and Deliver the Next Generation of Wireless" on Sept. 10. Sign up while there's still time! 

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