From 5G to Mark Cuban: What to expect at next week’s CTIA Super Mobility 2016 show

Next week promises to be a busy one for the wireless industry. After the glorious Labor Day weekend, the annual CTIA Super Mobility 2016 trade show starts in full in Las Vegas on Wednesday, where 800 exhibitors and thousands of attendees will gather to discuss the latest in mobile.

Wednesday is also the day Apple is widely expected to unveil its latest iPhone during a media event in San Francisco (more on that below).

So what’s going to be the big topic at this year’s CTIA show? “If I had to pick just one, I’d say 5G because it will impact every part of our industry and our lives,” CTIA president Meredith Attwell Baker told me in an email interview. “The first 5G trials were announced at Super Mobility last year, and look at how far our industry has come in a single year! This next generation of wireless networks will be transformative – for consumers, for businesses, and for our communities. But what I’m really excited about are the innovations that will stem from the extremely low latency rates and the number of devices that will be connected.”

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I agree 5G will be a hot topic at this year’s show, and I wouldn’t be surprised to get fresh details from virtually all the nation’s carriers on their 5G tests and deployment plans. Already AT&T has said its 5G trials earlier this year in the 15 GHz band produced download speeds of 14 Gbps to a single user and 5 Gbps to two users. And Verizon has said its own 5G tests topped 10 Gbps and delivered 4K video while moving, and the carrier has promised a commercial deployment of fixed 5G as early as next year. Sprint and T-Mobile US aren’t far behind either.

And you can bet that the likes of Qualcomm, Nokia and others will pack their CTIA booths with plenty of 5G fun; Ericsson just this week announced its 5G radio kit.

(Shameless plug: If you want to get insight into 5G from top executives like Verizon’s Adam Koeppe, Sprint’s Gunther Ottendorfer, AT&T’s Hank Kafka, and others, register now for my panel at the show, “An inside look at building and deploying 5G,” on Thursday, Sept. 8, from 7 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. We’re going to have an open, wide-ranging discussion, we will take questions from the audience, and we’ll even serve some good breakfast!)

As for the CTIA’s own keynotes, Baker promised “a great lineup.”

“We’ve got the wireless industry’s leading voices, starting with AT&T’s Glenn Lurie and Verizon’s John Stratton,” she said. “We are also very lucky to have key leaders from Nokia and Qualcomm, and leading voices, in Mark Cuban and John Legend, on where mobile goes next. I’m also proud of the great speakers and industry leaders we have at the CTIA Mobile Intelligence Conference. Whether you want to get up to speed on how to market IoT products or learn about the latest cybersecurity solutions, our educational sessions have you covered.”

(Speaking of the IoT, here’s another shameless plug: If you want to learn about how wide-area wireless will participate in the IoT, make sure to check out my colleague Colin Gibbs’ breakfast on Wednesday, Sept. 7, from 7 a.m. to 8:45 a.m., called “Next-gen IoT networks: Which ones will live and which ones will die?” Colin is going to discuss the topic with leading speakers including AT&T’s Cameron Coursey, Verizon’s Mrinalini (Lani) Ingram, Sigfox’s Michael Orr, and others. Plus: Breakfast!)

As for the cool stuff on the CTIA show floor, Baker said there are going to be “smart experience” interactive areas that will showcase what’s next for 5G, retail, AR/VR and the connected car. “Our show floor this year is focused on the Smart City and how wireless impacts everything from cars and drones to retail and the home,” she explained, adding that there also will be a range of partner events like Ford’s developer conference. (Interestingly, drone enthusiasts can also shuttle over to the Paris Hotel during CTIA to check out the InterDrone 2016 show.)

But what about Apple’s iPhone event on Wednesday, which will be starting just as CTIA’s keynotes (featuring AT&T’s Glenn Lurie, FCC’s Tom Wheeler, and others) are ending? Last year, CTIA devoted keynote time to broadcasting a live stream from Apple (although the quality of the video feed was atrocious) but this year CTIA said it won’t do anything special to accommodate Apple’s event. I think this is probably a wise move by CTIA, mostly because news reports have indicated the iPhone 7 likely won’t offer many major advancements aside from eliminating the gadget’s 3.5mm headphone jack.

(Top wireless carrier executives might disagree though: According to a customer survey from Wall Street financial analyst firm New Street Research, there’s notable pent-up demand among Americans for Apple’s next iPhone – and T-Mobile and Sprint are poised to gain new subscribers as a result. Specifically, the firm’s survey of 1,000 “demographically representative respondents” showed that fully 10 percent of respondents plan to switch from their current carrier to a new one in the next three to four months.)

But perhaps the most noteworthy element of this year’s “Super Mobility” show is that it’s the last one. Next year, the GSMA and CTIA will partner to host the “GSMA Mobile World Congress Americas, in partnership with CTIA,” September 12-14, in San Francisco. “The show will continue to serve CTIA Super Mobility attendees, exhibitors and sponsors while also engaging and attracting new audiences,” Baker explained. “Operationally, CTIA will continue to develop policy-focused educational sessions, including collaborating on keynotes, and our great partner GSMA will be responsible for event management and production. You will not want to miss it!”

GSMA and CTIA even announced a “MWC Americas 2017 Launch Party” at this year’s show, on Thursday at 5 p.m.

Whether the combination of GSMA and CTIA will drive growth in the show remains to be seen. Baker declined to provide me with attendance figures for this year’s show, saying only that “we are tracking at the same level as last year’s show.”

Of course, Fierce will be out in force at this year’s CTIA show. I’ll be joined there by my colleagues Colin and Monica Alleven, and we’re planning to cover all the keynotes, events and general goings-on. Don’t hesitate to let us know what you think of the show. --Mike | @mikeddano

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