While much of the industry is focused on the big Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Spain, Feb. 26-March 1, the GSM Association (GSMA) in the Americas is going full steam ahead with plans for its second major trade show in the U.S. this September.
Taking place in Los Angeles Sept. 12-14, it’s a much smaller event—an estimated 25,000 people and more than 1,000 companies participating in L.A. as opposed to Barcelona’s 108,000 visitors and 2,300 exhibiting companies in 2017. But the international attendance of the North American event is growing compared to prior years, according to Reed Peterson, head of MWCA.
The GSMA announced three main themes for the North American show this year: content, media and entertainment, which is only fitting since it’s taking place in L.A.
“We’re looking forward to the second edition of Mobile World Congress Americas and the move to Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world,” said Michael O’Hara, chief marketing officer at GSMA, in a press release. “This year’s show will really illustrate how mobile is reshaping how media and content are produced and consumed… Along with our partner, CTIA, we’re excited to put a spotlight on how mobile is enabling a better future at Mobile World Congress Americas.”
The deal between GSMA and CTIA is a 10-year agreement and a 50-50 partnership, so both organizations are able to put their two cents into the program. GSMA has operational control over the event, but they work closely with CTIA, which specializes in the public policy side, Reed said.
GSMA has had a physical presence in the U.S. since 2006, but since it’s partnership with CTIA, it’s grown considerably, now counting nearly 90 employees out of its headquarters of Atlanta.
The association last month held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new digs in Atlanta, which is a 15,000-square-foot space in the Armour Yards neighborhood.
Why Atlanta? Other than it being the home base of members like AT&T and Southern Linc Wireless, it happens to be pretty hip to technology, according to Ana Tavares, head of the North American market at GSMA.
“We want to have our offices in the coolest, growing mobile markets in the world, that’s how we set our vision. We believe Atlanta is one of them,” she said told FierceWirelessTech in a recent interview. “We want to make sure we’re closer to our members here and we’re influencing the market.”
As for when 5G is going to hit Atlanta, even GSMA doesn’t know as its members are keeping that close to the vest. AT&T expects to introduce mobile 5G service in a dozen markets by late 2018, but it hasn’t disclosed all the markets, and Verizon expects to launch a fixed 5G service in 3 to 5 markets this year but hasn’t revealed any cities other than Sacramento.
“We’re actually really waiting to see what’s going to happen in the 5G scene,” Tavares said.
Other than Los Angeles this year, GSMA and CTIA have not announced future MWCA venues.
GSMA typically works hand in hand with CTIA and will get involved in public policy issues when asked by CTIA or an operator member to bring a global perspective, Tavares said. Spectrum, for example, is a big area where global harmony is an issue, as with issues like privacy/security.
But if you ask Tavares the $64 million question of who’s leading in 5G, don’t expect an easy answer. The GSMA covers seven regions and she has six counterparts. When they all get together, it’s surprising (not really) how many regions expect to be first in 5G: Korea, China, Middle East, U.S. Perhaps the only one not planning to be first is Europe. “The competition is on,” she said.