Will CTIA Wireless 2010 be a rerun of MWC?

Sue MarekAs I finalize my schedule for next week's CTIA Wireless 2010 conference, I have to wonder if the upcoming show will be filled with interesting announcements and thought-provoking discussions or just a repeat of what I heard a month ago when I was in Barcelona, Spain, for the GSMA's Mobile World Congress event.

Although CTIA Vice President of Operations Rob Mesirow assures me the overlap in exhibitors at the shows is not that significant (out of 1,000 exhibitors at CTIA, just 200 exhibit at MWC too), and that the two shows attract a distinctly different audience (80 percent of CTIA's attendees are from the U.S. while 80 percent of Mobile World Congress attendees are from Europe), there are some interesting similarities.

Both conferences are bullish on developers. Mobile World Congress had a dedicated section for application developers called "App Planet" while CTIA has an devoted area called "App World." The GSMA reported that its annual conference attracted 6,000 developers last month in Barcelona. Meanwhile, CTIA says developers are the third largest demographic group at the show. CTIA has been focusing on developers since 1994 and currently the annual confab draws more than 10,000 developers.

And this year the GSMA decided to forgo its pricey, formal gala event at the Palace and instead had a networking party featuring the rock group Duran Duran. CTIA, which typically hosts a formal gala on the second night of show, also is switching to a networking party, called CTIA Unplugged, which will take place March 24 at the Hard Rock Hotel with the band The Gin Blossoms.

Mesirow said the annual gala was nice but not fulfilling a purpose and so the organization decided to switch things up and try a networking event. "That doesn't mean we won't go back to the gala. But we thought it was time to try something new," he added.

Even if the events are distinctly different, there is no doubt that for some wireless firms having three big events in three months is quite a challenge. With the Consumer Electronics Show in January becoming a hotbed of wireless devices and Mobile World Congress drawing a huge contingent of C-level operator executives, some wonder why CTIA hasn't moved its annual conference to the fall.  Mesirow says CTIA has had a successful conference for the past 25 years and it has already sold more than 50 percent of its exhibit space for the 2011 show. "The time frame isn't going to change in the near future," he said. "But when you do the math there isn't that much overlap. ... We haven't had an overwhelming demand to move the show."

CTIA poll questionLook for next week's show to have a bigger focus on 12 areas where wireless is being embraced such as smart energy, mHealth, transportation, retail, mLearning, mobile applications, social networking and more. Mesirow says CTIA is building a community around each of these areas, and is moving a step closer to product categorization. One area that is growing fast is retail and CTIA will have a dedicated area of the North Hall as its Retail Zone. "The retail community is a big component," Mesirow said. "How can we drive wireless into these retail stores and better manage inventory? What do they have to do to be more profitable?"

Beyond the show floor, expect the usual keynote addresses from the top CEOs of some of the largest carriers--AT&T, Sprint Nextel and Clearwire--will all be on hand. Noticeably absent from the lineup is the nation's largest carrier, Verizon Wireless. Mesirow noted last year's show featured Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg, and said the company's absence this year isn't intentional.

Check out our CTIA Wireless 2010 preview package:

As always the FierceWireless, FierceMobileContent and FierceBroadbandWireless editorial team will be in Las Vegas next week covering all the news and events from the show. Our team of Mike Dano, Phil Goldstein, Lynnette Luna, Jason Ankeny and Tammy Parker will be out in full force. You can find our coverage in each newsletter, on the Web sites and at our dedicated site www.CTIALive.com. --Sue

P.S. If you are looking for a drill-down on all the big developments in 4G, be sure to register for FierceMarkets' "Path to 4G" conference on Tuesday, March 23, which is co-located with CTIA.  I'll be chairing the event, which will feature speakers such as Verizon's Tony Melone, AT&T's Kris Rinne, Clearwire's Mike Sievert and more. Register here.