Wireless trade association CTIA shook up the plans for its annual spring event for 2012, pushing the shows traditional late March, early April timing until early May. In announcing the change last year, CTIA noted the move was due to requests from vendors that the show fall in line with product launches ahead of the back-to-school and fourth quarter retail cycles.
The move also gives the show some air from its previous slot right after the juggernauts that are the Consumer Electronics Show in January and the Mobile World Congress event in February. Observers noted the move could pay off for both news and attendance coming from the event as it places more space between the event and larger events on the yearly calendar.
Roger Entner, founder of Recon Analytics, said the move by CTIA was a smart one in that it was suffocating in its previous position.
“With the move to May the show is now closer to back to school,” Entner explained. “CES and MWC were taking the oxygen out of the room when it came to devices. With mobile devices and mobile becoming a bigger part of the consumer electronics space, it was making the air very thin for CTIA.”
As for what to expect from this year’s CTIA event, Daryl Schoolar, principal analyst for network infrastructure at Ovum, said he expects to hear news from T-Mobile USA regarding its recently announced LTE network plans, including the possible naming of vendors for the multi-billion dollar project.
Rumors have been circulating that T-Mobile USA could go so far as to announce a network sharing arrangement with Sprint Nextel that would take advantage of that carrier’s current Network Vision initiative that includes spectrum hosting capabilities. The two operators have for some time been dancing around potential partnerships, a dance that was interrupted last year by AT&T’s doomed $39 billion acquisition attempt of T-Mobile USA.
More news is also expected surrounding LTE expansion from other operators, including Verizon Wireless, which is set to hit 260 million potential customers covered by year end; AT&T Mobility, which is in a race to match Verizon Wireless’ LTE lead; MetroPCS, which has deployed LTE across all of its current networks, but is in need of additional spectrum to bolster the offering; and Leap Wireless, which is in the early stages of LTE deployments.
Entner added that one aspect to AT&T Mobility’s LTE plans could be greater emphasis on its HSPA+ fall back that provides superior network speeds to Verizon Wireless’ CDMA2000 1x EV-DO Revision A network. This can also be seen in AT&T Mobility’s advertising that boasts the nation’s largest “4G” network when it includes its HSPA+ service.
In addition to the LTE news, Schoolar said he predicts news regarding small cell deployments as well as carrier initiatives surrounding Wi-Fi offloading.
While network news is expected to revolve around LTE, devices are also expected to garner a share of the limelight at the CTIA event. And this is a segment that could see the largest impact from the event’s date change.
Entner noted that in previous years CES has traditionally snared a significant portion of the wireless industry’s device news leaving precious little “new” news for CTIA. This year, with the move to May Entner expects a bigger device presence with carriers getting in on some device partnerships.
These partnerships are seen as critical to the U.S. market as consumers are still drawn to devices through their carrier connections. Entner noted that Nokia could begin to benefit from these alliances as the company has recently begun to focus more on those relationships after years of failing to find a niche.
“One of the things that Nokia did was fix that partnership with carriers,” Entner explained, noting that the sales success it has seen with its Lumia devices at AT&T Mobility and T-Mobile USA.
One fly in the ointment for CTIA could come from Samsung, which has scheduled its own device event in the days leading up to trade show. The vendor is set to unveil its latest Galaxy S III device in London just prior to CTIA, which Entner said could rub many in attendance at CTIA the wrong way.
“In the past the Korean device makers really endeared themselves with U.S. carriers in being very supportive of their device needs and being easy to work with,” Entner said. “Carriers only have so much bandwidth, shelf space and time to train store employees on devices. … The U.S. carriers remember this stuff. The attitude of U.S. carriers is that they are some of the biggest in the world and want to be part of these rollouts. Who is going to show up for a second launch?”
At least the move could provide some potential for conflict at the CTIA event, which along with the date change might be enough for the event to regain some of its footing in the trade show marketplace.
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