By now I’ve read most of the “what we expect to see” columns heading into this year’s edition of CTIA Wireless. As expected, most of them are pretty bland, some are kinda whiny and a few are insightful.
With that in mind, rather than add my name to the long list of pundits who expect to see this and that, I thought I’d take a look at the messages that the major vendors in my beat – network equipment suppliers – are sending heading into the show. Now, clearly some vendors prefer to hold back their major announcements until a big show officially starts. Nevertheless, it is common practice to “prime the pump” by making announcements along a thematic element in the run up to an event. This helps to focus the market’s attention on the key messages that a company seeks to deliver and it helps to increase visibility for key news items that might otherwise get lost in the noise of a large gathering such as CTIA Wireless.
As part of my unscientific evaluation process, I looked at the press announcements of the four leading wireless infrastructure players (Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Huawei and NSN) during the week leading up to the show.
Ericsson’s announcements this past week focused on corporate news aimed at showcasing the global scale and reach, as well as the financial stability of the company. Pointedly, news regarding the company’s performance on sustainability and corporate responsibility, and a U.S. bond offering, reinforce the company’s message that Ericsson is a partner of choice for operators looking for a large, responsible company that is committed to the U.S. market.
However, by issuing a release on a new development kit for NFC testing, Ericsson also hinted that it will be focused on demonstrating the role it is playing in making mechanisms related to access, control, payments – all things vital to mobile commerce – easier to deploy and manage. In this regard, Ericsson shows that it is coming to New Orleans ready to talk about networked society-enabling solutions that go deeper than the macro trends like LTE-A, small cells, offload, etc.
For the past few years NSN’s march to being seen in the market as a services-led company has been obvious. However, heading into New Orleans, announcements related to the release of a new CDMA base station, advancements in throughput speeds related to LTE-A development and a new network gateway
aimed at simplifying mobile content delivery.
To NSN’s credit it is staring straight into the eyes of two elephants in its proverbial living room. By coming to CTIA prepared to highlight a range of new product developments that are highly relevant to the North American market, NSN is clearly trying to send the message that it is committed to remaining relevant in the equipment market and improving upon its performance on that side of the pond.
Without recounting Huawei’s relationship with the U.S. government, suffice to say, exhibiting at a U.S.-centric show is a mixed bag for the Chinese giant. As such, the lack of announcements related to what to expect from Huawei at CTIA Wireless is not a surprise. However, while many of us are aware of Huawei’s increasing government relations efforts in the United States, many are not. Highlighting those activities as a way of creating increased awareness of its committment to assuaging U.S. government concerns would have been useful.
Radio silence. That’s right, zero announcements of any kind in the run up to CTIA, let alone any related to the show. Although some of ALU’s apparent indifference to CTIA – don’t expect to see many ALU logos in the convention center – could be due to old loyalties to TIA, the fact that this vendor is barely acknowledging the goings on in New Orleans says a lot … none of it good. Whether ALU feels that CTIA doesn’t justify the investment, or if the vendor doesn’t have much new to say after Mobile World Congress, or some probable combination of the two, it is hard to make sense of the Franco-American company’s choice to go so far down the road of minimizing the use of CTIA Wireless as a market development and/or thought-leadership platform.
Who cares vs. who doesn’t
So, while the press activities of the wireless equipment giants indicate very different strategies with respect to CTIA, it does seem fair to surmise that none consider CTIA as important of a platform as MWC. As such, if we’re probably not going to see ground breaking telecom systems news at the show, who will be trying to make big news?
Looking at the pre-show chatter showing up in my inbox and over the press wires this past week, I’m left with the thought that we’ll see quite a bit of news coming from companies that play strongly in the deployment aspect of wireless network build-outs. There will be no shortage of companies talking about subjects such as tower deployments. Within tower deployments we’ll see news on subjects ranging from the engineering requirements of hanging active antennas, to the challenges of mitigating PIM, to efficiently weatherproofing the connections on a tower mast.
To this end, I can’t help but think back to the SuperComm days when a sizable portion of the show floor was dedicated to the heavy equipment used at the job site of a CO deployment or large fiber trenching project. Perhaps, this continued focus on the nuts and bolts of making commercial grade telecom deployments easier, cheaper and more efficient is ultimately where CTIA could differentiate itself from the more glamorous shows held in Las Vegas and Barcelona early each year.
Here’s to spending next week with all the others who care to find out.