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Get on your comfy walking shoes, it’s show time: CTIA in Orlando: match made in spring heaven, more than 400,000 square feet of exhibit space

March in Florida typically conjures up images of half-naked college kids partying 24/7 on the beach, or for the more modest long lines and mouse ears. But, for the wireless industry this year it means show time. After a five-year hiatus, wireless trade association CTIA is returning to the Sunshine state, bringing its annual convention to Orlando, Fla. Sure, there might be venues with more natural culture, but it’s hard to pass on a trip to Florida in March.
This year’s event is expected to dwarf the 2002 event, with Rob Mesirow, VP of operations for CTIA, expecting in excess of 40,000 attendees to flock into the Orange County Convention Center. Consider yourself warned to wear comfortable, broken-in shoes because this year’s event covers more than 400,000 square feet of exhibits.
CTIA added that as of mid-March 95 percent of exhibitor space was sold.
A sign of the show’s growing size is that Mesirow noted only three U.S. venues are big enough to handle the event. For its part, CTIA is choosing to alternate between Las Vegas and Orlando for the next few years. Mesirow noted that in addition to having the capabilities of handling the event, Orlando allows CTIA to cater to the East Coast.
“It’s good to have this event on the East Coast as it allows greater access to those who might not want to or be able to travel out west,” Mesirow said.
In addition, Mesirow noted that the Orlando event has drawn strong interest from a number of Latin American companies. The show’s international presence will also be bolstered by a strong contingent from Asia and Europe, as well as international pavilions on the show floor. CTIA expects more than 100 countries to be represented at the show, with a 20 percent international participation.
As is the case for most CTIA events, this year’s show will feature a trio of keynotes to kick off each day’s festivities. CTIA President and CEO Steve Largent is scheduled to lead off the proceedings as the keynote host, followed by SunCom Wireless Holdings Inc. CEO Michael Kalogris, who is also serving as chairman of CTIA and will offer welcoming remarks. Following Largent and Kalogris will be the main speakers for the day, Randall Stephenson, COO of AT&T Inc., and Pieter Knook, senior VP of Microsoft Corp.’s mobile communications business.
Largent will also host the day two keynote, joined by Sanjiv Ahuja, CEO of Orange Group; John Coghlan, president and CEO of VISA U.S.A.; Philippe Dauman, president and CEO of Viacom Inc.; and Eric Nicoli, CEO of EMI Group.
Day 3 will see Largent share the stage with a pair of ex-presidents as George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton are scheduled to speak. Both presidents joined efforts several years ago to help raise funds following the tsunami in Indonesia as well as for Hurricane Katrina relief.
All three keynote events are set to take place in front of the CTIA Wireless Building, which Mesirow noted was a more enterprise-focused evolution of the Wireless Home CTIA constructed at previous events.
For those who can’t wait until March 27, CTIA is also offering a handful of pre-show events on March 26. These will include Billboard’s Mobile Entertainment Live; Emerging Technology Forums; Marketing-The Mobile Channel; Mobile Payments World; the Smartphone Summit; VoIP Mobility Conference and Wireless Data University. And for those looking to actually see the sun while at the show, CTIA will have a Golf Championship beginning at 8 a.m. on Monday at the Shingle Creek Golf Club.
As for the show days, attendees can look forward to plenty of eye-candy on the show floor, or if learning is on the agenda, an array of educational sessions headlined by speakers that Mesirow said would have been keynote-worthy for earlier CTIA events. CTIA also has a handful of special events scheduled during the day, including the CTIA E-Tech Awards, Fashion in Motion and the Mobie Awards.
And of course for those that manage to make it through the day with any energy left, there will be plenty of night-time events strewn throughout neighboring hotels and Orlando night clubs. Just keep an eye out for college kids and mouse ears.

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