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5G and Beyond

5G likely to be a low-key affair at CES 2023

The annual CES event (formerly the Consumer Electronics Show) is scheduled to start early next month in Las Vegas. But 5G doesn't appear to be positioned as a major topic at the confab.

Of the hundreds of panels and sessions on the CES 2023 agenda, only a handful focus specifically on 5G and mobile technologies. Further, no top 5G executives are scheduled to speak.

In fact, only a smattering of upper-level executives from the US wireless industry appear on the show's agenda, and most are speaking at sessions related to their position within their company rather than in the 5G industry broadly. For example, a T-Mobile security executive is scheduled to appear during a cybersecurity session, while Qualcomm's CMO is speaking at a session titled "The Tech Trends That Are Now Required Knowledge for CMOs."

Top wireless operators aren't planning any major events, according to representatives contacted by Light Reading. For example, a Verizon official confirmed that the company is sending executives to the show but declined to answer questions about the company's broader participation in the event. AT&T, meanwhile, said it plans to host a booth focusing on digital health with 5G augmented reality and fiber demos. A T-Mobile official did not respond to questions about CES.

CES officials are hoping for a bigger turnout in 2023. (Source: Consumer Technology Association)
CES officials are hoping for a bigger turnout in 2023.
(Source: Consumer Technology Association)

The response was similar among representatives at other service providers and vendors. Dish Network and Ericsson said they will send some executives, but neither company is planning to have a major public presence. Amazon Web Services (AWS) intends to show off its automotive offerings. Samsung, including its growing networks business, also plans to have a presence at the show.

Other, smaller aspirants are hoping to make a splash at CES – an event that often helps startups get some attention.

Christian Kurasek with decentralized wireless company Pollen Mobile said, "We'll definitely be at CES." But he added that it was too early to share details. And Bullitt, a UK-based maker of hardened Android smartphones, has pledged to make CES the stage where it will introduce its satellite-capable device.

The low number of sessions focusing on 5G is noteworthy because the technology has been a hot topic at past shows. Verizon used its CES keynote in 2019 to outline its 5G vision, and the company's CEO returned to the CES keynote stage – albeit virtually – in 2021. T-Mobile's CEO pulled out of his planned CES keynote in 2021 amid ongoing COVID-19 fears.

It's also worth noting that even as the pandemic recedes, CES attendance has not yet fully recovered. The Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which puts on the show every year, late last month announced that it expects the event to stretch across almost 2 million square feet – 50% more than CES 2022. But it has set an attendance goal of 100,000. That's down from the show's pre-pandemic high point of around 170,000 attendees.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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