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CTIA: A Wireless Whopper!

NEW ORLEANS -- CTIA Wireless 2005 -- Holy crap! It's huge!

And that's not just the bar tab that Unstrung is busy running up in New Orleans. Oh no, its the all-singing, all-dancing CTIA Wireless 2005.

The exhibitors claim that eight halls of the Ernest N. Morial convention center are 99 percent sold out. Unstrung can't verify that, but we say that they are 99 percent filled with a cornucopia of color-saturated, ringing, buzzing, whizzing multimedia gumbo ya-ya.

So, let's try and dig beneath the glitz for a moment, and forget our pounding headache, to bring you a roundup of what's happening:

Mega-Metro?
The CEO of metro wireless LAN startup Tropos Networks, Ron Sege, says that his firm's partnership with SkyTel, the paging division of MCI Inc. (Nasdaq: MCIP), to install a "hot zone" in downtown New Orleans could be the start of something bigger.

Unstrung grabbed a quick moment with Sege at Tropos's booth where he claimed that MCI may develop a "national footprint" using wireless mesh technology.

"They're going to market it under a different name," says Sege. A move that could certainly offer MCI a way to drag its paging operator kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

“SkyTel views metro-scale Wi-Fi mesh networks as an important new technology with great business potential,” says Bruce Deer, President of SkyTel in a press statement. “Bringing broadband access to areas where it was previously unavailable or unaffordable is a major objective for us."

WiFi, Phone, Fun
As expected, the foundations of cellular-wireless convergence are starting to fall into place at this year's show (see Convergence Is Coming to CTIA). Startup hotspot service provider Boingo Wireless Inc. is working with handset provider Kyocera Corp. (NYSE: KYO) to develop phones and software that will allow users to roam between 802.11 and cellular networks.

"Boingo is porting the roaming authentication engine that is the foundation of its current software to Linux-based handheld devices like Kyocera dual-mode phones," a Boingo spokesman told Unstrung. Boingo, you may recall has been talking up the possibility of using client-based software as a mechanism of managing handoff between the different networks for a while now (see Boingo Bets on VOIP).

But -- wouldn't you know it -- neither company is yet saying when we might see this dual-mode action on the market.

Just Change Your Name, Already
Canuck corporate wireless mavens Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) (Nasdaq: RIMM; Toronto: RIM) had a huge -- and we mean huge -- booth at the show, but blink and you might not have even realized it was them.

For RIM had plastered the booth with the logo of its best-selling wireless device, the Blackberry -- or as they call it on the street, the Crackberry. The only mention Unstrung could find of RIM was in the copyright blurb at the bottom of its Blackberry-shaped promo materials. This kind of juicy brand recognition is the sort of thing that most companies dream of and suggests that changing the company name to Blackberry is long overdue. After all RIM sounds like something you shouldn't forget to -- shudder -- clean under, not a world-beating bearer of wireless gizmos.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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