The Globalcomm Big Picture

After a whirlwind of travel that saw me in four cities in 12 days (or was it 12 cities in 4 days?), I have unearthed myself from a mountain of unanswered email and had time to catch my breath and look back over the frenzy of Globalcomm 2006.

Even for a conference that was relatively news-lite, a big tradeshow like Globalcomm presents a huge forest-and-trees problem: There are so many announcements, partnerships, press conferences (largely content-free, but still), panels, and speeches that it's almost impossible to lift your head from the water and discern broader trends.

At the same time, a big tradeshow is like the Bible: There's so much going on that it can be used to fit any thesis or premise you care to throw out. Competition heating up between telcos and cable operators? Sure thing. Cable operators leaving their carrier rivals in the dust? Mais oui. And so on.

So, instead of reaching for bogus Big-Picture trends, I've selected three keynotes that I thought were noteworthy (thanks to my colleagues at Light Reading for their excellent, and thorough, Globalcomm coverage):

  • Cox Communications Inc. president Patrick Esser said that his company plans to launch its own branded wireless service by the end of this year. In a speech that was more pointed than your usual bland conference keynote, Esser had some barbs for the telecom carriers, deriding "aspirational Bell press releases promising... [video] services that don't exist," and saying, "The Bells are finally peeking out from behind their press releases. They need video to stay in this game." Cox's wireless service will be offered in partnership with Sprint Nextel and will feature tiered data services, whereby customers needing large video streams will pay more than those using conventional email and Web browsing services.

  • Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) CTO for networks and enterprise services Dan Coombes outlined the device-maker's vision of a wireless broadband future based on the 802.16e standard for WiMax. Continuing Motorola's drive to be a premier player in the emerging mobile broadband market, Coombes used the word "ecosystem" to describe the future landscape of comprehensive solutions comprising devices, access points, core networks, and applications, with offerings from multiple companies including hardware vendors, network operators, and systems integrators. That's an overused term, but Coombes's matter-of-fact presentation of a wireless broadband future was compelling enough to confirm that WiMax has moved beyond the hype phase.

  • Mike Lazaridis, president and co-CEO of BlackBerry , kicked off the whole shebang with a Monday-morning speech that was as interesting for what went unsaid. Noting that "we're at the point now where wireless data has really taken over the [mobile] industry," Lazaridis warned the gathered industry figures that bandwidth limits on cellular networks could limit the utility of devices like the BlackBerry as demands for fat-pipe content and applications rises. To me at least, that's a way of shifting the onus for moving the mobile user beyond email-only usage to richer and more productive applications from RIM to the carriers. Blame the network! It's a time-honored IT-guy gambit.

So, was there a theme to these three speeches? I'm not sure – but it's worth nothing that certain terms kept cropping up: "services," "integration," "solutions," and "partnership." This could be an indication that carriers, service providers, and vendors are moving beyond tech-for-tech's sake into an era of focusing on what customers want and delivering it to them in cost-effect packages.

Or maybe it's just the marketing machinery disgorging the latest clichés.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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