There was a time, not that long ago, when the only real way to find out about new developments in the global communications technology sector was to book a flight and head to a trade show or conference to see (but not always touch) physical products, see service demonstrations and discover the bigger picture. And go to the parties.
The first major event I visited was the ITU Telecom show in Geneva in 1999, which attracted about 200,000 visitors, saw the likes of Alcatel spend tens of millions of dollars building booths larger in physical scale than some contemporary industry events, and saw the likes of Diana Ross (at the Nortel party) and Bo Diddley (in the Nokia village marquee) perform at lavish vendor bashes. They don't do 'em like that any more…
The largest gathering these days is GSM Association (GSMA)'s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where about 70,000 industry folks risk their personal belongings to travel to and from the extensive show halls over the course of four days. (OK, yes, the security has improved in the past few years…)
What makes MWC such a hit? Well, folks aren't going there just to find out what 4G radio access network (RAN) equipment and smartphones are currently available. The main reason, I'd suggest, is because so many other people with similar interests -- mobile networks, devices, applications, business strategies, tapas, and so on -- are all there too. Really, it's about the people -- we go to Barcelona to meet, greet, listen, share and learn.
And while some of that comes from the podium or from booth presentations, most of it comes from face-to-face meetings and from networking with peers.
MWC is a great place to do that, as is the TeleManagement Forum's Management World event, which returned to its spiritual home of Nice, France, this year. The main focus of that event is on the various developments in Service Provider IT (SPIT), which, as we've been saying for years, is just as critical as the telcos' physical infrastructure. The numbers are much smaller (about 4,000 people) but it punches above its weight in terms of the importance of the engagements available. And, of course, it's in the south of France. In May. There's a reason that town is called Nice.
In my opinion, those are the two main, broad events on the annual calendar for the majority of communications service provider (CSP) executives.
Of course there are many others (too many to be sustainable, it always seems), including CTIA, The Cable Show, OFC (now without the NFOEC name extension), Broadband World Forum and Light Reading's very own Ethernet & SDN Expo in New York, which I genuinely rate (along with many others who don't have a vested interest) as one of the very worthwhile events to attend (the program this year is knockout … OK, shameless plug over).
But these are just a few of the ones that I would regard as still worthy -- the question is, which events do you always have in your calendar? If any?
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— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading