Sunday, February 23, 2014

GSMA World 2014 in Barcelona, time to end the show?

The global get together that is GSMA World rolls into Barcelona this week and I am left with the feeling that as with Telecoms World before it no longer fits a purpose. At the hight of the Dot.Com bubble Telecoms World was THE trade show for the fixed telecoms world, $1M+ was spent by firms on the production of stands; it was such a success that the ITU build a new space for the next show, unfortunately that new space had tumble weed rolling through it and the ITU has become a zombie.

In past years GSMA World was an important conference that happened to have an exhibition attached.  It was something that you had to attend if you wanted to achieve or be recognised in the Mobile Industry. Over the course of a week it was possible to meet all the important players in the industry and get a real feel for what was going to happen for the coming year. That is no longer the case.

At this years conference the GSMA has decided that the Keynote speakers should be Facebook and IBM rather than the CEOs of Vodafone, Ericsson or Huawei.  In the past we have listened to the future as outlined by charismatic leaders and disruptors such as Richard Branson and Hans Snook who were upstaged by the likes of Douglas Adams. This year the line up is such that many very senior executives whilst in town will not be at the show; rather they will stay close to the Arts Hotel to network and lobby.

As for the exhibition, well the security will rival that of the airport and it is of a size to rival CeBIT next month in Hanover.  It is unlikely that we are going to see anything of mind blowing innovation or design because now they are revealed elsewhere at times more suited to consumer demand and/or the news cycle.

The cost and the scale of GSMA World Congress does mean that a number of those on the edge of the mobile ecosystem will not be in attendance. I have a number of conference calls after the show finishes with people who will not be in attendance but what to confirm that in missing Barcelona they have not missed out. If they are right even fewer decision makers will attend in 2015 and the were are faced with a downward spiral rather than an upward curve.

The media reporting on World Congress are unlikely to report that the Emperor stands before them unclothed as they enjoy a comfortable time with plenty of chances to party on a PR firms credit card. So whilst the SWAG on offer has declined the good times roll providing that you work for the right media.  A number of Industry Analysts are not attending as they have not been able to find sponsors willing to pick up the tab and so will be stuck at home.

The GSMA missed the fact that Mobile's focus had shifted from Europe to West Cost America with the rise of 3G. As 4G starts to become mainstream in the developed world and 3G is deployed on a Global basis it needs to become relevant again.  The Executives leading the day to day operations have to understand that they are working for a trade association that is about the Mobile Networks, Equipment Manufactures and those that support them, it is not about the software companies that are marketing to consumers whilst making little or no investment in the infrastructure.

I would be happy to see Facebook and WhatsAp CEO's booed and hackled at their keynotes rather than applauded as this would demonstrate that the GSMA was still relevant and represented it's members.    

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