CTIA WIRELESS 2012 has returned to New Orleans after a 7 year absence. It has also time shifted itself into May for the first time. This is seen as CTIA trying to create a bigger gap between the two shows preceding it in the calendar, CES in January and MWC in February. I’m sure CTIA hoped this increased gap might have resulted in more manufacturers making major product announcements and launching new devices at the show. Sadly that hasn’t happened and Samsung even scheduled its own Galaxy III event in London the week before the start of CTIA.
Still, the return to New Orleans was well received and without fail everyone I spoke to about it at the event approved of the decision. New Orleans certainly has earned a break or two and I have to say the city did a great job in hosting the event and all the visitors. There was no hiking of hotel room rates and restaurant menus as happened in Cannes and sadly is now becoming a feature of Barcelona when MWC hits town. The good thing about New Orleans is that it can take 40,000 visitors in its stride as tourism is its largest industry.
Robert Mesirow, CTIA vice president and show director, said that after the last show held there in 2005 that the event had out-grown New Orleans, which seemed a bit hard to reconcile, but said CTIA came back this year because New Orleans has since ‘grown.’ I discovered the population of New Orleans is 30% down on pre-Katrina levels although there has been significant new investment in the city post Katrina and New Orleans boasts an increase of 300 restaurants, $400 million of improvements to local hotels, $250 million of improvements to the Louisiana Superdome and $92.7 million of improvements to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, making it now one of the largest meeting venues in the U.S. and I guess that’s why we are here.
The city is still showing some of the scars of Katrina and the floods that followed and it’s fascinating and rather humbling to see the water line wherever you go in the city still clearly visible on walls and on the sides of buildings. Even where things have been cleaned up and are fully back to normal, the water marks can still be seen and sometimes they have been left on show as a ‘badge of honour’. Given 80% of New Orleans was under water the damage must have been immense. Locals told me it took 6 weeks to pump all the water out once the levee breaches had been filled. Looking at the city today it’s made an astonishing recovery.
I haven’t seen any numbers published for attendees but 40,000 were expected. It seemed less walking the floor. The CTIA claim to represent the world’s wireless industry with a focus on the US and on this point they over achieve. Being a regular attendee at MWC over many years I am tempted to make comparisons with MWC but is it fair to do so? As both camps claim to run the major show I guess this invites comparison. Maybe healthy competition between the two is good for the industry.
Perhaps this year’s CTIA show did give us a taste of things to come with the whole show contained under one gigantic roof. MWC 2013 will try the same trick, moving from the older, slightly decrepit but nonetheless charming Fira de Barcelona, to the ultra-modern Fira de Barcelona Gran Via Fira. Having attended both CTIA and MWC this year I feel I appreciated the opportunity to step outside the hall, take in the sun, and have an el fresco coffee and even an outdoor meeting or two. Escaping from the hustle and bustle of the halls does have its advantages but perhaps this is now to be lost forever.
CTIA lay on seven different shuttle bus routes which supply a hotel to convention centre transfer which works well and was well used. That’s something that maybe the GSMA should think about for 2013 especially as the new venue is off the beaten track, not on the metro and no longer in the heart of Barcelona.
There is another disadvantage of being inside all day long. Being all self-contained under one enormous roof, fully air-conditioned leaves one splendidly isolated from the outside world. So much so that I missed the tornado that passed by to the South on day two. Actually a double tornado! One of the main reasons for coming here was to see a tornado and I didn’t even know about it until I switched the TV on back in my hotel.
So here it is. A double twister (which is very rare I’m told). It ripped off roofs, knocked out electricity supplies and threw debris into streets. No injuries were reported; authorities said (accept my big toe when I kicked the door in frustration after seeing I’d missed it).