CTIA 2009 Roundup

CTIA 2009 Roundup

CTIA 2009 Roundup


CTIA 2009 in Pictures


CTIA provided a boost to the Las Vegas economy by hosting the 2009 International CTIA in the sin city. Prior to the show, we knew that the attendance will be down due to the economy and it was clear from day 1 that it will be a less busy event. Attendance was probably down 30-40%, Exhibitors seemed down by a good percentage as well with many opting for meeting rooms instead or skipping the show altogether. The big double story compounds were downgraded to smaller fields. Samsung and LG didn’t plaster the town with massive banners, taxis weren’t covered in advertisements. It was not all bad though, the probability of being trampled by humans reduced, taxi lines were shorter (though no less annoying) and the quality of the show was still pretty good. We had a jam packed schedule. This note summarizes the observations from the show.

Numbers CTIA released its semi-annual numbers. For 2008: 270M subscribers, $148 billion in service revenues, $32 billion in data revenues (just for reference, this is more than the total global Hollywood box-office revenue which came in at $28B), 2.2 trillion in MOU, 1 trillion TXT messages. You can checkout our annual US data market analysis which was released last month here.

Etech Contest – Prior to the event, CTIA invited us to judge the Emerging Technology Contest. It was fun reviewing the various entries. The award winners are announced here. Congrats to all.

My CTIA started early with a couple of sessions at the pre-conference event – BRIC Mobile Market Summit. The quality of the discussion was pretty good. I gave a talk on the Opportunities in the Indian and Chinese mobile markets and discussed where the opportunities in these two fastest growing markets as well as dispel some myths that engulf most companies.

After that, I joined the panel with other experts in the industry to have a lengthy discussion of the trends and opportunities in these markets including Latin America.

Unfortunately, our workshop on “Monetizing Mobile User Generated Content” got canceled due to low attendance or maybe folks are just not interested in monetizing these days. I will be discussing some of the similar themes in my talk at the NAB Show (MES) in Vegas on 22nd April. I will also be moderating a panel on Innovations in Mobile Experiences.

If interested, clients of Chetan Sharma Consulting can request the slides from any of the talks.

Themes: The main themes of the conference were: Broadband (primarily around 4G and LTE with sprinkles of WiMAX) and data usage, Green, Mobile Health, Appstores, Rich Communication and Social Networking.


4G – My first 4G project was back in 2003 for NTT DoCoMo when 4G didn’t even enter industry’s vernacular. Most operators were figuring out their 3G strategies. Six years hence, we have come a long way. Broadband, 4G, and LTE were the core themes of the conference and there was visible progress from the last CTIA with more test results, actual devices, and real demos. While the current reports suggest that some form of deployment will take place in 2010, we don’t expect the “real” commercial deployments before 2011, LTE voice will even take longer. So, where does this leave WiMAX. With each passing day, the role of WiMAX as a niche technology is affirmed. The backhaul bottleneck problem is also becoming prominent and the enhancement of backhaul is behind the RF infrastructure to provide any substantive improvements in data throughputs at least in the near future.

I will be moderating a panel on 4G at Future in Review (FiRE) conference considered by Economist the best Tech conference on the planet (panelists include executives from Telstra, Qualcomm, Clearwire, and others) to get delve deeper into the evolution of 4G.

The Broadband Stimulus – Many companies are eying the $8B broadband stimulus package. The process of how they are going to be granted seems chaotic with unintended consequences. My feeling is that it is a lost opportunity. Instead of just looking at incremental enhancements, US could have been bold and improved existing and new broadband deployments by over 50-60 times.  (More discussion here)

Mobile Health

Keynotes – I thought Dr. Eric Topol, Director, Scripps gave perhaps the most effective keynote addresses in recent memory. Keynotes are generally a drab affair. Instead of inspiring through vision many put the audience to sleep with their product announcements. Dr. Topol’s speech was so rich in content, his words were filled with such passion, and his articulation was so inspiring that most entrepreneurs in the room were energized to make a difference. I commend CTIA for inviting him. He is joining Qualcomm’s Don Jones (a fierce proponent of mHealth) and others to form the first ever Wireless Health Institute in San Diego. Expect some really cool stuff to come out of them. However, to be most effective, health institutions need to get on board with the program starting with the simplest of things like “txt messages.” Come on folks, move into the 21st century!

Health – For the first time, there was significant discussion on mobile’s impact on the health care industry. My masters is in Biomedical Engineering so it is great to see the marriage between the two industries. I strongly believe if we can get past some of the bureaucratic nonsense, mobile can have a significant lasting impact on the quality of life and healthcare in both the developing and developed nations. Some of the stuff is really amazing (iBrain, iPill, iShoe, you get the picture). I will have more discussion on the subject in the coming days.  

Applications and Services

You say appstore, I say appworld, you say market, I say marketplace – I have been working on appstores for so long that I can’t help but be amused by the recent frenzy of appstores sprouting like mushrooms. I think overall it is good for the industry as each of the providers will push each other in areas of innovation and pricing models thus opening up the industry for developers and consumers. However, the fragmentation also increases as a result and something has to give because developer’s attention and resources are finite. There aren’t many companies who can pull-off a successful developer program (this is one area where Microsoft has some advantage because of significant experience in cultivating developers). Apple’s model has already forced carriers to accelerate their short-term and long-term strategies. T-Mobile USA saw the writing on the wall earlier than most and is further along in its plans. Current implementations are still quite primitive with much potential for improvement.

Rich Communication – Talked to some companies (Aylus, Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent, etc.) about rich communication services that integrate various experiences on the mobile device including chat, voice, data, social networking, video, etc., onto a single screen. The user experience is enhanced leading to newer sources of revenues for operators.

Netbooks also seem to be on operator roadmaps with 33% of these devices expected to be sold through the carrier channels in 3 years. Will Nokia and Motorola get active in this space? Or will the new entrants use netbooks to enter the phone market? Inspired by Kindle, many players are getting bolder and investing in application specific devices (a trend we wrote about in our mobile advertising book last year). Examples: a cool new wireless video game console – Zeebo being launched in Brazil and nuvifone being launched by Garmin and Asus.

Mobile Social Networking – Some interesting social networking features and functions are coming down the line. I am convinced that carriers need to treat social networking as a core service rather than a bolt on application. I almost wrote a book “The Facebook Effect” but 3 books in a year were too many so taking a break for now. (Maybe the next one will be “The Twitter Effect”).

Mobile Advertising – Though we have been involved with several mobile advertising projects, at the show, it felt the segment excitement was quite flat and many companies are struggling to stay in business. The consolidation hasn’t come yet but things are likely to start changing in the next few months. I also think that industry needs to start thinking about much more compelling and engaging closed-loop creative experiences rather than just impressions. Also, third party verification is needed (who is going to step up?). Finally, the role of the mediation layer is becoming important. The real substantive announcement came before CTIA with four major US operators agreeing to collaborate on best practices. Kudos to MMA for orchestrating the agreement.


Green is the new black – With so much focus on cleantech and global warming, vendors are stepping up and making a dent in the carbon put out by the industry. There were some really cool solar chargeable devices as well as applications that keep the users green-aware. Being green is a competitive advantage.


Devices – The quality of devices that coming out keeps getting better. Stuff coming out from Samsung, LG, and INQ is pretty darn cool (Motorola, Nokia, Palm have some good stuff coming out as well). There were some neat concept phones on display as well (I know, I know, we are ways out but I think we will see some of these come to light sooner than we think). I thought one of the coolest new device was from LG – GD900 with transparent keypad. Samsung’s DLNA and AMOLED based devices were also quite good. They were also showing the WiMAX Smartphone Mondi. ZTE is also planning to enter the US market in a big way. While new Androids were hard to spot, several of them are scheduled to be released in the next few months.

NTT DoCoMo – Each CTIA, I love spending time in DoCoMo’s booth as they are always at the cutting edge of what’s to come. Downloading your digital key to your handset to open your hotel room by waving your phone, controlling every piece of equipment in your home via your cell phone, i-concier: your friendly on-screen butler, separable phones were some of the highlights.

Best booth: Most Creative – SpinVox, Most Hip – LG

Interesting companies – While it is difficult to meet each of the upcoming startups, couple of companies caught our attention: Waze out of Israel with its crowd-sourcing based approach to real-time traffic information and Kovio with its ability to lower the cost of printed silicon.

3G connection – My 3G connection was so good throughout the show that I didn’t need to lug my laptop around and did 100% of my communications for 3 days from my phone.

Your feedback is always welcome.



Disclaimer: Some of the companies mentioned in this note are our clients.