Last year 3GSM bowed to reality and quit the cramped quarters of the Palais des Festivals in Cannes so this is the forst 3GSM congress in Barcalona. Just as Barcalona is a far bigger city than Cannes, so 3GSM here is a huge increase on 3GSM in Cannes. However that hasn't sopped the overcrowding of the exhibit halls which are still mostly jam packed with visitors.
Given the prices charged - €600 for an "on the day" registration for the exhibits only and far more for conference attendees - if the FT is right and its prediction of 40,000 attendees is correct then someone is making some serious money. I begin to understand why the conference organizers might be ever so slightly miffed that the 3GSM forum is going to organize the event itself next year and just outsource the logisitics to the current organizers. Given the fact that both attendees and exhibitors pay there seems like a lot of money to go around so I have no doubt that the rumours that additional "commissions" were payable by exhibitors who wanted a better position are utterly unfounded.
The buzz at the conference revolves around two ideas
GPS and related location sercives
Digital TV (DVB-H and 5000 related acronyms)
Neither of these things is new precisely but both are now apparently practical. There is of course mention of 3G speeds and speed upgrades such as HSPDA but both these and the other buzzword of last year - Wifi/3G convergence - seem to have entered into the lexicon of "problem solved - boring roll out and implementation". This is probably healthy because it is the applications like DVB that will make people pay for 3G.
Location is interesting: although there are GPS chipset vendors there don't seem to be that many phones that contain built in GPS: Unlike, say, camera phones a couple of years ago, GPS chipsets are not being integrated everywhere although the services are being hyped far and wide. As far as I can tell the idea seems to be to have an external (bluetooth connected) GPS receiver to provide the location information.
Something that I noticed last year is even more true this year and that is that the "fizz" is back. There ia plenty of money to spend on marketing gimmicks and that formerly endangered species - the booth babe - has returned.in strength. Outside of the "adult content" section the booth with the biggest babes to real person ratio appears to be CBOSS. Last year in Cannes they had plenty and they seem to have decided that twice the booth area requires twice asmany scantily clad young ladies. CBOSS make software to run on mobile hardware but their marketing strategy seems to revolve around (the overwhelmingly male) visitors desire to ahh run their hardware in CBOSS's mobile software. I'd love to say they are wrong but I fear that they have judged their market well even though we all joke about it.
There is still a lack of Americans. Not none, but it is clear that 3GSM and related technologies are not dominated by the usual USA + Taiwan/Israel/India group that seems to run other parts of high tech. Also notable is that both Huawei and ZTE (leadig mainland Chinese vendors) have decided to graduate to the big money and their booths are as big and as hyped as those of Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung etc.Last year their stands where in the smaller halls whereas this year they are in the big vendor hall.
3GSM does not seem to be very concerned by the threat of displacement by WiFi or WiMAX. There are both WiMAX and WiFi vendors present and planty of people offering test equipment and UMA (converged WiFi / Cellular) offerings, such as Cicero Networks or Kineto Wireless, but it seems clear that the consesnsus is that these technologies will not replace cellular but may well complement it.