3GSM confab gives eye to the future


BARCELONA Spain -- If last year's 3GSM World Congress' catch phrase was "mobile TV," this year's was "consumer experience" as the wireless industry wrestled with the logistics of creating an enjoyable partnership between content providers, telecom operators and customers.

Speakers at the world's largest mobile phone event, which was held in Barcelona Feb. 12-15, addressed the clunky nature -- even for tech-savvy teens -- of two-and-a-half-minute downloads for ringtones, requiring 20 "clicks" on a cell phone, the need for conditional ac�cess, new business models facilitating flat rates and property rights.

"Customers don't want a wireless or a wireline experience," said Vicente San Miguel, Telefonica's chief technology officer. "They are only interested in interaction with the content."

Keynotes and panel discussions were laden with techy jargon like "user-generated," "clip culture," "scalability" and "digital native," referring to the generation of 2000 who will grow up in a digital world as compared with the "digital immigrants" of the 1900s.

But perhaps one of the terms that made the biggest splash was "slinging," when Sling Media's vp for Europe, Stuart Collingwood, suggested his company had leap�frogged the mobile industry's efforts to achieve user-friendly mobile TV via streaming one's home TV set to their mobile phone.

The assertion got a rise out of operators, conditional access providers and content providers, who challenged it as too costly and inefficient.

"If everyone here started streaming, we'd bring the network down," said Kamil Grajsky, president of the FLO Forum and vp engineering at Qualcomm.

Content announcements, in-cluding the Sundance Institute's presentation with the GSM Assn. of five short films, specifically designed for the mobile phone and quickly downloaded via bluetooth at their booth, fueled much of the freshly launched Mobile Entertainment Forum's exhibit.

Throngs of male humanity decked out in their best dark suits with a single splash of color from their selected ties, crowded into Barcelona's majestic trade fair facility, Fira. The jazzy stands at the massive event boasted state-of-the-art technology, flashy gadgets and cool presentations to impromptu audiences.

Parties hosted by GSM, Orascon, MTV Networks and others used chic, modern venues seamlessly merging the quiddity of the wireless industry with the avant-garde landscape of Barcelona.

Other than the unique style of the city, attendees could easily have forgotten they were in Spain. The dominant language -- not only at the confab but at taxi stands and in the subway, hotels and restaurants -- was English. With over 60,000 visitors, the event monopolized Barcelona, with every single hotel room booked months in advance.

Even so, congress attendees raved about the efficient organization of the municipal authorities, which provided free public transportation and other details to ease the stay.