At 3GSM, time to get connected

Confab for mobile entertainment back in Barcelona

This week's 3GSM World Congress has become a must for anyone interested in the future applications on mobile phones.

The world's largest wireless event has a list of keynote speakers and attendees signed up for the event — which began Monday and runs through Thursday — that reads like a who's who in any industry remotely related to wireless telephony.

Keynotes will address a range of subjects including "How Mobile Can Be the Next Great Information and Entertainment Channel"; "Emerging Markets — The Mobile Industry's Greatest Growth Opportunity"; and "Creating Next Generation Business Models."

"The 3GSM is the most important moment in the year for the mobility industry," said Olga Alvarez, director of marketing for mobile TV technology developer SIDSA, who plans to present the company's second-generation tiny screen platform in Barcelona. "It's the best place to show off your wares because it's truly a world showcase."

Last year, the 3GSM World Congress moved to Barcelona from Cannes, where the accommodations for such an event were too limited, organizers said. Originally, the idea was for Barcelona to host for a trial period of three years, but the arrangement could become permanent.

"It's a wonderful venue," said Miguel Angel Garzon, spokesman for Spanish telecom giant Telefonica. "For the first time, we've grouped together our two brands — Movistar and O2 — in the Telefonica Group's stand."

In 2006, the buzzword at the event was "mobile TV," and the congress has taken pains to address the industry's obsession with achieving that application.

The Mobile Entertainment Summit is now a staple segment each day in the congress agenda, providing a specific focus on the breaking issues affecting mobile entertainment content and services.

Central themes cover strategic, technical and commercial elements that weave together the mobile and entertainment worlds, such as changing business models, the segmentation of new markets and the role of advertising. Seminars on content will focus on sports, music and mobile TV. More than 35 speakers representing high-level executives from the ranks of vendors and global entertainment distributors — including Warner Music, EMI and MTV — will participate.

Hundreds of new products will make their global debut at the congress exhibition, which showcases more than 1,300 companies from all segments of the industry. More than 60,000 visitors are expected to attend.

"It's evident that having this large event early in the year where we can meet most of our major customers at once certainly has a positive impact on business," explained Azzedine Boubguira, vp marketing and business development of France's DiBcom, which plans the presentation of two new mobile TV products at the congress.

"(The 3GSM is key for) showcasing robust and affordable solutions (that) will help to boost the idea of an open standard Mobile TV market," Boubguira said.

This year, the exhibition will, for the first time, host a mobile entertainment zone displaying an array of content developed especially for mobile phone users. A number of high-profile announcements and launches are expected over the course of the congress, and visitors to the hall will be able to download content via Bluetooth.

One such display will include "The Sundance Institute: Global Short Film Project," recently announced by Robert Redford as a unique collaboration between Sundance and the organizing GSM Assn., which will exclusively premiere five films by six independent filmmakers during its opening ceremony.

In a unique industry pilot project, the Sundance Institute and the GSMA have joined to use the mobile phone as the "fourth screen" medium to showcase and extend the reach of independent short films to mobile users worldwide. The filmmakers will work with a limited budget, time and resources to make a three- to five-minute film for the mobile screen.

In parallel events, the GSM Assn.'s Leadership Summit will allow mobile industry leaders to participate in closed-door discussions about issues that affect mobile businesses, and the third annual Government Mobile Forum will give government regulators a chance to come together to discuss the opportunities the mobile industry offers for economic growth and social development.