CTIA attendance down 15%

CTIA Wireless this year attendance fell 15%, but the number of exhibitors held steady as the bad US economy spared not even the king of wireless industry trade shows. Total attendance fell from 40,000 in 2008 to 34,000 this year, and the number of booths remained about the same at 1000, though CTIA saw dips in both categories between 2007 and 2008.

“We expected attendance would be down from last year due to the current economic conditions,” CTIA said in a statement today. “We heard from several attendees and exhibitors that floor traffic was steady and meetings were extremely effective because key decision makers were in attendance.”

CTIA did better than its worst projections, which were as low as 18%, but it fell well short of its best-case scenario, which had attendance falling off only 6%. Compared to how other trade shows are fairing in this economy, though, CTIA may consider itself it lucky. Supercomm made the ominous announcement that it was moving the show from June to October, stating it wanted to capitalize on the availability of broadband stimulus dollars. While CTIA may be hurting, it might not be hurting as badly as most.

In an inteview before the show, CTIA Wireless show director Rob Mesirow predicted most of the losses in attendance would come from the fringes of the wireless industry—the investors, technology and media companies and general gawkers that have a loose relationship to or interest in wireless but who have helped to bulk up CTIA’s attendance rolls in recent years. Mesirow said that CTIA’s key membership, the wireless service providers, would all be in attendance, and even if they weren’t sending as many people as in previous years, the key operational, strategic and financial people would make it.

That may be the case, but it was hard not to get the impression that attendance suffered substantially when looking at the show floor and registration areas. CTIA was far more spread out this year with registration, the conference program and the exhibits all in separate halls, making parts of the show seem like ghost towns when a big event wasn’t taking place. On the show floor itself, foot traffic seemed sparse most of the time, though there were huge differences between different vendors’ booths. Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson’s booths seemed fairly packed during peak periods, which can probably be explained by the huge LTE contracts the two vendors just won with Verizon Wireless. Meanwhile Nortel’s expansive floor space was largely empty (that Nortel didn’t have a large booth structure in its space didn’t help), which likewise can probably be explained by its recent filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

For full coverage of this year’s CTIA Wireless see Telephony’s CTIA BlogLive.

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