Once Euro-centric, the GSMA has an office and events across the pond.
For most of its 21 years, the GSM Association (GSMA) has been known as a trade association focused on GSM networks in Europe and, more recently, in Asia. It hosts what is considered the largest wireless telecom trade show in the world, an annual event now called the Mobile World Congress that drew about 55,000 people to Barcelona in February.
The GSMA has had regional organizations associated with it, including one in North America, but it hasn’t had much public presence in the United States and Canada. That’s changing somewhat as the association has located the headquarters for its global events business to the United States and has started to schedule programs in the country.
|Gajda: U.S. leads in multimedia and data.
The first North American program put on by the GSMA is its Mobile Innovation Marketplace – Americas, June 3-4 in Atlanta. The association has held similar events in Macau and Barcelona in the past but decided to host one in the United States because the country is a leader in multimedia and data, according to Bill Gajda, the GSMA’s chief commercial officer.
The “marketplace” is designed to be a public showcase for startup companies to reach operators and venture capitalists. Gajda said it started as an experiment two years ago but saw so much interest that it was formalized last year in Macau.
Presenting companies at the Atlanta event were selected from about 100 that submitted proposals, Gajda said. About three dozen semifinalists were selected by the GSMA to appear before a panel of operators and venture capitalists, with 15 finalists picked to present in Atlanta. The finalists are given about 8 minutes to make an “elevator pitch,” from which a group of winners will be named.
The 15 emerging growth companies compete in five categories: most innovative true mobile start-up, most innovative carrier infrastructure or platform, most innovative consumer application or service, most innovative mobile application in a vertical market, and most innovative wireless device centric technology. One winner will be named in each category and two of those five will win a trip to the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona next year to compete against other regional winners from Macau and Barcelona. A “virtual” tournament also is planned for Israel in the third quarter.
There was a Mobile Innovation Global Award presented at this year’s MWC, with GestureTek winning the overall award.
Beyond the innovation marketplace event, what does the GSMA plan in the United States? Gajda said that’s the only event planned for now, but he said the association is a global operation looking for opportunities to help fill any holes it sees in the mobile ecosystem. He wants to see how the Atlanta event goes before looking at a broader strategy.
Gajda is no newcomer to North America. He was born and educated in Canada and got into the telecom sector with Telus and Bell Canada International. He also worked as global director of brand and marketing communications for Ericsson in Sweden before becoming chief marketing officer for the GSMA.
As chief commercial officer, Gajda now runs business development and commercial initiatives for the GSMA as well as its conference subsidiary, GSMC Ltd. The latter assumed sole operation of its main conference in Barcelona this year after taking over from the British company Informa.
Location, Location, Location
Why did the GSMA set up shop in Atlanta? One obvious answer is that Atlanta is home of AT&T Mobility, which is represented on the GSMA board, but Gajda said the Georgia city also met the association’s criteria for quality of life, cost of business, time zone and access to talent.
What’s the effect of the GSMA’s move to Atlanta on other wireless telecom trade associations? Gajda said the GSMA isn’t competing with any other group and will work cooperatively with others.
GSM North America will continue to represent the association in North America, Gajda said, while anything out of the GSMA office in Atlanta will have more of a global focus. The GSMA also plans to work with 3G Americas, the trade group set up in 2002 to foster GSM technologies in the Americas.
3G Americas isn’t a member of the GSMA but does have a memorandum of understanding, said its president, Chris Pearson. 3G Americas has a good relationship with the GSMA, he said, including cooperation on a joint exhibit on HSPA technology at this year’s CTIA Wireless 2008 show. 3G Americas also helped out with an HSPA technology seminar at the Mobile World Congress.
According to Pearson, 3G Americas has a different objective than the GSMA in the Americas. 3G Americas promotes the use of the GSM family of technologies, including working with regulatory and standards bodies in various countries. As such, it files opinions and information with the FCC and other regulatory bodies in the United States and elsewhere.
Gajda said the GSMA had left a void for GSM advocacy in the Americas and that’s the role 3G Americas filled. The GSMA has always supported 3G Americas and always will, he said.
The GSMA won’t be competing with the CTIA in the United States, Gajda said. The CTIA has nothing similar to the GSMA’s Atlanta event. “We don’t think we have any programs that compete with them,” he said.
The Mobile World Congress doesn’t compete with the CTIA Wireless shows in the spring, even though MWC comes about six weeks before, Gajda said. He said MWC is a global event while CTIA focuses on North America and especially the U.S.
The GSMA is an operator-centric group, with 750 carriers as full members. The 180 manufacturers and suppliers that belong to GSMA are associate members.