The mobile industry will descend on Cannes for probably the last time this year, to talk and do business at the GSM Association's 3GSM show.
Despite the special atmosphere the show has always benefited from, the event has simply outgrown both the exhibition venue and local hotel capacity. The attraction of a venue with its own airport is also understandable. So for this final show, it's hard to say what will be the chief talking points, but here are a few tasters before you head down there yourself.
For the big players, the main network equipment vendors, the focus (again) will be on next generation networks, HSDPA and IMS. The difference this year is that most of them will have some real trials to talk about. The vendors will also have to talk to operators about how they can face competition to their own business from outside the mobile world. Mobile operators are becoming keenly aware that they need to compete on price and service experience not just with each other, but with their fixed line counterparts and other media altogether.
So the vendors will also be keen to be seen to be dancing to the new tune of the operators, which is seemingly self-contradictory.
Tugged along as ever by Vodafone, now well on its way into its One Vodafone strategy review, all operators are looking for solutions that can help them introduce services in a harmonised and yet customised way. In other words, they want their platforms and management controls to be carried out in a harmonised way, but they also want those solutions to be adaptable enough to present their brands and services to customers as they choose.
This applies across the chain, whether it is billing companies, messaging providers, OSS vendors or test and network optimisation companies. If you need proof of this look at the announcements coming from the open standards bodies at the show, the OMA, OBSAI, OMTP. The "O" always stands for the same thing, by the way.
It's hard to pick highlights before the show has even started, but here is just a very small and representatively diverse selection of the trailers that have caught Mobile Europe's eye.
ZTE's European next gen debut: The Chinese manufacturer is showing 3G phones and next generation network equipment for the first time at the show. Its v.3 generation of W-CDMA equipment is R99 and R4 compatible,
Open-Plug's configurable phone initiative:
This initiative is being supported by Modelabs, Philips Semiconductors, France Telecom R&D. Sasken and Jaatayu. The intention is to support the development of phones that are easy to adapt with new applications or user interface features at production or in the field. The approach is based around the Open-Plug ELIPS component-based Linux framework, and ModeLabs will unveil the first configurable phone.
Aircom's OSS engineering tool may not sound all that tempting on first inspection but this stuff, and similar approaches from others, is critical. Aircom estimates the tool will reduce 2G and 3G network optimisation time by 60%. It draws terabytes of data from different sources including network statistics, planning information, configuration data and test mobile data and processes and analyses this to present suggested changes to the optimisation engineer. As we said, crucial.
Dilithium Networks has integrated its videophone software with "a major international operator's 3G cards." Stand by for video messaging and calls on your laptop, all at a scarily large scale.
Wolfson Microelectronics' blind sound test. Music lovers may want to test their hearing at the Wolfson stand, where it is contrasting its audio codecs for mobiles with the sound quality of MP3 players. See if you can tell the difference.