Chic Venue Constrains Wireless Show

Opinion: Can Cannes cope with 3G? We're off to Europe's largest wireless show in the fabled French city to find an answer.

So, can Cannes cope with the GSM World Congress?

Im off to the Cote dAzur. Its my duty. Its time to go to Europes biggest wireless show, set, as always, in one of Europes smaller conference venues: the Palais des Festivals et des Congrés, in Cannes, in the South of France.

Its the venue that is the attraction, in one sense. And in another, its the venue that is the problem.

Cannes 2005 will be a success. No doubt about it. Nobody with pretenses to eminence in wireless can afford to be absent. And nobody who makes their living by networking with those pretentious people (like I do!) can fail to follow them there.

"This years Congress has a record level of speaking expertise with 107 tier-one board-level speakers, including 56 CEOs," proclaims the conference Web site.

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Its not just the keynote speakers that professional name-droppers (like myself) are keen to meet. Yes, this is a rare chance to bump into Rene Obermann, CEO of T-Mobile International, and a rather less rare chance to interview Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of easyGroup (EasyJet, EasyPC, EasyCar, and so on). Or, theres the possibility of eavesdropping on a conversation between Jonathan Schwartz, president and COO of Sun Microsystems, or a conversation between Joe Ziskin, global vice president of telecoms at IBM and Pascal Debon, president of carrier networks at Nortel Networks. Wonderful! But they arent the only attraction. Its the delegates, too.

The point of networking with people is, hopefully, to make friends with those who are still obscure. Im one of those people who can expect PalmOne President Ed Colligan to return my calls—not because he sees me as a "key journalist" (though naturally, I hope he does) but because I knew him when he was an unknown kid struggling to launch Palm at that early Demo conference in Indian Wells. That was in the days when the concept of a PDA was seen by most mainstream pundits as somewhere between quaint and silly.

And its on that level that I have my queries about Cannes.

Next Page: Will the GSM World Congress Go the Way of Comdex?