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Last Updated: Sunday, 13 February, 2005, 19:21 GMT
What to see at 3GSM mobile show
By Joia Shillingford
BBC News business reporter

Motorola V90 phone
Visitors to the show will be on the look out for new styles of handset
Among the more unusual technologies on display at this week's big mobile show in Cannes will be a mobile phone that can be used as a computer mouse.

Attendance at the show, the biggest event in the industry, is expected to be a third higher than last year.

The annual show, starting on Monday, has got so big it is relocating to Barcelona next year because there is not enough space for exhibitors.

For the 38,000 visitors, even finding somewhere to sleep in the southern French town can be difficult.

Many visitors commute by train from nearby villages - or Monaco.

"The high turnout shows that even the network equipment companies are recovering after being hit very heavily in the downturn," says Mark Newman, chief research officer at Informa, the UK-listed company that runs the 3GSM World Congress.

CEO cluster

Last year mobile phone maker Nokia alone sent 700 of its employees, including chief executive Jorma Ollila, who just happened to bump into Vodafone chief executive Arun Sarun and invite him along to the Nokia press conference to say a few words.

This year the bosses expected to attend include Ed Zander, head of US mobile maker Motorola, and Rene Obermann, chief of Deutsche Telekom-owned mobile operator T-Mobile.

Masao Nakamura, boss of NTT DoCoMo, and Sanjiv Ahuja, who runs Orange, will also be there.

Musical handsets

"The show will be very heavy on technology and innovation this year," according to Mr Newman.

"Visitors can expect to see smaller, thinner, more attractive third-generation (3G) mobile phones," he adds.

Mobile phone keypad
The numbers are looking better for mobile equipment companies

New handsets and announcements of contracts for push-to-talk services - a walkie-talkie like mobile - can be expected at the show.

"There will also be a lot of emphasis on video phones and on mobile TV."

He expects to see a lot more music-centric mobiles than last year too.

Handset makers will also be looking at ways of lowering equipment costs to cope both with increased competition and with the opportunities presented by developing countries.

Converging networks

On the mobile equipment side, the focus will shift from deployment of 3G networks to a much broader range of issues, according to the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), which represents 80% of GSM/3G mobile infrastructure and device manufacturers.

"These are likely to include: the evolution of 3G networks to support higher-bandwidth technologies, the introduction of complementary wireless technologies such as WiMax and Wireless Lans and a stronger focus on emerging markets in Asia and Latin America."

Motorola will be holding a clinic for mobile operators on HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) or high speed links and there is a lot of interest in PC cards for HSDPA that can plug into a laptop computer, giving the user higher speeds for email and surfing the internet.

Data cards offering 3G and HSDPA are expected and possibly cards which offer 3G, HSDPA and Wi-Fi for connecting to wireless local area networks.

Wi-Fi phones

"There will be a spate of announcements on integration between 3G and Wi-Fi," said Mr Newman.

Photo of Mobile Magnifier screen showing calendar and icons
New mobile interfaces like using the voice to dictate text will be on show

Vonage, a US-based company specialising in phone calls over the internet, known as voice-over-internet protocol or VoIP, is bringing out a $100 Wi-Fi phone.

It won't work on mobile networks but will enable users to make calls when they are near a Wi-Fi hotspot. Wi-Fi phones have tended to be a lot more expensive.

A lot of vendors are talking about integrating Wi-Fi and 3G networks and some cellular handsets that can work on Wi-Fi networks are expected to be demonstrated at the show.

Fuelling freedom

But this means calls will be free when users are near a hotspot and mobile operators could lose revenue. So most operators are expected to adopt a defensive strategy, and their biggest handset suppliers are likely to be cautious about upsetting them.

"Integrating mobile and Wi-Fi is complex to do as Wi-Fi drains batteries and therefore talk time can be limited," says Mr Newman.

Solutions for solving battery problems could also be on show as companies like Nokia experiment with fuel-cell technology for powering mobiles.

The idea is that just a teaspoon of liquid poured into a mobile could charge the batteries instantly for 10 hours.

In fact, cutting edge ideas - some of them even practical - should not be far away.

At the first day of the show which runs from 14-17 February, wireless start ups seeking funding will be able to pitch their idea to a venture capital panel organised by business magazine Red Herring.

Music crowd

It's not all work at the show.

Last year, the big drawer was a Lucent party at which US soul singer Lionel Ritchie came to sing.

And tickets to the Nokia party held in two-lined marquees are hard to come by.

But there is a profit motive for all the parties and schmoozing - and at 3GSM it is not unusual to see business cards being exchanged at dawn.


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