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CTIA To Merge U.S. Trade Shows In 2014

U.S. mobile and wireless industry's main lobbying group will combine its two yearly shows into one larger event in a bid to remain relevant.

The CTIA Wireless Association on Wednesday announced plans to combine its separate spring and fall events into a single bigger trade show. The CTIA will hold two events as usual this year, with the combined show kicking off in September 2014.

For more than a decade, the CTIA has held a trade show each spring. Its attendance has grown to more than 40,000 wireless industry participants. The spring show has had several different names over the years, but most recently has been referred to as The CTIA Wireless show. It's the biggest annual trade show focused solely on the mobile industry in the U.S.

The big show is typically followed in the fall with a smaller, more focused event that often targets IT. The fall show, however, has faltered in recent years. The CTIA hoped to revive it in 2012 by renaming the event to MobileCON and giving it a different focus. It didn't quite work out, and attendance was down compared to previous years.

[ Which mobile companies had the biggest fails in 2012? See Mobile's Biggest Losers In 2012. ]

Today's announcement by the CTIA shows that the wireless association finally saw the writing on the wall (or is it "got the text message?").

"The wireless industry is evolving rapidly and there is a need to have a show that centers on the entire global mobile ecosystem in a way that hasn't existed among the current shows, which is why CTIA 2014 will be unique," said Rob Mesirow, CTIA vice president and show director.

That's not the only reason behind the change. The spring CTIA event has struggled to remain relevant in the wake of January's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and February's Mobile World Congress (MWC). The latter of these two, which takes place each year in Barcelona, easily dwarfs the U.S. event in size and attendance. Both events see plenty of new hardware and services announced for the first half of the year, leaving less news for CTIA.

This is why, rather than focusing its single event on the spring, the CTIA will hold its super mobile show in September. "The timing of the 2014 show will deliver the perfect stage for companies to debut mobile consumer products and services for the annual holiday buying season," said Mesirow.

For the last two years or so, hardware makers have shunned large trade shows as stages on which to announce new gear. Large shows are noisy and crowded with announcements and news, and it's hard to stand out. Instead, hardware makers have opted for smaller events where they can grab the spotlight for themselves. This is especially true in the fall.

Will the CTIA's strategy convince hardware makers to return? It's too early to tell. Even if it doesn't, the single trade show is welcome news for mobile industry players.

The first CTIA super mobile show, CTIA 2014, will take place Sept. 9, 10 & 11 at the Sands Expo Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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