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Connect (X)

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Musings From Connect(X) 2021

Editorial Opinion by Ernest Worthman

(ORLANDO, Fla. – Oct. 6, 2021) — After two long years (although it seemed so much longer), WIA’s Connectivity Expo convention, also known as Connect (X), is back – and a great time is being had by all. Although the cloud of COVID-19 hangs over the conference, the light at the end of the tunnel shines through. Nearly everyone I spoke with was confident in the progress being made and how wireless is moving toward 5G and other wireless technologies.

The Connect (X) session, “View From the Top.” Photo courtesy of WIA.

According to the WIA powers that be, the conference attendance is only down by perhaps 10 percent, compared with 2019. A remarkable showing. Technical sessions abound, and attendance is respectable. The keynotes featured the usual suspects from T-Mobile, SBC, Crown Castle, Vertical Bridge, American Tower and, this year, Dish and Amazon Web Services. Having AWS here is a real indication of how the telecom segment is embracing and integrating technologies of the 21st century, such as the cloud.

There was no shortage of cutting-edge discussions around O-RAN, 5G, mmWave, fiber, neutral host, what the infrastructure bill means and how it will enable our industry. How to get into the loop for funds was an extremely popular session. CBRS, public-private partnerships, the edge, DAS, fixed wireless and fireside chats rounded out the conference.

What was most impressive to me in both the sessions and vendors is the visibility of 5G. Although the carriers receive the most noise when it comes to 5G, there is a quiet revolution going on with many vectors that are coming onto the scene. What I mean by that is the permeation of 5G in the enterprise, the industrial IoT, transportation, city centers and other applications outside of carrier-implemented 5G.

In the end, attending this show gave everyone a great perspective on how not just the wireless infrastructure is evolving, but how other platforms such as software are changing the way infrastructure hardware is evolving and how new verticals such private wireless are gaining some significant traction – it is not about the carriers anymore.

From left: Susan Au Allen, Deb Mercier, Pamela Prince-Eason and Ashli Fuselier.

One thing close to my heart at this conference is how WIA supports the Women’s Wireless Leadership Forum. There was a session I attended that featured some real powerhouse panelists. The session was moderated by Susan Au Allen, the national president and CEO of the U.S. Pan-Asian American Chamber of Commerce Education Foundations. Panelists included Deb Mercier, the WWLF executive director for programs; Pamela Prince-Eason, president and CEO of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council; even a millennial, Ashli Fuselier, secretary of the WWLF executive board.

What impressed me about this panel was the general understanding of not only the challenges faced by women, but also their dedication to educating and supporting small and medium businesses (SMBs) in how to address and understand the issues involving diversity of all types. These individuals are truly power brokers in moving the diversity needle.

This was one of the best panels I attended or moderated. Hats off to these amazing women.

I want to express my appreciation of the involvement of WIA in many segments of not just wireless, but also business and government. It played a pivoting role in helping to shape some of the funding in the recent infrastructure bill, as well as other governmental policies in the wireless ecosystem.

I am elated that this conference is back. Aside from the over-the-top deep dive into the wireless space, it was great to see old friends and make new ones. And, the closing WWLF reception again featuring wireless’ greatest (and only) band the best harmonica player in wireless ecosystem, Johnathan Adelstein. And you thought he is just a mover and shaker with a pretty face. That made all the craziness worth every minute. Awesome job, WIA. Thanks for all you do, and see you in Denver next year.

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Ernest Worthman is an executive editor with AGL Media Group.