IWCE conference sessions and technical exhibits underscore the comeback of land mobile radio. A new public safety track and live Web coverage herald a fresh look for the industry’s longest-running trade show.
Whether attendees were shopping for equipment, searching for technology enlightenment or simply seeking insight into the land mobile radio industry, IWCE offered something for everyone. In its 24th year, the International Wireless Communications Exposition (IWCE) retains the title of the longest-running trade show in the mobile radio marketplace. At IWCE 2000, March 22-24, nearly 10,000 attendees swarmed the session rooms and visited 364 exhibits across 100,000 square feet of booth space.
Along with these traditional show elements, IWCE 2000, which is sponsored by Intertec Publishing’s wireless communications magazines, introduced public safety sessions in the conference and live Internet coverage from the show floor.
Exhibitors and attendees reported favorably on the show’s content and overall quality. For example, Mike Wiggington, general manager of Total Page, found exactly what he was looking for at MCM Technology’s booth in the way of real-time software. The only problem? “Every time we went by the booth, they were stacked two or three deep.”
Robert H. Schwaninger Jr., Mobile Radio Technology’s regulatory consultant, returned for a second year to headline the opening session. Schwaninger, a Washington-based telecommunications attorney and general counsel to Small Business in Telecommunications, lampooned the FCC and popular television with a slide presentation of “Who Wants to be a Commissionaire?” Questions focused on FCC commissioners and featured such queries as: “For $500,000, choose the dumbest thing ever said by an FCC official.”
Schwaninger urged attendees to ignore industry observers who predict the decline of opportunity in the land mobile arena. “I have to laugh every time someone predicts your demise,” Schwaninger said. “Radio people don’t go away. After a nuclear war, there will be two things left: the roaches and the radio guys.”
Stephan Beckert, director of dispatch and data for The Strategis Group and member of MRT’s editorial advisory board, shared his prospects for data, private radio and SMR. His presentation supported Schwaninger’s stance that this industry is stable and growing.
Beckert said that although some refer to land mobile as a “dinosaur,” attendees should remember: “Dinosaurs walked the earth for a couple of million years before we did,” and land mobile has longevity as well.
New in 2000
A new public safety track complemented the conference’s traditional business, regulatory and technology portions of the educational program. The additional sessions, which covered such topics as “Comparing Conventional and Trunked Land Mobile Radio Systems,” “Enhanced GPS for Public Safety Applications” and “Wireless Communications Interoperability-A Growing Problem,” were the most highly attended.
“I’m glad to see the public safety track in the IWCE conference,” said Jay Smith, supervisor of electronics for the City of Minneapolis. “I’ve been coming to IWCE for five years. I’ve seen that the show is heavy in business communications, and I like the new emphasis on public safety.”
Based on such positive attendee response, plans for next year are to expand the track and continue increasing focus on public safety issues.
IWCE Live!, a feature introduced by the MRT editorial staff and Intertec Exhibitions, represented another significant “first” at IWCE 2000. This Web site served as a live news source for company announcements, product releases and industry trends revealed at this year’s show. While show organizers added attendee testimonials and daily conference updates, MRT editors filed exhibitor and attendee interviews, editorial commentaries and breaking news literally from the show floor. The site, found at www.iwceconexpo.com, will be accessible throughout May.
Some words from the FCC
The FCC Roundtable and Forum provided a venue for attendees to hear the latest FCC activities. Attendees questioned FCC staff members on upcoming FCC auctions, telephone “hotline” support, FCC Internet initiatives and the outcome of Y2K issues. Moderated by Don Bishop, editorial director of MRT and Site Management & Technology, the session’s panel included Kathryn Garland, Steve Miller and Roger Noel from the FCC.
The “electronic FCC” was another topic of discussion. This new effort is centered around the Universal Licensing System (ULS), the core database that acts as the regulatory agency’s license filing, research and data storage tool. Licensees can renew licenses, apply for new ones and transfer license ownership as well as retrieve various data in Technicolor graphic formats.
The FCC is requiring all commercial license holders to submit their paperwork on-line. Although there are some exceptions in the realm of private radio, those who don’t register with the FCC’s on-line service simply aren’t going to be doing business with the FCC anymore, said Noel, chief of
the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau’s licensing and technical analysis branch.
Although some licensing aspects haven’t made it on to the ULS, such as antenna registration and complaint filings, Noel said it is only a matter of time before the FCC is completely electronic. Currently, the ULS is only accessible through the FCC’s wide-area network. Noel said that the FCC plans to have the entire ULS on the Internet by summer.
Other IWCE highlights
Industry veteran Marty Cooper, chairman of ArrayCom, San Jose, CA, addressed guests and members March 23 at a breakfast meeting of the Radio Club of America. Cooper spoke to a packed room, discussing today’s available wireless technologies and predicting the telecom industry of tomorrow.
Cooper said that the wireless telecom market of the future will be Internet and consumer-oriented. Rather than having a single entity as a provider, there will exist an open platform for thousands of entrepreneurs who can provide a service to society and make some money while doing it, he said.
Also on March 23, more than 75 attendees participated in the second annual Simulcast Forum sponsored by Simulcast Solutions. Participants heard from speakers who shared personal experiences with this technology. Walter Rheingans of San Luis Obispo shared his experiences in upgrading a radio system using Mastr III base stations and Motorola/Premisys multiplexers. Hans Bakker provided first-hand information about the Los Angeles County Fire Project, which used Motorola Micor base stations at all 13 sites.
Luciano Battaglia of Prod-El shared how simulcast is accomplished in Italy and other parts of Europe. Joe Blaschka of Adcomm Engineering ended the morning’s forum by describing his recent digital paging system project at Oreille County Washington and the Tait Electronics simulcast system being installed in Thurston County Washington.
A Simulcast Forum East is scheduled during the August APCO Conference in Boston. For more information, contact Ed O’Connor at his email address: email@example.com.
Build it, and they will come
Nothing draws a crowd of attendees together faster on a show floor than cool promotional “giveaways” or an unusual booth. This year, Motorola’s stadium booth, which supports its NFL partnership promotional theme, attracted a steady stream of visitors.
“All of our promotions that we’re running, whether trunking, conventional or rebates to the dealer channel, carry the theme of our NFL partnership,” said Craig Chenicek, senior product manager, North America Radio Products Division for Motorola’s Commercial, Government and Industrial Solutions Sector.
It was in this setting that Motorola introduced its line of new products for conventional and trunked service. Motorola conducted training sessions for its dealers before IWCE, explaining the new products, the rationale behind them, and roadmaps and visions for each market. Chenicek said that with its product introductions, Motorola wants to communicate that it understands the viability of the two-way radio market.
Radio Frequency Systems’ booth proved to be another “crowd pleaser.” The company’s “Ride the New Wave” theme tied in with its wave-shaped logo and the merger of its two divisions, Celwave and Cablewave. At the booth, attendees posed on a surfboard and got their photos taken. The photos were digitally processed into a postcard to send home.
Radio Frequency Systems is banking on increased market share, buildouts on new frequency allocations and conversions to digital systems to bring it sales growth in the land mobile radio industry. Andrew Singer, director of marketing and technical services for the company’s RFS America business unit, said that the company is now a single-source provider.
“Customers appreciate that they can reduce number of suppliers. We provide training, products and ideas for the system solution. It’s working out very well,” he said.