Networks take a back seat

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There was less talk of technology standards and more discussion about end-user needs at this years 3GSM Congress, which suited the handset vendors just fine.

In terms of brand visibility, Motorola and Samsung Mobile creamed the competition. One side of Barcelona airport and the old bullring downtown, at the entrance to the event, were both swathed in Motorola advertising. Samsung, meanwhile, took three sides of the 10-storey Barcelona hotel by the show entrance.

Sony Ericsson stuck largely to the inside of taxicabs, while LG Mobile contented itself with bus stops. Nokia, the global market leader, kept a low profile in comparison.

Inside, the handset manufacturers concurred that the networks had ceded the floor this year and that the rest of the industry, freed of unfriendly acronyms for unalluring consumer technologies, were getting on with pitching products and services that consumers actually respond to.

The networks, in comparison, were marginalised on the show floor and, as it turned out, in the auditoria too. The headline keynote session, delivered by Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin and Orange CEO Sanjiv Ahuja on the second morning, would have garnered more column inches at previous shows, but its main speakers earnest statements were pretty bland and, in the end, overshadowed by some confrontational remarks from their co-speaker.

Ahuja insisted it was mobile customers who would define the success of the networks over the next 18 months áa

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