Memories of ITU Telecom Asia

July 7, 2008

My love affair with telecom began way back in the late 1980s, when C-DoT was just getting in prominence, and there were some talks about introducing mobile phones in the country. Telecom has come a long way since.

Not many large telecom shows were held at that time, and I certainly did not get a chance to attend a real ‘telecom’ show till I managed to participate at the ITU’s Telecom Asia in Hong Kong, only in 2000. Since then, it’s been fun attending the ITU Telecom shows, be it Hong Kong or Geneva. Of course, there was CommunicAsia in neighboring Singapore, but it was always my desire to be part of an ITU show.

This year’s ITU Telecom Asia will be held in Bangkok, Thailand, a really great place to visit. Here’s a picture with my colleagues from Global Sources — Alfred Cheng, John Ng and Maggie Luo — during ITU Telecom 2006, (on my birthday, actually) at Hong Kong’s sprawling AsiaWorld Expo — the last ITU Asia show that I had the privilege of attending that chilly December.

I will always remember my first ITU show simply for the WAP (wireless access protocol) phenomena. WAP was just coming into its own during those days, and had to take a lot of flak. There used to be headlines those days, reading, “WAP IS CRAP!” Well, how wrong this turned out to be!

It was also the first show, if I remember correctly, which highlighted mobile Internet for the first time. Satellite communications was still in vogue back in those days. Well, optical networking was also quite strong, with DWDM making the rounds. I remember interviewing Corning during the show!

The Hong Kong ITU show in 2000 was the first time I had a glimpse of Huawei and ZTE close-up, although I did visit the Huawei factory in the middle of 2000, and for the first time saw what 3G base stations looked like. In fact, W-CDMA was just starting to come up. NTT DoCoMo was the hotshot back in late 2000. Its FOMA (freedom of mobile ‘multimedia’ access) service was just starting to roll in. Of course, those were also the days of the i-mode phones and Takeshi Natsuno!

The Japanese have been the pioneers in mobile phones and mobile Internet, followed closely by Korea. I believe, the same year, DoCoMo had started trials with SK Telecom in Korea for W-CDMA, for the upcoming World Cup Soccer in Korea and Japan in 2002. Another delight at ITU Telecom Asia 2000 were the range of 3G phones on display, mostly by Japanese companies. Oh yes, broadband was the ‘rage’.

The previous ITU Telecom Asia in 2006, which I attended in Hong Kong, was vastly different. Alcatel-Lucent had a huge booth! CBoss was gaining ground as a leading billing solutions provider. Not to speak of the exquisite range of mobile phones from Japanese, Korean and Chinese vendors.

Huawei and ZTE had become really huge by the end of 2006, and had started to play a significantly major role in global telecom.

It was my pleasure to discuss the latest DECT standard with Infineon during ITU Telecom Asia 2006, I believe, it was CAT-iq (Cordless Advanced Technology – Internet and Quality). There were several GPS devices as well as booths with mobile payment solutions.

Yes, telecom has come along a very long way! This year’s theme — “New Generation, New Values,” aptly sets the theme for ITU Telecom Asia. Let’s see what this edition has in store!

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