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Mobile Confab Seizes Opportunities

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NEW YORK The Mobile World Congress, the world's largest wireless event, kicks off in Barcelona, Spain, next week as a must for anyone interested in the applications mobile phones may offer in the future.

Organizers expect some 50,000 to attend, about the same as last year, and more than 1,300 exhibitors are set to show their wares at the fair. Insiders suggest that the telecom industry -- with its flat rates and other products -- has proven more resilient than other sectors.

Even so, it is clear that the global financial crisis looms over the event.

The list of keynote speakers, panelists and attendees for the annual confab, which begins Monday and runs through Feb. 19, includes most of the chief executives and prominent names from any industry remotely related to wireless telephony.

Rob Conway, CEO of the organizing GSM Association, is set to moderate a panel discussion Tuesday, titled "Sustaining Growth in Challenging Times," with Telefonica, Vodafone and Telenor's respective CEOs presenting their outlooks.

Over the past three years, the buzzword at the event has been "mobile TV" and the congress took pains to address the industry's obsession with the "killer application." The Mobile Backstage forum -- focused on digital entertainment content -- this year will continue down that road, offering a panel hosted by Simon Spanswick, CEO of the Association for International Broadcasting on the "Mobile Role in the Changing Face of Broadcast."

According to Spanswick, the industry is now moving beyond the initial coming-of-age stage thanks to new larger screen devices and is now looking to operators to engage broadcasters in building creative partnerships.

"There's still a visible disconnect between mobile operators and broadcasters and content owners... Members are finding it difficult to engage with operators -- that's something that needs to change for mobile TV to become a mass market proposition," Spanswick told The Hollywood Reporter.

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