After 18 Months, Connect(X) Finally Reopens Live in Orlando

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A year and a half after having to suspend its annual live conference due to COVID, WIA President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein opened the event Tuesday expressing his gratitude and thanks for being able to reconvene under new parameters. Adelstein drew laughter and applause from the audience by appearing in “Zoomware” attire, … a sport coat, tie, and patriotic shorts…before realizing he was in front of a live audience and quickly retiring for a brief wardrobe adjustment. Although firm attendance numbers were not yet available, Adelstein told Inside Towers he estimated they were similar to previous gatherings with little attrition.

“It really feels like a family reunion” he said in his opening remarks, citing the 29 months since WIA’s last in-person trade show. “So, let’s treat each other like family, let’s get through this together — safely.”  

“I’m grateful we’re all here together at Connect(X) 2021. It’s lining up as the best WIA has ever put on. It’s been 18 months in the making. I can’t thank you all enough for making the trek and joining us this week,” Adelstein said, adding a somber note of remembrance. “Some of you have lost members of your family. Many have lost friends. People we know, people we love. Taken too soon by this cruel pandemic.

Friends like Jake Macleod. A friend of many of yours — a friend of WIA — and a friend of mine. A big strong man who loved life, his family, loved to hunt and fish. And contributed so much as the first leader of our Innovation and Technology Council. We lost him last year before the vaccine. Gone too soon,” he said. “Thinking of Jake — and so many others – let’s take care of each other this week.”  

Adelstein said their number one goal for the event is to protect the health and safety of the attendees by following the CDC health protocols in place for the conference, starting with mask-wearing indoors. “Like the world around us,” Adelstein said, ”our own wireless infrastructure industry has changed so much since the last time we gathered in person for Connect(X). Back in 2019, the future of 5G was the buzz in this conference. Now, it’s more than just talk, 5G’s here with force — rolling out across the country. And relentlessly across our TV screens. So cool to see those towers and antennas in the ads,” he said.  

Adelstein said 5G connections have surged 67 percent in North America with 270 million people having access to 5G in the U.S. The market is evolving, he said, to include more complex antennas indoors and out — adding fiber and data center assets. 

“And you’re turning new high frequencies that were considered junk into gold,” he said. “Carriers moved beyond networks — and into delivering content and slices; utilities are adding more smart grid antennas to their poles; cable, autos, agriculture, tech giants, equity – all are investing big to expand connectivity.” 

By bringing all the stakeholders together at Connect(X), Adelstein said, attendees can hear the latest thinking to help them get insights to plan their businesses and get more deals done and started in two days than they can in two months on Zoom.

Adelstein rolled out his lineup of speakers such as Neville Ray of T-Mobile, calling him “a true visionary,”  Harry Dewhirst from Linksys, Rakuten’s Azita Arvani and AT&T’s Mo Katibeh, Verizon’s Dennis Ong, Jeff Stoops of SBA, Jay Brown of Crown Castle, Steve Vondran of American Tower and Alex Gellman from Vertical Bridge. Keynoting the show’s Finance Summit is a man Adelstein called, “the oracle from DigitalBridge,” Marc Ganzi.

“All of us in this room make wireless and 5G happen on the ground. From transportation to health care, education to retail, travel and transportation, your work transforms how all of us live. You keep us going during the pandemic. All these miracles are because of your dedication, creativity, and commitment. I’m honored to work alongside you and advocate for your businesses. We have a lot to celebrate,” he said. 

By Jim Fryer, Inside Towers Managing Editor

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