CHARLOTTE – The Queen City is set to host the first-ever Connect (X), a premier wireless and telecommunications conference organized by the Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) next week at the Charlotte Convention Center. The head of the FCC is among the list of scheduled presenters.

 “This is an incredibly exciting time in the world of mobile connectivity,” said Jonathan Adelstein, president and CEO of WIA in a statement. “Our industry’s ability to efficiently deploy broadband networks is key to the future of the United States.”

 According to organizers, Connect (X) is designed to serve all elements of the expanding and evolving wireless ecosystem—from the macro structures that stand high above the ground, to the miles and miles of fiber networks below the ground, to the technology driving the ongoing network densification in our cities, and to the technology embedded in our cars.

 The event, also known as the Connectivity Expo, runs May 21-24. It is replacing the organization’s former signature conference, the Wireless Infrastructure Show, and tickets range from $145–1,195, though there are at least a few free sessions including the “Smart Cities of the South” meetup on Wednesday 5–7 p.m. at the Charlotte Convention Center.

Location, diversity, economy

 “Charlotte is a centrally located and forward-thinking city with a diverse business community,” said Roger Hughlett, director of communications for WIA, when asked why pick the Queen City as the host site.  “Charlotte is a perfect example of a diverse and strong economy in which just about all sectors rely on mobile connectivity to some degree.”

 This makes Charlotte an attractive city to host the large event, said Hughlett, which offers tracks focused on smart cities and connected communities, macro cell towers and edge infrastructure, private LTE networks, connected real estate, vehicle to infrastructure technology, critical LTE communications, and innovations in wireless infrastructure.

 Organizers from WIA have been working closely with RIoT, a North Carolina-based organization that seeks to lead communities across the state in maximizing the opportunities made possible by the Internet of Things (IoT). RIoT recently announced the ten companies that comprise the inaugural cohort that will participate in the RIoT Accelerator Program and has played a role in coordinating the conference.

 “By working together, the entire North Carolina region receives more visibility and support from the larger wireless industry for the innovation, enterprises, and technology community that is at the foundation of the RIot organization,” said Tim Downs, executive producer of Connect (X) for WIA. “It’s a natural fit that they participate in the Connectivity Expo.”

 Charlotte was an attractive destination for another reason, said Tom Snyder, executive director of RIoT. “North Carolina is incredibly strong in the wireless space and a leading state in smart city deployments.”

Variety of sessions, workshops

 Connect (X) provides a full slate of panels, speakers, workshops, forums, and networking, all with the intention of bringing together the best minds in the industry and engage all attendees in new ways, said Hughlett.

 Charlie Ergen, chairman and co-founder of DISH, is leading the company’s buildout of the first phase of a national wireless network focused on narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT), with phase two expected to be an innovative 5G network.

In a keynote address, Ergen will discuss the current state of connectivity with a focus on how new technologies, like IoT, will drive the ever-increasing demand for capacity from wireless networks, forcing the industry to rethink how networks are designed and deployed.

 Headlining the event is Ajit Pai, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Under his leadership the FCC has taken several steps toward reducing regulatory barriers to the deployment of wireless infrastructure in order to deliver broadband connectivity to more communities throughout the United States and close the Digital Divide.

 Other keynote speakers at Connect (X) include:

  • Geoff Arnold, CTO Verizon Smart Communities. Mr. Arnold joined Verizon in 2016 as part of the acquisition of Sensity Systems, where he was responsible for setting technical direction. Throughout the past 10 years, Arnold has been a cloud computing architect for several large companies, including Cisco, Huawei, Yahoo, and Amazon.

  • Ed Davis, former Chief of Police for the City of Boston. Mr. Davis was responsible for perimeter and physical security for six world championship celebrations, the Occupy Boston Movement, and the highly successful response to the Boston Marathon bombing.

  • Satyen Yadav, Global Head of IoT Ecosystem Development at Amazon Web Services. Mr. Yadav is responsible for driving innovative end-to-end solutions for the Internet of Things, including device and edge computing software and associated cloud services.

  • Steve Worling, Managing Director of Information Technology for NASCAR. Mr. Worling is responsible for delivering and supporting technology throughout NASCAR and the motorsports industry.

 Several sessions were designed to deliver insights from industry leaders on the most pressing challenges and opportunities of the wireless industry, including:

  • A panel examining the convergence of data centers, towers and the cloud at the edge of the network, featuring Cole Crawford, CEO of Vapor.IO; Jonathan Schildkraut, Chief Strategy Officer at Cyrus One; and Zachary Smith, CEO at Packet. The session will be moderated by Sami Badri, senior analyst at Credit Suisse.

  • “A View From the Top: A Tower Executive Roundtable” featuring Jonathan Adelstein, President and CEO of WIA; Steve Vondran, SVP and General Counsel at American Tower Corp.; Jay Brown, President and CEO of Crown Castle International; Jeffrey Stoops, President and CEO of SBA Communications; Alexander L. Gellman, CEO of Vertical Bridge; and David E. Weisman, President and CEO of InSite Wireless.

 “I’m particularly interested to listen in on the FirstNet sessions,” said Snyder. FirstNet is a segment of the wireless spectrum that has been allocated for emergency response and is currently being rolled out across the United States.

 “The spectrum provides guaranteed access to first responders during emergencies,” said Snyder, which is exciting in its own right. “But more exciting, FirstNet will provide a platform for innovative companies and government groups to come up with new applications that improve response and citizen safety.”

[Note:  WRAL Tech Wire readers may use code X18RIOT30 at registration for a 30% discount on any pass.]