Was I the only blogger at the GSM Awards?

Was I? Well maybe not, but I’ll put that claim to the test.

The GSM Awards are most obviously described as the Oscars of the 3GSM world (in contrast to the MoMo Peer Awards which are perhaps like Sundance). As the CTO, I was lucky enough to be there, seated on the .mobi table.

Showy they certainly are, and with what must have been at least a thousand black-tie guests from the industry, Clive Anderson hosting, and the great and the good coming up to accept the awards (to barrages of light and the sounds of late 90’s dance music) it certainly felt the part.

I thought I’d be cynical about this sort of thing, but to be honest, I’ve got to say I did enjoy myself.

The organisation was great, the food excellent, and the host edgy – even if the humour was somewhat British. “Ringtone? I thought that’s what George Bush does when he wants to invade a new country”. (And the etymology of GSMA Chairman Rob Conway’s name, whilst best not repeated here, was pretty funny.)

But most of all, the winners seemed genuinely chuffed. I guess that when you’re honoured by your industry peers, you know you’ve done something special. (disclosure: my previous company, Argogroup, won an award a few years ago, although I missed the event that time.)

So, whether it was Turkcell humbly (or Virgin eloquently) accepting their advertising awards, iPlay amusingly name-checking their game developers (“who rightfully aren’t here, but still home developing the next one”), or the Sony Ericsson representative accepting an award for the K800 device (“I only just joined the company, but thanks anyway”), the histrionics were kept to a minimum, and the plaudits genuine.

But one really interesting observation was the prevalence of awards focussing on what you might call the ‘application layer’ of mobile. The awards for best network, best infrastructure, best coverage (and so on) were quickly dealt with, and a healthy proportion of the awards and winners during the evening itself represented areas like music, sports, and download services – as well as general innovation throughout the ecosystem.

So it was fantastic to see the future of the mobile medium shining throught an event like this.

Another overwhelming theme of the event was the expansion of 3GSM connectivity into the developing world. We saw a BBC television piece on the digital revolution that mobiles are bringing to the African continent: “as big as fire, the wheel and the railways“. And at end of the evening, the Chairman’s Award went to Mo Ibrahim, an early GSM pioneer who is now working hard to bring the medium to developing continents, countries, and communities.

It was enough to leave this skeptic, at least, with a warmed heart, and some optimism that, beneath all the stage-managed glamour, gloss and glitz (3G, right? 😉 ), this is an industry that can genuinely do something good for mankind. Nice wine too.