MWC 2014 Barcelona : Godzilla and King Kong get down on it !!

Presentation1Most of you know that next week the Godzilla ( Telcos ) and King Kong ( OTT ) clans will congregate in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress. This annual gathering of the leading ( and not so leading ) players in the Mobile and Internet value chain is becoming gargantuan. Those of you who are fortunate enough to attend , comme moi , should expect several topics being discussed and digested in the carnival atmosphere. Try not to get lost or bewildered in the 70000 strong horde of humanity !! At the end of 4 days of this Congress you will be tired but hopefully educated and inspired.

Plan carefully your visits to the exhibitor’s , speakers and the GSM<A themed areas. The organisers expect 1,700 exhibitors utilising 94,000 net square metres of exhibition and business meeting space.And the Key Note presentations are not to be missed under any circumstances. Monday’s opening keynote session sets the tone with a discussion about mobile operator strategies, which brings together chief executives from the US, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Regulators, too, are well represented. Over 80 government ministers are attending the government programme, which includes a focus on how to facilitate investment and bridge the catastrophic Digital Divide in third world countries.

So what can you expect in Barcelona next week ???

Most pundits agree that wearable devices will be a hot topic so expect lots of new products in this area. The industry is placing a lot of hope on this sector as the next big thing, but there's also an enormous amount of hype. Big questions still need to be answered. Do people actually want wearables? Which form factors work best? What will people pay for them? Will they keep using them? Right now the jury is most definitely out whether you will be sporting Google Glass to do something more useful than just showing off to your friends. The lack of true value that these devices add mean that it will be 2015 before they start to go mainstream. Maybe it is another category that Apple needs to redefine before we see real growth.

For smartphones it's all about iteration rather than innovation this year, although a few curved screen phones will offer something a bit different. We should see new devices from Samsung, HTC, Nokia, Huawei, TCL, Sony and others…as well as more devices with a curved/flexible display from Samsung and LG. However, flexible displays will only become popular when users can bend and fold a large screen into a small pocket. Other announcements are expected from Russian company Yota Devices, which could launch version 2 of its dual-screen Yota Phone. The possible launch of what has so far been dubbed the ‘Blackphone’, a joint project of Silent Circle and Spanish smartphone Geeksphone.

This year’s MWC provides a good opportunity for Mozilla to announce the next step in Firefox OS development. It’s an ideal time for an update since Firefox is also proving to be the best bet so far among the various operating systems that have emerged in the past year or two.Visitors to last year’s event will remember that Mozilla created a storm by unveiling Firefox OS as an alternative HTML5-based operating system for low-cost Android smartphones in emerging markets. The company said at MWC 2013 that more than 20 operators and handset vendors would support the new platform, and Spain’s Telefonica has arguably been the staunchest supporter of the Firefox OS, launching the first device based on the OS in Spain last July. In November, Mozilla claims the OS was now available in 13 countries. MWC 2014 could prove to be a belated coming-out party for Tizen on Samsung devices. Tizen itself has also indicated that there could be an update on its operating system in Barcelona this year. I am really hoping to hear news on the commercial rollout of Mark Shuttleworth’s UBUNTU OS for Mobile.

In the network, we’ll see lots of SDN/NFV, small cells and LTE-Advanced. Thats means CLOUD CLOUD and more CLOUD. LTE's going to be a major focal point .There are 200 million LTE subscribers worldwide and CCS Insight forecasts they'll grow to over 1 billion by 2017. 5G probably is the hottest topic everyone likes to talk about, but only to say, “it’s not defined yet and it won’t be around for 5+ years.” We love our acronyms in the Mobile Industry and we nod sagely to each other even if we don’t have a clue on what the acronym means or how the technology works.

Most Operators will complain about the lack of spectrum to rollout national LTE networks as usual. Service-wise, we expect a lot about the future of voice/messaging and data monetisation (including OTT partnerships).But MNO’s and OTT’s ( Godzilla and King Kong ) will snipe at each other as to who is eating whose lunch ( as usual ). Who will win ?? Eventually both monsters will realize that they have to collaborate ( rather than bash ) with each other to provide valuable content and reliable connectivity at lower costs to the broadband consumer. As if there is a shortage of people without high speed broadband on the planet !! Hey animals…who is going to pay for ugrading the Internet backbone as the existing infrastructure buckles under the enormous data traffic of high speed broadband networks and smart devices ?? Within its short lifespan, the Internet has already delivered huge economic and social benefits. For growth to continue, however, there must be a realignment of how investments are made and value is captured.

The real area of innovation in 2014 will be in the Internet of Things and specifically M2M. This category will see substantial growth across a number of verticals and we would expect to see a lot of companies demonstrating exciting solutions at the show. While there’s obviously a huge opportunity here, there’s still lots of work to do and it will be a long time before operators see any significant revenues from connected devices : GSMA Intelligence estimate that M2M made up just 2.8 per cent of global connections last year.As our lives become increasingly digital, the concept of identity in the digital world – and who authenticates s identities and guards their personal data – is going to be hugely important commercial opportunity for Telcos that move fast to capitalise.

In addition one would like to see the back office get the attention it deserves. To some extent, we’ve seen its profile rise in the face of hype around data analytics (aka, “big data”). Still, the OSS/BSS space isn’t often considered exciting; that’s a shame since it’s at the center of carrier service innovation. The IT nerds have been working hard to add value to what was once the territory of the hardware engineers.

Embedded in millions of smartphones everywhere, unassuming NFC technology is now storming to the center stage. NFC is teaming up with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to form a technology trio to power up the connected life vision . Together, these three technologies will transform mobile content sharing and entertainment by providing seamless hand-offs, instant and always-on connectivity, and new ways to work and game. The latest generation of NFC tags can even switch on Bluetooth devices and Wi-Fi networks by harvesting their power, making it that much easier to access media and content. Instead of printing costly user manuals, electronics and games manufacturers can leverage the same NFC tags they’re using for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi pairing to link consumers to graphic instructions and videos on their corporate website.

MWC continues to showcase the developed world benefits on an ongoing basis from incredible advancements in mobile technology and connectivity. Most Gurus agree that as an industry we need to do more to make mobile technology more accessible to a greater percentage of the world’s population. The solutions that are being developed today have the opportunity to have wide scale economic, social and environmental benefits that will change people’s lives. YESS : VIVA LA TECNOLOGIA MOVIL : Bienvenidos a España….The City and people of Barcelona are great hosts !!

Sadiq Malik ( Telco Strategist )

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