MWC Wrap up: The Wireless Industry is Alive Again!

Dawood Khan, Barcelona

This year, after a long time, I must admit that the mobile industry feels distinctly exciting again. The excitement is not for the hype that one must always wade through, but for the pace at which new opportunities and associated challenges are being created. This has been the year of many “this is the year of …” This is the year of NFC, the year of mobile advertising, the year of smarter smart phones, tablets, mobile broadband, context aware applications, mobile enterprise, data growth, HSPA+, operator M&A, the push to harmonize LTE spectrum … the list can go on. If this industry is a giant, it just woke up!

Smarter Internet: Eric Schmidt of Google summed up the pulse of the sentiment best, “everything is changing again,” he said in reference to the way technology is impact us. “Technology is going to serve humans vs. humans serving technology,” said Eric of the way he sees our future. Google has transformed the mobile industry, if its dominance wasn’t appreciated by some, they would have been convinced of it at MWC this year. Andriod was everywhere. With over 300,000 android devices being activated daily, a choice of 170 devices from 27 device vendors, Eric hoped that Nokia will also eventually join the bandwagon. If users so choose, Google could not only determine that you need a new pants, but that you could purchase them cheaper from the store 50 feet from you on the right hand side. In fact, the pants could be hung up in the change room, ready for you to try, or your favourite colour can be packed, ready for you to pick and go.  Yahoo’s CEO Carol Bartz said that the days of the yesterday’s noisy internet are gone. Its all about contextually applicable content. Scary, yes, to many this is, but who would have thought 5 years ago that the power of people’s leveraging social media could topple a 30 year plus dictatorships in days.

NFC represents a Euro 120 B (number varies drastically depending on assumptions and what counted)  opportunity by 2015 according to a Frost & Sullivan study, and projections NFC devices to grow to 457 M by 2015, a 139% CAGR over 2011. With successful market launches in Europe; Korea, China and Japan starting to work towards cooperation on NFC deployment; the ISIS JV in the US taking form, NFC may be ripe for major growth. The interest on this topic was both evident at the Mobile Venture Forum, where Investment Analysts and VCs discussed the promise of m-payments and other NFC enabled capabilities; to the NFC discussion at the conference today.

Devices, devices and even more devices, and they are all connected and smarter than before. According to NSN’s CTO Hossein Moin the smartphones we’re beginning to see “are essentially smarter computers with intelligence such as location, camera, and eventually NFC capabilities built-in….Dongles and smartphones have exploded, with the entrance of newer, less expensive devices, this explosion will continue.” With 45 tablets launched in the market to date, there was no shortage of all shapes, sizes and capabilities evident at the show. The LG Optimus promises users a 3D experience; The RIM Playbook a fully WiFi/3.5G/4G  experience with support for Flash, HTML5 and open internet standards; to name a select few of the choices out there.

Broadband network investments in HSPA+ and LTE. I have already discussed this topic on previous blogs, but needless to say, this discussion was fueled by the double digit growth of data traffic experienced in many parts of the world.

Spectrum harmonization, as discussed in previous blogs was positioned as critical for cost-effective devices and deployment of globally viable LTE networks. However, everyone sees that between at least 5 and 10 band solutions across FDD and TDD will likely be coming into play.

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