What To Expect @ MWC This Year

MWC – Highlights & Insights

Dawood Khan, Feb. 11th, 2010

Key themes to look out for:

Focus on verticals – but who’s creating value for whom? : While there is some interest in the technology of networks (HSPA+, LTE, NFC, etc.), the real focus of this year’s MWC builds on last year’s themes around monetization of the recent and on-going network upgrades through deployment of user-centric mobile services and applications across verticals including Mobile HealthMobile Money, and  Mobile Advertising. In addition, both ApPlanet and the Mobile Venture Forums promise interesting opportunities.

Several of the themes are ecosystem-wide with several players across the value chain (Mobile money involves carriers, financial institutions, regulators, etc.; Mobile Advertizing involves carriers, brands, agencies, content providers, etc.), sometimes with competing agendas and challenging business models. It will be interesting to hear how far the Industry has matured to appreciate its position in the value chain as well as that of other players. Strand Consult asks a good question: “the question is whether there will be focus on who is creating value and for whom. How the mobile value chain will function and how people expect to create a healthy ecosystem? …. whether anyone will try to explain how Facebook, Twitter, Google and other Internet market players are creating value for mobile operators, customers, the media etc?”

Growth in data rich devices leading to spectrum crunch? The surge in the number of data rich connected devices and the potential impact on usage will likely continue as a hot topic from last year. It is estimated that the number of smartphones will rise from 500 million globally today, to almost two billion by 2015. Despite some stories of  up to 30%  of  smartphone users only using them for voice and SMS, the remainder of the users are said to consume on average, five times more data capacity than users of ordinary mobile phones. All of this prompting the ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré to say that accelerated fibre roll-out and greater spectrum availability will be imperative if network bottlenecks are to be avoided. It will be interesting to note what success carriers have been able to achieve through data offload to wifi.

Key sessions to look out for:

Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer’s keynote on Monday (4 PM, H5.1) will be interesting, given the launch of WM7 and the recent developments with Nokia. Microsoft has had its share of challenges in light of Android and others, in convincing handset manufacturers to choose its platform.  Android seems to becoming a major threat to several players in this space, Nokia being just one of those who have suffered. Despite the likes of Nokia and HTC, the Microsoft cannot lose focus of the impact of Android.

Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter follows Steve on Monday (5 PM, H5.1), if people were at all debating the power of social media and its impact on mainstream life as we know it, I think Mr. Costolo will remind us for the “twitter revolution in Egypt and elsewhere”.

Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt will also be back for this year’s congress and speaking on Tuesday (5:45 PM, H5.1). It will be interesting to see how Google’s Mobile First strategy will continue to evolve and how Google and the carriers view each other place in the value chain, as even though last year, Eric suggested Google was carrier-friendly, the carrier response seemed more aligned with Google wanting to convert them into pipes. Read our analysis of Google’s Strategy >>.

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