Impressions from MWC


The MWC was a huge success this year with both attendance and the overall vibe way up. The show has become as much about software and applications as traditional hardware. Quality hardware remains essential for operators, but to vendors it is becoming only an introduction to sell what really improves margins – their managed services and software solutions. 

 Applications comprise a whole universe ranging from mobile health and banking to cloud computing and security… and regime change! The role of mobile technologies in the fall of Arab regimes was also a hot topic of discussion.

 The war between operating systems and the elusive alliances (see Robert Syputa’s article below) don’t overshadow the fundamental issue raised by the surge in mobile traffic, and how mobile operators can monetize the proliferation of mobile devices and applications. The threat posed by the entry of new mobile players enabled by disruptive technologies such as WIMAX has dissipated. Established mobile players are now focusing their attention on over-the-top players like Apple, Google and Facebook who are enjoying a free ride on their expensive networks and benefiting from the proliferation of mobile Internet devices.

 Mobile operators are reacting with some important initiatives including the Internetwork Packet Exchange (IPX), a sort of private backbone running in parallel to the public Internet to ensure QoS and security, as well as the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC), an organization creating a unified and open platform to allow mobile software developers to more easily write applications usable on a variety of devices, operating systems and networks. A whole new ecosystem is emerging to address capacity and revenue issues faced by mobile operators including data offloading and monetization of the pipe.

 If mobile operators are able to create some sort of order out of the innovation chaos, they will be better positioned to monetize their networks and transform their business models to take advantage of network convergence.  The need to enable the so-called digital lifestyle experience is growing – users want to create, store, manage, access, and share content across devices and platforms. The consumer cloud will soon be followed by the emergence of the enterprise cloud, when security and privacy concerns are met. The metrics around usage will certainly be strategic assets for carriers to monetize their networks through mobile marketing, social profiling, user analytics, and cloud consumer services.

 Another trend is that the (re)emergence of multinational players, mergers and acquisitions seems to be à la mode again. Mobile players want to be as large as possible – whether they come from heavily populated countries or small ones such as Qatar or UAE, they want to become major regional or global players.

 Innovation continues to accelerate, established giants slow to innovate will fall, and the impact of the mobile ecosystem on the rest of the economy is only beginning to be felt. The mobile device, whether called a phone or something else, is rapidly becoming the center of our clouded universe. A decade from now, MWC 2021 will surely be dominated by retailers, enterprises, and a whole new breed of mega  mobile players sharing the planet.

Author: Adlane Fellah, Research Director

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