The excitement was (and still is) palpable here in Barcelona, as Mobile World Congress kicked into full gear yesterday. The keynote sessions on day one did not disappoint, with four of the largest mobile operators across the globe outlining their business strategies over the past year and looking ahead to 2017 and beyond. First up was chairman of the GSMA and CEO of Telecom Italia Group, Franco Bernabè, who stated that spectrum, privacy and investments must be the key focus for mobile operators moving forward.
Sixty-two million wireless connections are already using LTE, and this number is expected to grow to 920 million by 2017. Spectrum, then, is clearly a priority. However, as Bernabè explained, it’s critical to do more than simply having the right amount of spectrum—mobile operators must ensure that it is also harmonised across the world, in turn, making mobile services more affordable for consumers.
Privacy is another element for operators to consider, as mobile phones are carrying an increasing amount of personal information. With $350 billion compromised this year due to security risks, there is a clear place for mobile operators to become central in secure identity and access management.
Finally, Bernabè urged, operators must find a balance between competition, innovation and investment. Investments will depend on three factors: economics of scale, foreseeable business environments and up-to-date regulatory frameworks. He continued saying that operators must remain committed to Near Field Communications (NFC), LTE and voice over LTE (VoLTE) to create economically viable competition, especially in regions where excess competition is depressing the markets.
Following the opening remarks, GSMA’s director general, Anne Bouverot, moderated a discussion on the challenges and opportunities for mobile operators. AT&T’s president and CEO, Randall Stephenson, believes that we’re moving from a period of wireless experience on mobile devices to one where connectivity is always assumed and new services, like home security and mobile wallets, can be layered on top.
Next, China Mobile’s chairman, Xi Guohua, added that operators should be more concerned about OTT competition, which can erode the value of services. He suggests consolidating industry resources, like networks and devices, to gain a competitive advantage in the value chain. Additionally, Xi believes there is an opportunity with LTE to strengthen collaboration among the Internet of things, such as M2M, which will increase dialogue and align interests for the world’s operators.
Adding to this, Telefonica’s executive chairman and CEO, César Aliert, stated that operators need to lead the ecosystems into a healthy future by implementing new commercial models to better serve customers and change market dynamics. This includes breaking the taboos associated with network rollout and providing the best experience possible to customers.
Then, Vodafone’s CEO Vittorio Colao dove into how his group of operators is transforming in this digital revolution. Interestingly, he noted that more than a quarter of mobile users check their phones at the dinner table, and 66 percent sleep with their phones. Life is clearly mobile, and this is only going to increase. Because of this, Colao stated that operators need to enrich the customer experience with other services. Winners will be those who have the best products and lowest prices and are most willing to compromise and put in the work.
So far, the keynotes have been exciting to listen to, and the show floor has been packed! We’re looking forward to attending more sessions and meeting our customers, partners and other across the industry to share ideas about our changing telco landscape. In the meantime, stop by our booth in Hall 6, stand 6C30!