Mobile World Congress: A Week in Reflection (Part I)

Posted: March 14th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Mobile World Congress: A Week in Reflection (Part I)

It was another sunny February at Mobile World Congress (MWC). Barcelona brought a welcome respite from the tail-end of a snowy winter across Finland and central Europe. The last time I was here was 2009 during my time at InfoVista. I then thought that fifty thousand attendees for an event was remarkable, but this year, more than 67,000 visitors from 205 countries were in attendance, including more than 50 percent of attendees holding C-level positions and 3,500+ CEOs. Although an astronomic figure, it was hardly surprising based on the advances made in technology in recent years. In fact, back then, the sceptics were out in force asking “Why would I need a tablet device from Apple when I have a PC or Mac and an iPhone?”. Looking at the current size of the tablet market, it’s clear that the discussions at MWC are noteworthy predictions of what we can expect to see in the market and at future shows.

A Refreshing New Look for Comptel

“Wow, you’ve changed! was the reaction of many of our customers, friends and analysts to the new face of Comptel that was revealed. The new brand with the tagline, “Making Data Beautiful”, that had been publicly announced only days before, took many by surprise but was the catalyst for fresh discussions around new products, solutions and positioning.

All the Big Players, Exuberance and Excess

The usual suspects packed into the exhibition; many of whom weren’t happy with one stand. These “big hitters” such as Huawei, Alcatel-Lucent, Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) and Cisco—builders of next-generation mobile infrastructures—had covered all bases by appearing with both commercial (marketing) and closed areas.

For the commercial appearances, Huawei certainly took the prize for the biggest exuberance as can be seen in the image, with a cascading liquid neon display. The Chinese giants certainly also took the Hateley prize for having spent the most on MWC, and this was clearly visible not only on the expo floor but also all around Barcelona!

One of the key business and thought leadership areas for NSN  was Machine-to-Machine (M2M). The company discussed an enterprise vertical-focused solution that leveraged a traditional managed service architecture, complete with infrastructure and processes, alongside a service enablement layer with a “smart” object focus. These “smart” objects obviously relate to the new generation of consumer and commercial devices containing SIM or other forms of IP communication to the network—either public or private. The operational and value chain associated with the entire M2M opportunity is still largely undefined and without standards; however, one thing is for sure: the important role that will be played by the application developer community and strategic eco-system partners that communications service providers (CSPs), network vendors and systems integrators (SIs) will need to form. NSN has clearly taken that into consideration for its ‘fully managed vertical end-to-end services’.

The Top Topics

So what were the top themes this year (that I noticed as an exhibitor)?

Theme Sponsor Observation
M2M GSMA, network and OSS vendors, device manufacturers, mobile operators Early technology adopters and innovators only at the moment. Earliest standardisation expected in 6-12 months. Value-chain is open for interpretation!
Cloud-based Services Network and OSS vendors, cloud and virtualisation vendors, data centre hosting companies Mobile operators adopting cloud-techniques for operational and cost-efficiency in the midst of severe data and content demand and growth. Bring your Own Device introducing IT security challenges and opportunities for virtual machine providers.
LightRadio Network vendors Alcatel-Lucent specifically leading the field with a conference-wide 4G deployment that its execs leveraged to great effect.
Policy Control & Charging OSS/BSS vendors Although disputed by Comptel’s 2010 announcement, identified as an important trend in the next 12 months.
Actionable Intelligence & Analytics Revenue assurance and OSS/BSS integrators and vendors, customer experience management-focused vendors, network vendors, other independent software vendors Most have “analytics” in their go-to-market pitch; however, as seen, it can be applied across the industry in different forms. Not a lot of “action” in the actionable intelligence!
Managed Services OSS/BSS integrators and vendors Aligning with mobile operator needs to outsource and reduce operational and development costs, so they can focus on their core businesses.
Application Development Android, Blackberry and a multitude of smaller developers The future is definitely in app development—the “trendy” and “place to be” community of the conference.
Consumer Electronics (Smartphones & Tablets) Samsung, Blackberry, Motorola, Nokia—the usual suspects Innovation around an existing theme (tablets). Geeks’ paradise but nothing earth-shattering. Galaxy Note was about the most significant.
Near-field Communication (NFC) and Cell-enabled Electronic Payment Operators, innovators and GSMA An attempt by mobile operators to “own” electronic payments using NFC in the handset tied to subscriber identity and profile. New operator-banking partnership opportunities but security regulation is a hot topic.

Do you agree with the hot topics I’ve identified? Leave a comment and let us know what stood out to you at Mobile World Congress. Also stay tuned for the second part of my reflections on the Barcelona event.