From Small Cells to Big Data – 5 mobile trends from GSMA Barcelona Mobile World Congress 2013

5 03 2013

My Global Event Reports warmly welcomes Rich Arthur, blogger and technology guru in his spare time; when he is working, he heads a telecom software and service group in HP.   Here he offers a whirlwind review on the fascinating themes and trends at this years’ Mobile World Congress.

Monday back in the office after the furor of Mobile World Congress feels like the calm after the storm.  More than 70,000 people attended the show and I’m pretty sure they were all waiting for a taxi Monday night at 8pm outside hall 8.     Picking through the main themes washed ashore in the cyclone of MWC news, sessions and exhibition activity, I extracted my top five themes.

For a more general take, have a look at my “taster” video (below) of what caught my eye visually at the show.  Think of it as Tapas before the dinner below.

Looking at the conference program, it was interesting to note that the top exhibition and announcement themes were not particularly aligned with the conference.  Conference topics revolved more around operator strategies and services whereas show floor topics were generally more concrete (pun intended) featuring network infrastructure, devices and apps.  What follows is a mix of the two.

Devices

Increasingly Mobile World Congress show floor is all about devices and their accessories.    The GSMA provided gadget hounds a preview with their Sunday press day.  Samsung’s Note 8, described as “almost hilariously huge” by the Huffington post, some new Firefox OS devices and HP’s own Android Slate 7 were among those making the news by Monday morning.  Tens of devices had been announced by the week’s end and booths were crammed with odd sight of video crews with their large cameras and bulky lighting equipment bearing down on small colorful handsets. “Here we have located the Sony Xperia  Z in its native habitat”.

Smaller, cheaper, lighter, faster, larger – devices are moving in all different directions at the moment although rectangular seems to be the design thread.   The tyranny of the touch screen glass looks to have eliminated competing form factors for the moment. Innovations seem incremental as opposed to game-changing.

Device OS

Seems new Device Operating systems were back in the news despite the launches of Windows 8 and Blackberry 10 over the last few months.   Industry debate continues to rage about which OS can take on the IOS and Android duopoly.    Two new operating systems were all over the show this year, with Mozilla’s Firefox OS garnering the most discussion.    This and Tizen, along with some others, such as Ubuntu and Jolla, were mostly touted as supporting the push for the next wave of low cost smartphones.

Mozilla announced that 17 operators were committed to its “open web initiative”, and devices were shown on multiple stands including Mozilla’s own, where the ZTE Firefox OS device was demonstrated.    Operators like the openness of the platform, which is HTML5 based, and Mozilla overall, which is a non-profit organization “dedicated to keeping the power of the Web in people’s hands.”

Tizen was also in the news, this Intel and Samsung operating system is also Linux based and has the backing of the new king of the mobile smartphone castle, Samsung, who seems to have committed to roll their own Badu operating system into it.  However Tizen devices appear to be behind Firefox in terms of commercial availability.

Fira de Barcelona - Home to Mobile World Congress

Fira de Barcelona – Home to Mobile World Congress

Small Cells

There was big news in Small Cells with many announcements and many vendors presenting both indoor and outdoor small cell solutions designed to support both enterprise and consumer demands.   There was some debate over whether Femtocells (the small devices often used at home to provide better indoor coverage and which are managed in a very limited way), are really Small Cell devices versus other Small cell approaches which are more like mini-base stations.

As is often the case an industry group rides to rescue with a set of definitions and deployment guides – in this case the “Small Cell Forum”.

M2M and Cloud

Machine to Machine and Cloud continue as two major areas of interest.    On the cloud side debate continued around the business case for cloud for mobile operators and case studies.  For M2M, the connected car drove the discussion, with the Vice Chairman from GM taking the stage to proclaim “the car is now a device”.  Ford meanwhile showed Ford Ecosport connectivity. See a related blog on our site.   M2M verticals were much discussed, including healthcare, transport and smart city/home.  HP featured our own M2M and cloud service platforms for telecom operators.

Big Data Analytics

What the IT industry is calling big data and analytics, is often couched under the term Customer Experience Management (CEM) in the Mobile industry.   This topic was broadly addressed in the conference program and in the show.   Business opportunities from big data, as well as the tie in to CEM and Quality of Experience, were discussed.  The recently announced HP Telecom Big Data and Analytics solution, including our own HP Customer Experience Assurance solution was featured on our booth.

Good opportunities for IT vendors are available as the mobile industry invests in another round of what we used to call Business analytics, but this time including high velocity (real time) and unstructured data as well as traditional structured “off-line” data.   Unstructured data includes e-mails, social media, phone calls and video.

Other areas

There was surprisingly little discussion on Enterprise Mobility as a topic on its own, considering the huge opportunity this represents for operators.  As enterprises mobilize their workforces and grapple with employees more and more bringing their own devices to the company (BYOD), opportunities abound for mobile operators to support the process such as – mobile device management, enterprise mobility platforms, hosting of enterprise applications, and cloud services replacing enterprise apps.

HP is starting a “Mobility 2020” vision collaboration which debuted at MWC, following on from our successful Enterprise 2020 work.    Some initial scenarios are described here.

To support more efficient mobility, HP announced our own Integrated Home Subscriber Server (HSS) to help MNOs provide seamless access to heterogeneous networks.     As MNOs integrate Wi-Fi and LTE into their networks, the IHSS offers a seamless experience for mobile network users.

In previous years, app stores have been big news at MWC.  While apps were again very present, especially in the App Lounge area around hall 8, specific apps and app stores were not the major news they have been.

Rich ArthurSee you next year

My personal view is that the show has almost completely moved away from its roots as a pure mobile network operator and supplier show, to a much more general mobility show, embracing enterprise and consumer needs and the broad spectrum of internet players who are now increasingly dependent on mobile.     This is reflective of the fact that mobility is no longer an add-on to existing consumer and business services and business processes, but is rather at the core them.    Facebook already counts more usage via mobile than fixed and eBay did more than $10B in mobile commerce revenue in 2012, representing more than half of their total.

It’s a tumultuous mobile world, and an exciting time to be part of it!

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