Hola Congress

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Mobile World Congress has grown significantly over the past decade and has come from its humble beginnings in Cannes all the way to the Fira Gran Via in Barcelona where there was about 100,000 attendees from 200 countries, 40 conference sessions and 2,100 exhibitors. Now the biggest mobile show on the planet David Dungay went along to find out about the latest trends and products to hit the mobile market.

Walking through the immense halls on the first day at MWC one thing became immediately obvious. Mobile has touched just about every market you can think of and encompasses a whole raft of technology that we wouldn’t have even considered ‘mobile’ just five years ago. Companies such as Facebook and Mpro had a significant presence at the show this year, even Will.i.am made an appearance!

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 11.16.14Talking on stage with Will.i.am Regional CEO Europe of Vodafone Philip Humm said “quadplay is a discount play. In Spain and Portugal between 60% and 80% of what we sell is quadplay – in the markets where we discount less (ie. Northern Europe) quadplay is … smaller.”

As the UK heads towards the quadplay era there is a risk that if operators don’t offer premium content then they may find themselves earning less from quadplay than they currently do from stand-alone fixed and mobile services. Vodafone has started offering Spotify premium with certain tariffs to attract customers but Will.i.am remained unconvinced. “YouTube is the ultimate free service,” he said. “No one is going to subscribe if they have YouTube on their device.”

Wearables

Andrew Skinner, Relationship Director, for Barclays’ Technology Media and Telecoms Team talked about the trends he saw at the show. He said “Wearables obviously attracted a lot of media attention at MWC this year because of their appeal to the consumer, but for old hands, it will come as little surprise that a number of the more interesting conversations had were about what 5G means for the industry. After all, despite all the hype about wearables, what good is a connected watch when there’s no network available for you to connect to?

Mr. Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer BG, said: “For consumers, having access and storage of personal data and records will make wearable devices one of the most important industry developments in the advent of Big Data and Cloud technologies. Our wearable devices are to be connected and synchronized to offer the best all-around smart solution and personal monitoring based on individual need. No doubt, wearable devices will remain one of the most significant trends in the device industry….”

When wearables first burst onto the scene a few years ago my reaction was much the same as when tablet manufacturers started introducing the ‘mini’ sized ranges. At the time i just thought it was a bit of a fad and couldn’t see why people would bother using a screen in between their smartphones and their larger tablets… now I have seen the application in the real world I can see I was very wrong! Wearables, and most notably watches, are there to give bite sized pieces of information which are easy to get at. Bernie McPhillips from O2 M2M put it best when he said “Think about wearables in terms of your consumption of data, when you want a big meal you sit at your laptop and get some real work done, when you need to do some decent work you use a tablet, if you are a little hungry but only want to do a few things then you use a smartphone, wearables are for when you just want a little snack.”

IoT

There was no getting away from it this year, we are living in an increasingly connected world and the Internet of Things is going to be a major focal point for many companies in the mobile space.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 11.17.30Oliver Pauzet, VP of Marketing and Marketing Strategy at Sierra Wireless said “We are a B2B company and we wanted to showcase some of our partners here at the show. We have been in the M2M business for fifteen years now and we are at the heart of connecting people and ‘things’ to the cloud. Our aim is to provide an end to end M2M solution which is seamless, secure and simple. We are building the building foundations for M2M.

The Uk is a good market for us and we are currently involved in smart metering projects there. The UK market is quite mature compared with other markets we worked in, although the deployment has been slower than expected it is still a major undertaking.

Things that are happening in different areas at various speeds, public lighting is area that is moving quickly into the M2M space in many cities but I would say something like water waste is an area that isn’t moving as fast.”

Rajeev Tankha, Senior Director, Head of BSS and OSS Solutions at Oracle said “People who are making the money are the people who are providing the end value or applications. Take something like Fitbit as an example; the people that make money are the ones that sell the applications and the devices. In the grand scheme of things the mobile operators aren’t making that much money out of this.

I think we are still in the early stages of IoT. Healthcare, oil and gas, transportation, logistics industries are the things are going to grow significantly in the near future. Connected home opportunities are also going to be prevalent also.

IMG_1798The role the communications providers will play in the IoT is still in questions. You don’t need a communications provider to be at the centre of an IoT ecosystem. That will be the guys that provide the IoT services. We won’t know who will drive this industry for another two or three years in my opinion, that could be someone like Apple or Google.”

Andrew Skinner added “The internet of things remains a hot topic and it’s pleasing to see that we’ve moved significantly forward in terms of the hype cycle, to a place where practical deployments of machine to machine interactivity are becoming part of mainstream society. But for IoT to truly take off, the focus must once again be brought back to how we can make best use of 4G technology to deliver robust M2M deployments as quickly as possible.”

UKTI

UK Trade & Investment were once again present at the show providing UK mobile companies the opportunity to bolster their international reputation and promote the UK’s capability in the mobile communications industry. One such company under their “wing” was Made in Mind who I visited a couple of years ago when they launched their first product, the Mu Plug, into the market place. I caught up with Founder and CEO Matthew Judkins for an update on their activities.

“Working with UKTI enables us to attend some of these big trade shows and actually have some impact when we get here. We have just released the international variant of the Mu Plug so we wanted to showcase that and get some feedback from the industry. We also wanted to create some supply chain awareness from distributors, in and outside of the UK.”

“We have launched our quick charge version of the Mu plug and have been showcased on the Qualcom stand as a designer exemplar of embedding their technology. This created a lot of technical awareness of our product as well as the attention we got from our own stand. We got a lot of good quality enquiries

We are currently working with some of the biggest handset manufacturers to get this product in the box. Being here at MWC enables us to be in the right place to talk to all those guys and to keep the conversations rolling.”

Another company with strong links to UKTI is Swytch. Although still in beta phase Swytch allows users to have additional mobile numbers on their existing device without the need to have multiple SIM cards.

Founder and CEO Chris Michael said “We are launching with UK mobile numbers first but will then be adding US numbers, French numbers, the rest of Europe and Asia will follow. It’s a simple app that can be downloaded on iOS or Android and down the line we are planning to get onto desktops too. Domestically people can use this to separate their personal and business lives. People want to keep both those worlds separate generally but don’t want the hassle of having to deal with an extra device or bill.”

I think the distribution channels are going to be a very powerful one for us. The one thing that drives the mobile phone, which is the mobile number, is locked inside the phone. This is almost the evolution of the mobile number. Our aim is that the distribution channels can educate people about having temporary numbers or multiple numbers, including local numbers for abroad. We are doing what VoIP users have been doing with land line numbers, just with mobile.”

Launch Pad

Hardware  – The stand Outs

Samsung Galaxy S6 – Samsung has kicked Snapdragon to the curb and gone for its own Exynos 7420 processor in the Galaxy S6 which initially raised some eyebrows. However in some of the early early benchmarks the Galaxy S6 tops the multi-core tablet with a score of 4,547, compared to the HTC One M9’s 3,959. This thing could probably run the Death Star!

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge – The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge launched alongside the Galaxy S6 at the show. The Edge is a similar handset but has a dual-curved display. It really looks the business and comes with clever notifications along the screen edge which looks pretty snazzy. It also has a bigger battery than the S6.

HTC One M9 – The M9 looks much like M8 which could be a bit of a mess up considering one of its biggest rivals, Galaxy S6, has just gone through a form factor revamp. HTC have built upon the last iteration of what was an impressive piece of kit to begin with. The M9 uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 and is kept chugging along (at speed)with 3GB of RAM. HTC claim the 2800 mAh battery along with the various power saving modes developed have made a significant impact on battery life.

Lumia 640 – This Dual-SIM 4G packed mid range handset from Microsoft could be a great little device for Windows lovers that don’t want to break the bank. Having reviewed the 630 recently I can’t wait to get my hands on this for test drive.

Lumia 640 XL – This is the 5.7 inch version of the 640 which makes it one of Microsoft’s largest smartphones. This phablet feels a bit chunky in the hand but is quite comfortable and packs a 3000mAh battery that, coupled with a lower resolution (1080p) screen, should yield some decent battery life. When Windows 10 arrives later in the year this could be a compelling proposition.

Huawei Y635- Huawei launched the Y635 at the show which has the potential to cause a bit of a stir at the bottom end of the market. The solid handset that comes with 4G and NFC all for a great price. This puts devices such as the Moto E, Lumia 535 and Moto G directly in its sights. With a 5-inch display, quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM, it could be the budget phone of 2015.

BlackBerry Leap – Who? The Leap is just a jazzed up version of the Z10 which comes with a 5-inch edge-to-edge display and a decent 2,800mAh battery, 2GB of RAM and BlackBerry 10.3.1 OS. Blackberry will be releasing another three devices this year.

LG Magna – This is one of many mid range devices LG launched this year and it comes with the Lollipop OS straight from the box. The device feels great in the hand, has a great battery, expandable storage and a good display. Unfortuantely it only comes with 8Gbs of internal storage… seriously?! My Grandma could fill that up inside a week!

Huawei TalkBand B2 – The second generation of Huawei’s TalkBand products, Huawei TalkBand B2 showcases a more business-like professional design, has smarter fitness tracking functionality with higher accuracy. Ideal for the on-the-run business executives who are athletically active

Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet – The 10.1-inch tablet measures just 6.1mm and is astonishingly light. The speculation in the market is that this is a genuine competitor to Apple and Samsung. I’ll reserve judgement on that one, although the waterproof feature along is enough to make me look twice.

Acer Liquid Jade Z – Featuring solid battery, thin dimensions but perhaps a questionable design, the Jade Z is incredibly light at 110 grams. This could be either a disadvantage or an advantage depending on your viewpoint.

Unified Approach

Surprisingly this year was Unify’s first trip to Barcelona for the show. I went along and spoke to Bob Hendy, Head of Global Marketing, about their latest UC offering called Circuit, previously Project Ansible.

“This has been designed with productivity in mind first. The average person is subject to roughly 88 ‘incidents’ throughout their working day and it’s this level of incidents which can lead to mental exhaustion. An incident might be switching between devices for communications, or going from using one app to another. It’s basically a big change for the brain going from one interface or way of working to another, we all do this whether we go from a smartphone to a tablet to a desktop… these changes are what makes us mentally tired. Circuit has just one interface which contains voice, video, screen sharing, messaging and file sharing which cuts down on having to switch between all sorts of different apps. That enables people to work more efficiently because they don’t get as tired.”

Todd Carothers, Executive VP, Marketing and Products CounterPath spoke to me about their latest market disruptor called Bria which he claims can integrate into any PBX system and offer mobility and collaboration tools.

Carothers said “At CounterPath we focus on the consumer and the enterprise. The main thing about internet companies is being able to leverage API’s. For me I can leverage Dropbox through Bria so people can send and store files, we can do the same with Facebook. 5 years ago people used to say if you didn’t have a cloud strategy you are dead. Now I think if you don’t have an internet strategy you are dead. You have to find a way to integrate with these companies because whether you are in enterprise or just a consumer it’s the consumer apps which are driving the innovation.

We have had an announcement with ProVu recently where we are starting to build our Channels into the SMB market. They can take our agnostic product an overlay it into their current systems of their clients. It’s easy money for them. My pitch to them is that I can add 15% to your revenues today.A lot of resellers in the UK are selling different PBX platforms and we can bring the mobility and UC piece to their portfolio regardless of what platforms they are currently selling.”

Dominic Smith, Marketing Director at Cerillion was at the show to promote the Cerillion cloud billing platform called Skyline. He said “We have Channels that get extra a lot of extra value in being to offer their own billing platform. For example, if you are an IaaS provider you will be looking at how you can add value on top of the basics under the hood. Those additions help them move further up the value chain. That’s key part of our strategy. I think our Channel will become a bigger part of our business in the future and we have a lot of dialogues going on right now but for us it’s about getting the right types of partners.”

Smith continued “The days of MWC being just a mobile show are long gone; there is such a broad spectrum of tech and business people here. We have had a lot of conversations with Telco type businesses but also start ups and people with innovative apps in app planet who are trying to reach many customers.”

Danny Bigwood, Global Head of Devices at Tecdesk was at the show to promote the Tecdesk SIM deskphones. Having signed up with distributor Nimans in the UK Danny was keen to promote the devices to an international audience. He commented “We are getting a lot of interest, people from the Middle East are looking to understand where Tecdesk sits, we are getting lots of technical questions too. I think people really don’t understand why they don’t need a fixed line. When we explain about the Capex and Opex and how it reduces the costs in a business with examples they understand that. Construction is the classic example we give, people understand why a construction site would need a temporary office and how this product set fits into that. Obviously there are other sectors which are ripe for this so we need to get that education right.”

Ed Says…

I think Dominic Smith from Cerillion said it best. The days of Mobile World Congress being a mobile show are long gone. The sheer breadth of the technologies on show were mind boggling with connected ‘Things’ being on every corner. The show is inevitably ahead of the mainstream in many areas but should serve the Channel with a good bench mark as to where technologies are heading. The challenge for the Channel is to pick out the next trends early and find ways of adding their own value to the proposition.