What to expect from Mobile World Congress 2014


Each year Mobile World Congress (MWC) features a slew of announcements. Some have the life expectancy of a snowflake on the desert floor, but a few represent major shifts in the landscape, and develop into something of substance. Vendor follow-through provides a key indication of value – do returning vendors showcase actual progress on last year’s promises (trials are good; commercial deployments are better), or do they parade something new and hope that analysts have forgotten last year’s hype?

“The background to the event is operators’ need to do more with increased levels of connectivity as they battle to derive greater ROI in the face of cost pressures and revenue stagnation,” comments Catherine Haslam, analyst at Ovum. “To achieve this, operators need flexible and highly manageable networks, and Ovum expects SDN and NFV to move from slideware to reference cases. They also need more and better services, with broadcast LTE, VoLTE, and the integration of Big Data the most prominent, and they need more connections. We expect the Internet of Things (IoT) to create the major hype for the show, and enterprise-orientated applications and services to have a greater prominence, given that this is where revenue growth is most tangible.”

Haslam continues: “Perhaps most importantly, we also hope to see long-overdue evidence that operators understand that they are just part of an ecosystem that will deliver the future communications landscape – they are not its entirety. We will be looking for examples of the operator as a partner, whether as an integrator in IoT, an enabler, or simply a connectivity provider. Elsewhere, we expect a number of announcements from enterprise mobility vendors looking to highlight their new app development and management capabilities. We also expect the same devices that dominated the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show to make their way to Barcelona for MWC and to grab many of the headlines.”

Jeremy Green, Industry, Communication, and Broadband

“In terms of network operator strategy, we expect to see lots of emphasis on service development aimed at propping up the telcos’ top lines. As was the case last year, operators will be seeking to demonstrate that the Internet of Things (IoT) opportunity – including smart cities, connected cars, and connected consumer electronics devices – has significant upside potential for them, and that they still have a role as ringmaster and integrator for this type of service. Similarly, there will be talk about how VoLTE, at last being rolled out, will give them the ability to compete with over-the-top (OTT) communications services.”

Mike Sapien, Enterprise

“The Internet of Things (IoT) and enterprise mobility solutions, and the various ecosystems within them, will continue to mature and, in many cases, consolidate. The industry seems to have moved past M2M and is now looking at IoT as the next big thing. Operators are starting to focus, picking more horizontal platform approaches and fewer vertical solutions, and building stronger, deeper partnerships and internal capabilities. Track and trace remains a strong horizontal focus for operators, while connected car solutions will feature heavily this year. There has been some consolidation in enterprise mobility, and there is more to come: trends in this area are fuelled by the transition to the cloud, and by IT services integration beyond traditional device management.”

Richard Absalom, Enterprise Mobility and Productivity

“We expect enterprise mobility to be a key theme at MWC this year, as it was in 2013. The leading vendors in the space will all be present, with many planning announcements of new products and updates – they are all still riding the wave of demand from enterprises that are trying to deal with BYOD and the complexities of managing their fast-growing mobile estates. As the market’s focus shifts toward deploying mobile enterprise apps, there are likely to be announcements around new app development and management features. And in the current climate of consolidation, it would not be a huge surprise to hear of further M&A activity in the space.”

Nick Dillon, Devices and Platforms

“As the overarching theme at the Consumer Electronics Show last month, it is likely that the Internet of Things will feature heavily on the agenda for MWC, especially in the context of connected cars and smart homes. Although these topics are not brand new, we expect the conversation to have moved on from one of potential to one of actual products and the realities of deployments, standards, and interoperability. The alternative device operating systems that were attempting to challenge the hegemony of iOS and Android were a hot topic in 2013, and we expect to hear an update on partnerships and commercial deployments from the darling of last year’s show, Firefox OS. The show will also be something of a now-or-never moment for the long-overdue Tizen platform. Despite announcements of partnerships last year, we are still yet to see a commercial handset using the platform. If its main backer, Samsung, fails to address this in 2014 it may suggest that the vendor has lost the appetite for playing in the platforms game, and is happy to cede these responsibilities to Google indefinitely.”

Clare McCarthy, Telco IT

“We expect to see vendors continuing to push their intelligent analytics solutions at the customer and network levels at MWC 2014. There is also still much work to be done in the OSS/BSS fields as operators upgrade for LTE and incorporate SDN, SON, and NFV. Ensuring a good customer experience remains important, so that will feature at a number of levels, and we will see companies from the IT service domains taking on the NEPs and software vendors as the battle for operators’ hearts and minds continues.”

Daryl Schoolar and Dana Cooperson, Network Infrastructure

“Our vote for the hot LTE application of MWC 2013 was eMBS or LTE broadcast, and we have already started to see follow-up in this area. In late January, Samsung and Korea Telecom announced a commercial launch of this application, and Verizon Wireless had a trial LTE broadcast network at the 2014 Super Bowl. We expect the major RAN vendors to have much more to say regarding this application at MWC 2014. Other hot topics that we expect to progress from hype this year include LTE-Advanced, which, having moved beyond demonstrations, will advance to network trials and more commercial launches; SDN and NFV, which will progress from hype-squared to something approaching reality; and realtime, context-based analytics that couple network and customer data and trigger intelligent action.”

Catherine Haslam, Wholesale Telecoms

“In the last couple of years we have seen a blurring of the lines between traditional wholesale businesses – MVNOs, roaming, and voice termination – and new levels of network flexibility, and these trends are likely to continue. We also expect to see further examples of wholesalers pushing into policy management and the hosting of other core network as they become virtualized and more software driven. We also expect to see new examples of mobile wholesale business models to underpin the Internet of Things, and increasingly vertically-focused enterprise applications. In both of these areas there are many occasions where the mobile wholesalers’ traditional ‘minutes, messages, and MB’ approach makes little sense, and operators must find new ways to package and sell their connectivity services and other capabilities to the intermediaries that will unlock these opportunities.”

Matthew Howett, Regulation

“As is usually the case at MWC, larger fixed and mobile operators will complain that they face too much regulation, and smaller ones that there is not enough consistently-applied regulation in the markets in which they are trying to compete. Aside from these familiar grumbles, this year attendees might well expect most eyes to be on the EC’s plans for a ‘Connected Continent.’ However, as the future of that overall package of measures looks increasingly uncertain, attention is likely to turn to the elements within it that operators themselves would like to see regulators make progress on. These will include more harmonized spectrum for 4G LTE, a fairer balance between the regulatory burden placed on telcos compared to OTTs, and the increasingly pro-consumer stance regulators take, which is evident in recent moves in areas such as international roaming.”

Eden Zoller, Consumer

“Mobile commerce is riding a wave of technology and service innovation, with a strong undercurrent of disruption, and this will be reflected at MWC. The slow progress of NFC-based mobile proximity payments is sparking strong interest in alternatives, and with this in mind we expect to see interesting developments around Bluetooth low energy (BLE) beacon applications. MWC will see renewed interest in location-based marketing, but many service providers will ultimately fail because they underestimate the complexity involved. Visa will be looking to make its presence felt at MWC, and we would not be surprised to see mobile commerce–related updates from Amazon, Facebook, Google, and even Apple. Facebook in particular needs to revise its lackluster mobile payments strategy, which stands in stark contrast with its successful mobile advertising play.”

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine
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