Disruptions After the iPhone – Why the Mobile World Congress is Different Today

The iPhone came in 2007. And “to communicate” was since then a six-letter-word. Traditional voice traffic was dominating the mobile networks up to 2007. But then data exploded. Today voice is just a shrinking small margin. Five major forces drive the actors in this huge arena: mobile broadband and small cells, an exploding plethora of smart mobile devices, green wireless, the digitalization of our lives and businesses with its mobile user interface, and finally surprises and disruptions.

In “The Mobile World Congress – A Short History” we identified these five driving forces. Today, we analyze them in more detail, observing their evolution on the Mobile World Congress starting in 2008. This allows us to derive predictions to be checked against the unfolding reality.

MWC 2008:

We know it already; this was year 1 after the iPhone. The MWC got its new name, reflecting the new reality (before it was the 3GSM World Congress). For the first time in history, mobile data traffic surpassed mobile voice traffic, sustained. Mobile voice today is only a very small fraction of the whole game.

One major theme was of course mobile broadband. No wonder: the real smartphones arrived. HSPA and with it mobile TV was taking off with 420 HSPA enabled mobile devices and a $50 Billion global market. LTE presentations and demonstrations were the high-runners. Femtocell companies were maturing: understanding the requirements and offering solutions for interference issues and remote management, while bringing down the costs.

Apple was not present, but hundreds of new types of smartphones were showing features you already knew from the iPhone. Android was only a prototype platform, the user experience being not yet impressive, of course. And Microsoft presented smartphones with Windows Mobile 6, such as the Sony Ericsson’s Slider XPERIA X1.

Green wireless became important with power saving base stations and recycling concepts for mobile devices and batteries. This was necessary, because of the dramatic mobile penetration growth.

Mobile advertising was a hot topic, and considered to be the driving force for rich media mobile entertainment and content, instead of subscription based models. But there was lots of debate as to what percentage of the $640 Billion global advertising market could go mobile and more importantly, how. Social Networking started to become mobile. Increased GPS penetration in handset enabled Location Based Services.

And, we had unexpected heroes. The advent of smartphones shifted the center of gravity away from the Mobile Operators to the Internet OTTs. Plus, Huawei had an impressive presence after a series of European operator successes.

Here you can read more:

Mobile World Congress Report from Barcelona.

Mobile World Congress Draws 55,000 Visitors

MWC 2009:

We write year 2 after the iPhone. The mobile industry stands out as one of the few vibrant sectors in a tumultuous world economy. More than 4 Billion mobile users and 80% of the world’s population areas covered with mobile. The Internet is now mobile.

Mobile broadband and small cells move forward on their path. Early operators announced their LTE suppliers, but deployment was likely not to happen before 2010. HSPA is the cash cow and HSPA+ is slowly taking off. Also Femto Cells where a hot topic, it was not yet clear whether they will really take off.

There was significant growth for the mobile devices, as expected. Smartphones were the high-runner, as universal lifestyle devices. Android smartphones arrived, but only a few. HTC also unveiled several smartphones with Windows Mobile 6.1. And Microsoft presented Windows Mobile 6.5 with a new Internet Explorer Mobile. The future was already present with LG’s prototype of a wristwatch phone. New mobile chipsets integrated application processors with audio/video codecs, video playback, GPS, Bluetooth, WiFi, FM Radio, etc. There are certainly many more innovative smartphone features and apps to come.

Green Mobile continues to increase its relevance with Universal USB Charging and solar-powered base-stations. This is in particular necessary as the next billion of mobile users will mainly come from developing countries. Green is now one of the main buying arguments.

Again Apple was only virtually present, but they defined the rules of the game. The Mobile App Store is becoming a common booming phenomenon, and with it the app economy takes off. Users came back to the networks, attracted by Web 2.0 mobile technologies and mobile multi-media entertainment. Speech and text recognition became relevant to reduce the keyboard bottleneck on handsets. However, there didn’t seem to be much progress on Mobile TV and Mobile Advertising. Nevertheless, applications are clearly in the driver seat, not the pipe: and since then, this is the key to successful business models.

The unexpected heroes of MWC 2008 are still heroes, but no longer unexpected. OTT VoIP à la Skype became an issue after smartphone vendors start to integrate it, building up a threat to traditional operator voice. This was a hot topic for debate. Huawei and ZTE were doing extremely well winning contracts.

We conclude stating, that our 5 big topics progressed steadily and consequently. They drive innovation and disruption. But we did not see additional major surprises and disruptions.

Here you can read more:

Mobile World Congress Report from Barcelona

47 000 visitors at Mobile World Congress 2009

Highlights of Mobile World Congress 2009

MWC 2010:

We are still in the age of the iPhone: year 3. The mobile industry did not really suffer from the economic crisis. We have now 4.6 billion mobile subscribers. LTE is just about to be rolled out. The growing demand for bandwidth has led to capacity problems and discussions over flat-rates.

Android devices really grew. The little green robot was the main topic of the fair. We could call this a breakthrough. It was also the year of Windows Mobile 7, it looked not bad, but turned out to be just another nice try. And there were two other new mobile operating systems: Nokia’s MeeGo and Samsung’s Bada OS; both of them did not last. In total, we saw many new handsets, even more apps and accessories. And one of the coolest things was DoCoMo’s earphones with sensors that could track your eye movement.

The Internet became increasingly mobile. Social Networks were integrated into the smartphone OS and with the local contacts. The app store is still the key to success. Therefore, the leading mobile network operators have started a joint effort to establish a common app development platform. Cloud services such as “Connected Life” of Deutsche Telekom offer a common experience over multiple platforms: phone, computer and TV.

A whole array of new mobile application domains popped up: mLearing, mHealth, mPayment, mobile advertising (finally getting some momentum), and location-based services. Wireless standards such as ZigBee were considered key enablers for the Smart Grid. And, augmented reality was discussed in expert panels. mHealth was seen as one of the main drivers for the M2M market, as smart sensors for remote monitoring could save the healthcare industry up to $200 billion annually.

Security issues became important, as the number of mobile attacks is rising. Hence, prototypes of security platforms were presented to support applications such as mobile payment, secure PIN, secure content management, key management, and user authentication.

Conclusion: the major trends of 2009 continue to gain strength: broadband mobile and Femto Cells, Android, the App Economy, and Green Mobile. Cloud Services appeared and with them many new mobile application domains. Skype was still growing while its usage was slowly allowed by carriers. The disruption rolls.

Here you can read more:

Mobile World Congress 2010 Report

Best of MWC 2010: Highlights From the World’s Largest Mobile Show

Vier Tage Mobile World Congress: Die Highlights der Mobilfunkmesse

MWC 2010: Sicherheitsplattform für Mobiltelefone

MWC 2011:

LTE was starting to be rolled out; promising data rates of 50 Mbps. The advent of LTE drives the mobile cloud market and its apps. HSPA+ still offers a short term substitute with 21-42 Mbps and a HSPA penetration of 400 million connections, growing by 17 million per month.

Again, Apple was not present, but lots of visitors came with iPads. While others have their new pads presented at their booths. More than 700 tablets were announced. 2011 is the year of the tablet. Many were greatly interested in events about the App Economy.

The race of the mobile operating systems and their eco-systems was really opened. The green Androids now fill the market and enter the business space. Android 3.0 runs on tables. VMware presented two virtual Androids on one smartphone: one for business, another one for private use.

Nokia announced collaboration with Microsoft in order to catch up with iOS and Android. The then still largest manufacturer of mobile devices wants to use Windows Phone 7 on their smartphones. This means that Symbian and MeeGo will not survive. However, the real challenges are 8,000 apps in the store vs. 350,000 Apps for iOS and 150,000 for Android. Plus: weak device management and security features for the enterprise.

HTC produced never precedent numbers of mobile devices. LG unveiled Optimus 3D, allowing recording, viewing and sharing of 3D content on a smartphone. However, this turned out more as a gimmick. Also, NFC (Near Field Communication) was announced.

Location Based Services were integrated into social networks, but still the market does not really take off.

2011 was the year of mobile VoIP: Skype’s presence increased, indicating a real take off mobile VoIP minutes, combined with a shrinking amount of traditional voice minutes. OTT voice has arrived.

Conclusion: all trends are intact and robust. We get more of everything in smaller devices.

Here you can read more:

http://www.teltarif.de/mwc-mobile-world-congress-trends-highlights-technologie/news/41608.html

http://www.cartagena-capital.com/news-and-events/market-insights/265-mobile-world-congress-2011-report

http://www.faz.net/aktuell/technik-motor/computer-internet/bilanz-des-mobile-world-congress-2011-barcelona-im-zeichen-der-gruenen-androiden-1594520.html

http://www.v3.co.uk/v3-uk/analysis/2031123/top-highlights-mobile-world-congress-2011

MWC 2012:

MWC 2012 had a strong motto: Redefining Mobile. And it seemed that this was quite realistic. The Mobile Internet is now a vital infrastructure, disrupting one analogue industry after the other. New technologies such as HTML 5 improve App development and start to redefine the App Economy. And, the Internet of Things has left the horizon, approaching us all.

The world still faces major economic problems, in particular in Europe. The mobile industry has reached a volume of $ 1.9 Trillion. Growth in Europe is flat, while being good in the US and ROW. 2012 had 5.3 Billion mobile subscribers globally, representing 77% of the world population.

Mobile broadband increases the cake: 10% increase in broadband penetration leads to 1.3% GDP growth in that country. Mobile Internet becomes a vital infrastructure such as water and energy. LTE is now the fastest growing mobile technology: 50 live LTE networks in 30 countries with 10 million users. Prediction for 2016: 200 live LTE networks in 70 countries with 500 million users, where 90% of all base stations will be small cells. LTE handsets were ready as well: a healthy mobile ecosystem. Network optimization is still very important to fill the supply-demand gap for bandwidth. Solutions: Self-Organizing Networks and Wi-Fi Offload using smart WLAN hotspots.

Again, we saw many new smartphones and tablets. Quad-core processors are the big theme now. There were rumors about Windows 8 phones and tablets before the start of the fair; and about NFC-enabled tablets. The next edition of LG Optimus 3D appeared, but still no real breakthrough. Asus demonstrated the PadFone a very interesting combination of smartphone with tablet as a docking-station. Where are Microsoft and Nokia? There is great talk and great expectations on Windows 8. The smartphone market reached $ 480 Billion, with 49% Android. The operators of emerging markets called for sub-$50 smartphones.

Let’s talk about App development: HTML5 gains momentum, but will not soon replace native apps.

Here is the Internet of Things: again Ericsson predicts 50 Billion connected devices by 2020. This market is expected to then be worth $4.5 Trillion, with $600 Billion for the connected car and healthcare, each.

Increasingly the mobile industry becomes an innovation enabler, with high disruptive potential for other industries. Mobile devices are the user interface for the Internet-Cloud-based digitalization of business and life. This impacts already the media, finance, e-commerce, transportation, energy, and healthcare. And, the car industry opened the doors for the mobile invasion. In particular for mobile money, NFC is necessary to enable this, and commercial deployments were announced in several countries.

The ongoing dilemma of the traditional (mobile) network providers: they lost the application layer, and can’t recover sufficiently. Or better: the application becomes much bigger than voice, and voice is getting increasingly disrupted by OTTs. A real solution for the incumbents is still open and for hot debate. Mobile Messaging and RCS are operator strategies to compete with OTTs. But, can this be successful?

Conclusion: yes, indeed the MWC2012 showed how mobile is going to be redefined, and how it redefines much of our life and business. The growth and the trends were not just more of everything, but new qualities appeared: smarter networks and clouds, HTML5, and the emerging Internet of Things.

Here you can read more:

http://www.msolvepartners.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/mSolve-Newsletter-March-20121.pdf

http://www.techradar.com/news/phone-and-communications/mobile-phones/mwc-2012-all-the-latest-details-1056086

http://www.netzwelt.de/news/91167-mwc-2012-neuheiten.html

See you in Barcelona. Hall 5 G40.

Author: Bernd Stahl

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