Thursday, February 14, 2008

Final Thoughts on Barcelona

OK my time spent walking from Hall to Hall to have meetings and look at the latest trends is over. If I had taken all the papers pushed at me then I think that the excess baggage charge could be more than the price of my seat on the flight home. In a digital age this seems wrong, some have been smart enough to have added the handouts to the free memory sticks that they hand out this would also allow for links to web pages and the use of video and audio. I guess once those who are part of the Mobile ecosystem start to think in this way then we can speak about mobile being media companies until then they will have to stick at being technologists.

I think that the GSMA may have reached a tipping point in that the World congress is too big for Barcelona. In the early days in France you had a dynamic feel and deals were done in small cafe and one boats. Now you have a massive exhibition with a small conference supported by global suppliers running briefings, but too many people told me that in the next few weeks they were taking customers to Dubai to close a deal. Eventually the big guys are going to move the World Congress to Dubai so that they can talk with the Emerging Markets Customers. Whilst we saw a lot of Chinese attendees to the event I did not see many Indians or Africans and as Orascom's CEO told everyone if you do not address the Emerging Markets then you are not going to be about for long.

My themes from this years show were Coverage, Services and Future. The GSM world has been such a success because it is a vibrant ecosystem.

When I started working in Cellular Communications some 20 plus years ago we spoke about Talking to a person rather than a place. Today we are saying that mobile is about communicating with potentially everything simply and wirelessly. However great that sounds I have to ask if everyone has the same objective? To demonstrate the point today I received a new wireless printer by Lexmark and they have placed a USB cable in the box so that I can connected it with my computer to get things started, this is something they do not do with the wired printers, as I know to my cost and it is not a great inditement of wireless technology!

At the Limo launch event I attended we were treated to a talk by Dr Marty Cooper who explained who mobile was evolving and thanks to Open Standards such as Linux the cost of devices was falling to a level where all could expect to enjoy the benefits of Wireless Broadband and a device that you held in the hand would offer mass communication. Perhaps Dr Cooper needs to travel a little wider? Sony Ericsson handsets for India have to have AM radio so that the owners can listen to cricket because the FM network does not cover a wide enough region. Just how 4G will reach users that are yet to experience 1G is beyond me. I also do not think that the medical technology that he spoke of will have the scale to make it mass market. Some of the issues that we face in the mass market can be seen with the Social Business models. People do not want charity they just want a fair chance. Thus they are unlikely to accept something that we market as a poor man's phones as they aspire to be better. One of the Executives I spoke to told me of the difficulties he is having in India. In talking to a large FMCG company about a handset that would do all the business tasks they needed he discovered that the cost became an issue as it was the same a three months wages. "However in Bombay I see young guys riding a bike and using an E90 as they want to seem a success as our phone is cheaper than a car and gives the same status!" he said he frustration.

When it comes to the network on which we use mobiles we are seeing some interesting developments with LTE some seven years out from what will be commercial launch. OFDM gives the best bang for buck in terms of bandwidth, the metropolitan wifi networks show that mesh networks using wifi are not going to work and so broadband wireless will be either WiMAX or LTE. Looking at the size of demand the legacy element makes LTE the standard for those that already own mobile assets. The support for LTE by Networks across the globe means that now we can start to ask ITU to move forward with setting the standards and building trails.

This year they move the content providers to their own hall which shows that more people are trying to get media onto mobiles. But before you expect to watch video and network in real life with those that you have shaken hands with on Facebook/Bebo/MySpace et al you have to realise that the GSMA stuck them in a Hall that was away from the main group of halls. If content was import it would have been given Hall 2 or 1 the handset guys are still the main bankers for the event as demonstrated by the amount of people in Hall 8. I am still not an advocate for mobile data because I always find the experience somewhat similar to watching HD TV on a black and white screen, i.e. a disappointment. For mobile data to work what you need to do is significantly improve the handset screens and the coverage of the mobile networks data networks. Until that happens then the key data activities on a handset will be text based communication be that SMS/E-Mail/IM dependent on the market. None of these usages should happen when you are moving at a speed, especially if you are supposed to be in control of an car.

The introduction of RFiD to handsets means that a number of new banking services could be launched in developed markets. Germany looks like it will be an interesting place to be at the end of the year with a number of trials following on from the Vodafone and the German Train service.

No comments: