What to expect from Mobile World Congress 2013

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Summary

Ovum expects Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2013 to focus on solutions aimed at driving mobile operators’ service revenues. While the hype surrounding the transformational capabilities of LTE will reverberate around the exhibition halls, we are looking for a sense of reality and the acknowledgment that mobile operators are no longer the sole provider of communications services.

Ovum’s Smart-Vendor Scorecard rates vendors on the capabilities that we believe will separate the winners and losers. However, these same capabilities – device control, applications, content, and enablers for ID, communications, cloud, location, payments, and developer ecosystems – will also define operator success in future consumer markets. We will be looking out for the solutions that best put mobile operators in the race.

We expect M2M and vertical applications to take center stage at MWC 2013. The connected cars that dominated the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show will wend their way to Barcelona for MWC, mobile financial services will feature even more prominently than in 2012, and enterprise mobility will be more of a mainstream topic due to the continuing bring-your-own-device (BYOD) discussion.

Below, the Ovum analysts attending MWC 2013 give their view on what they expect to see at this year’s event.

The mobile ecosystem prepares itself for the Internet of Things

Jeremy Green, Telco Strategy & Pauline Trotter, Enterprise

Machine-to-machine communications (M2M) has been a theme of MWC for several years, with multiple showcases from vendors and operators. Increasingly, M2M is being repositioned as the Internet of Things (IoT) as the focus shifts to connecting smart objects to Internet applications. For many in the mobile industry, this is good news. Whereas M2M emphasized the business-to-business opportunity, which was conceptualized as vertical silos and niche markets, the IoT suggests a much larger opportunity with many more end points and spectacular growth rates. We expect that MWC 2013 will see a renewed interest in digital home services, urban infrastructure monitoring, connected car, and consumer electronics management, with operators presenting themselves as the essential partners for enterprises that want to deepen and extend their relationships with their customers. The size of the market – in terms of the number of connected devices and the breadth of use cases – is constantly being revised upwards.

However, the brave new world of IoT contains a threat as well as an opportunity. The Internet is an enabler of disruptive business models as much in the domain of smart objects as it is for communications and content. Therefore, many hardware manufacturers are looking to bypass service providers. This can occur in part, as in the case of products in which connectivity is delivered via the mobile network but the operator brand is invisible, or wholly, as in the case of connected home solutions that are provided on a pure over-the-top (OTT) model enabled by the smartphone app store ecosystem. This year may be the last throw of the dice for service providers in this space.

Small cells, Big Data, and a little LTE-A

Daryl Schoolar, Network Infrastructure

The wireless infrastructure discussion at MWC 2013 will be dominated by three topics: small cells, Big Data, and LTE Advanced (LTE-A). Small cells, both licensed and Wi-Fi, have had a significant presence at MWC over the last couple of years. Without a doubt, the small cell highlight of last year’s event was Alcatel-Lucent’s lightRadio cube network trial. This year, the number of trials should increase, as should the number of real commercial products.

Big Data in the form of network analytics and all that it drives in terms of policy enforcement and network optimization will get plenty of attention at this year’s event. Because of this, Ovum expects traditional IT companies to have a bigger presence at MWC 2013 than they have in previous years.

Finally, what network event wouldn’t be complete without network demonstrations? This year, we expect LTE-A demonstrations to replace the HSPA+ and LTE demonstrations that are now in commercial deployment. In fact, LTE-A demonstrations have already started, with Ericsson and SK Telecom announcing one at the end of January 2013.

The fight for the third ecosystem

Nick Dillon, Devices and Platforms

The larger device and platform vendors are increasingly setting their stalls away from MWC, with their announcements of new products and platform capabilities making news in their own right. This trend is reflective of the power shift in the industry, and these vendors make no secret of the fact that they don’t need MWC or the industry support that can be courted there.

As a result, we see MWC as an opportunity for smaller players to take center stage and promote their wares. These smaller players include Mozilla’s Firefox OS, Ubuntu for phones, Jolla’s Sailfish OS, and the recently launched BlackBerry 10. All of these vendors will be keen to sell the benefits of their approaches and offer operators an alternative to the increasingly dominant duopoly of Android and iOS. The “third ecosystem” is still up for grabs and 2013 looks set to be defined by the battle for this position, with these new entrants going head-to-head with Microsoft’s Windows Phone. For Ovum’s take on how this battle will play out, see the Mobile Phone and Smartphone Forecast: 2012–2017.

The telecoms industry needs smarter innovations

Emeka Obiodu, Telco Strategy

There will undoubtedly be numerous announcements at MWC 2013 that will be prefaced by the word “innovation”. While this remains a good thing, the pressures of a struggling global economy demands that the industry come up with smarter ways of serving customers profitably. However, too many innovations fail to live up to their billing. Whether it is from telcos themselves, the numerous vendors hoping to partner with telcos, or the OTT players that can afford to go it alone, we are keen to see and hear about innovations that are both technologically and economically noteworthy enough to stand out in our biannual Telco Services Innovation Radar.

Mobile payments providers need a reality check

Eden Zoller, Consumer

Mobile payments will again be a major theme at MWC 2013 and we expect mobile wallets in particular to come under scrutiny – and not just in the panel discussion that Ovum will be moderating on the subject. Mobile wallets stand at the intersection of payments, retail, and advertising, and the opportunities this presents is creating a lot of excitement. There is clearly a lot up for grabs and the last year has seen online players, network operators, financial institutions, and retailers battle for position. We expect to see efforts on this front intensify with new product announcements and partnerships. However, what we would like to see most of all is for mobile wallets to be given a serious sanity check. As we explained in the report Mobile Wallets Unwrapped, the excitement is also creating hype that is blinding many to the fact that mobile wallets are challenging propositions that are difficult to get right.

Operators bet service future on ubiquity and quality differentiation

Catherine Haslam, Wholesale

The loss of personal communications traffic and associated revenues to OTT players is a major concern for many operators. As a result, the vast majority of operators are now betting their futures on being able to differentiate their personal voice, messaging, and video services on the basis of quality and ubiquitous coverage. While these features are inherent in traditional voice, SMS, and MMS services, they are anything but in IP-based services.

Achieving national and international interconnection alone is far from trivial. Interworking is extremely complicated and the value of quality differentiation is yet to be proven, even if it can be established end-to-end. These are all subjects covered in our upcoming report on IPX. At MWC 2013, Ovum will be moderating the GSMA seminar “Rich Communications: can you afford not to Joyn” and looking for signs that industry bodies, wholesale carriers, operator groups, and innovative vendors are in a position to make serious headway in the next 12 months before their window of opportunity closes.

Understanding consumer behavior is the key to reigniting revenue growth in emerging markets

Angel Dobardziev, Customer Insights

Many emerging market operators’ revenue growth rates have fallen into the single digits, which has brought them in line with their mature market peers. The land grab for connections in emerging markets is coming to an end and competition is becoming more intense as customers grow accustomed to basic voice and data connectivity. As a result, emerging market operators must be more creative and customer focused as they attempt to reignite revenue growth.

At MWC 2013, Ovum expects that there will be a number of announcements related to next-generation mobile broadband networks and services, mobile money, mobile health, and content and apps. The increasing penetration of low-cost smartphones, more affordable mobile broadband services, and the growth of social networking is rapidly changing user behavior in emerging markets. In many cases, operator announcements will be positioned to ensure that they catch up with and monetize these changes, which is something that Ovum is facilitating with its expanded Customer Insights program.

Consumerization is maturing beyond BYOD to productivity improvement

Richard Absalom, Consumer Impact Technology

Consumerization is becoming an increasingly important issue for enterprises. In the mobility space, this involves CIOs attempting to address and embrace BYOD. The huge demand for mobility solutions that secure corporate data and improve productivity across multiple mobile platforms has led to considerable growth in the enterprise mobility management (EMM) space over the past two years. In line with the findings of our recent report Enterprise Mobility Management Solutions: The State of the Market, we expect to see further evidence of the evolution of the market at MWC 2013. All the major EMM vendors will be present and the space is hot enough that new players are still entering all the time. Among all the demonstrations and new product announcements, we expect that the focus will be on moving the conversation beyond mobile device management to improving productivity through mobile enterprise app deployment.

Managed mobility services

Pauline Trotter, Enterprise

Telecoms operators looking to position themselves higher on the enterprise value chain have long recognized the opportunity provided by managed mobility services for corporate customers. However, in practice, they have found that many of these customers have been unwilling or unable to take a centralized approach to mobility. Now, enterprise mobility really is at the top of the enterprise ICT agenda as organizations look to support increasingly virtual workforces and mobile becomes a primary channel for customer engagement. At MWC 2013, we expect to see the major operators present their managed mobility offers, much of which will have been built through partnerships with managed device management, mobile application management, telecom expense management, and other technology partners. It remains to be seen whether the telecoms players are the obvious choice of partner for enterprises looking to manage mobility, and we also expect to see strong propositions from systems integrators and vendors at this year’s event.

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