Frost & Sullivan Finds a More Positive Mobile World Congress in 2010

Feb 23, 2010, 07:00 ET from Frost & Sullivan

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Feb. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- This year's edition of the largest mobile communications trade show in the world, Mobile World Congress (MWC), which took place in Barcelona February 15-18, 2010, had a more positive tone compared to that of 2009.  Given the start of the economic recovery, there was an increased focus on such topics as the migration to the NGN, 4G/LTE, and innovation for applications, operating systems and the wireless ecosystem.  

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Ronald Gruia, Program Leader and Principal Analyst at Frost & Sullivan, covering Emerging Communications Solutions, summarizes some of the key themes from the show that will continue to unfold as the year progresses:

  • Fewer new handset models introduced: Nokia and RIM had none, Motorola had one and Apple was not even at the show; other vendors such as Sony Ericsson (Vivaz Pro, Xperia X10 Mini and Xperia X10 Mini Pro) and Samsung (Wave) introduced new models.
  • Increased focus on applications and their environment: Microsoft (Windows Phone 7), Nokia  (Symbian^3 and MeeGo) and Samsung (bada) introduced or announced new operating systems; RIM showcased new UI features and a new browser (Torch, to be available in 2H 2010); Android continues to gain more OS mindshare (Huawei, Motorola and other Android sets were introduced).
  • Mobile application fragmentation: The ongoing proliferation of various OS environments is an issue that was brought up by the BBC news organization at the show, as it struggles to reformat its apps for all different device types.
  • Data growth monetization more difficult: The introduction of flat rate, "all-you-can-eat" plans is making operators struggle as they attempt to reconcile the gap between traffic and revenue growth.
  • CAPEX shift from radio to core: Core (including backhaul and packet core infrastructure) investments will continue to grow, as will IT systems to manage the changes in telecom service dynamics brought by the data explosion.
  • Operators seeking a host of alternatives to manage traffic growth: Capacity upgrades (HSPA and LTE deployments), cellular offload (Wi-Fi and femtocells) and policy control (introduction of caps, toggling down of throughputs, off-peak versus on-peak usage) are all in use.
  • Ongoing pricing pressure: Chinese vendors (Huawei and ZTE) are fueling most of the price erosion, with equipment cost pricing falling dramatically (e.g. Telenor's 6 year LTE overlay contract of $200m is just 1.1 years of Telenor's current Norwegian CAPEX outlay).
  • Ecosystem changes: Operators recognized the need to achieve a higher level of cohesion in a fragmented marketplace and, led by the GSMA, a group of 24 carriers (including AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, Vodafone, China Mobile, China Unicom and Deutsche Telekom) formed an alliance (Wholesale Applications Community) to create an open industry platform.  However, the presence of some fiercely competing operators within the alliance and the less than stellar results of other similar initiatives in the past cast some doubt on this effort.
  • The advent of RCS: Another GSMA-led initiative, the Rich Communication Suite actually has a better shot of panning out, with various activities being undertaken as part of this effort, including a trial in France involving the country's three mobile operators (Orange, SFR and Bouygues).

In summary, this year's MWC was a more optimistic one, given the fact that global recession is less of a worry and that the industry continues to firmly march on its path towards the NGN.  More importantly, the show also offered many interesting insights into the future, with innovation being shown in areas such as Ultra Low Cost Handsets (with the introduction of a $15 phone to be offered by Vodafone in some emerging markets and powered by Mediatek – that is $15 unsubsidized), augmented reality (Comverse's "Social Augmented Reality" demonstration was one example) and interfaces (NTT DoCoMo demonstrated an eye-controlled headset that can control a handset with the movement of a user's eyeballs).  

For more information about Frost & Sullivan's Information & Communication Technologies practice, please contact Jake Wengroff, 210-247-3806, jake.wengroff@frost.com.

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