Gone are the days when you could predict – with a fair degree of confidence – what the top two or three trends were going to be at Mobile World Congress.
The event has morphed into such a broad-based, back-slapping TMT jamboree – albeit one in which telecom, and mobile telecom in particular, has a somewhat exalted presence – that everyone attending will return home with a different list of highlights based on the meetings they set up, the stands they visited, and the conference sessions they attended.
Nevertheless, using the event to better understand current thinking around how to best address specific opportunities and challenges is certainly achievable. And this is precisely what Ovum’s 14-strong analyst team will be doing in Barcelona later this month.
Here are five themes we’ll be exploring at this year’s MWC.
Whether telecom operators like it or not, they have become video distribution networks. But can they be smart video pipes rather than dumb ones? Operators are pursuing a number of strategies, from acquiring or producing their own content to developing B2B propositions for broadcasters and OTT video providers.
Rather than having content providers go over the top, building intelligence and storage capabilities to run on telecom networks, operators want to develop this capacity themselves and resell it to media firms.
Ad technology will have more prominence at MWC this year than previously. We will be looking for examples of mobile video ad technology that integrates well with TV and online ad infrastructure. From an operator perspective, Verizon’s acquisition of AOL and its launch of an ad-funded mobile video service have brought some renewed belief within the operator community in ad-funded business models.
We can expect to see new partnerships between OTT video providers and mobile operators at MWC despite the furore in the US about the legality of operators zero-rating video content.
The vanishing SIM card
The GSMA, the trade body that owns Mobile World Congress, is working with mobile operators and SIM card vendors to finalize specifications for the launch of an e-SIM. This has been designed specifically for the Internet of Things (IoT) in an effort to make it easier for device vendors to distribute, activate, and manage their connected devices. Rather than buying SIM cards for each individual country in which the device will be sold – or tolerating high roaming fees – the e-SIM allows the vendor to ship its devices anywhere in the world and connect to the local network (and pay local wholesale prices).
But operators are concerned that if the e-SIM makes its way into the smartphone, it could disrupt the operator business, and more specifically the roaming market.
The development of the e-SIM, and the commitment to developing low-powered IoT networks, is giving mobile operators renewed confidence that they can dominate and add value to IoT connectivity. This will be a major theme on the exhibition floor. But behind closed doors discussions will focus more on whether the operator community can restrict the e-SIM to secondary (IoT) devices.