MWC2014: No consensus on innovation

Claude Achcar/Actel Consulting
Note: it is impossible for any one person to provide a comprehensive coverage on all that took place so this should be considered only as one person’s general observations. I will also try avoiding repeating what has already been written through the extensive coverage. 
 
  1. Futility of telco keynotes: I don’t know why I bother attending some of these as I rarely get away learning something new. Last year, Europe’s leading CEOs were all griping about their fate, the OTTs' unfair advantage, and calling for regulators’ help. This year, GSMA decided to invite emerging markets’ CEOs. They sounded more like spokespeople for the countries or regions where they operate touting economies, penetrations, events, etc. 
  2. What’s hot: Analytics, New Growth Services (to compensate lost revenue from voice/messaging/legacy services), Connected Everything, and anything Cloud and Virtual.
  3. There is still no consensus on innovation and taking on OTTs. Some are candid about it and I admired DT CEO’s honest and realistic assessment that his crew is top notch at building world class networks and infrastructure but that building advanced services to ride on this infra is not their specialty. Others do it faster and cheaper, so his company’s motto is “Win with partners”. On the other hand, SingTel CEO’s keynote emphasized how she thinks SingTel can still compete and win with digital services and “Digital L!fe”. DoCoMo’s CEO keeping with tradition touted the latest M2M services his company is working on such as t-shirts with fabric sensors for 24/7 monitoring of vital signs, pet monitoring, and yes even cow birthing…
  4. Facebook: a hot topic at this MWC due to Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote on the first day as well as WhatsApp’s Jan Koum’s – all coming on the heels of the recent whopping offer the former made for the latter. Zuckerberg had a rock star reception even though not all he and Koum said satisfied the community of telcos including internet.org (a joint initiative with GSMA to boot for connecting the “unconnected”) and adding voice to WhatsApp in just a matter of months.
  5. Gadgets: of course Apple does not participate (and why should they) but Samsung et al were there in force. Wearable devices including smart watches were big. 
  6. Connected cars: I liked Ford’s LiDAR (for light/laser and radar – or simply Light Detection and Ranging). This prototype car is able to map its surroundings and communicate with others and the world around. This type of innovation is said to lead to lower fuel consumption and accidents, hence insurance premiums.
  7. Next year, I will launch my pedometer app to keep tab on the number of kilometers I cover each and every day crisscrossing the eight halls.
  8. Overall, I have not encountered a single delegate or exhibitor who was unhappy with his/her participation at this congress so kudos to the GSMA for another fine event complete with rather smooth logistics. 
Claude Achcar is managing director of Actel Consulting. For more information, visit www.actelconsulting.com
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