Finally, mobile video calls (over the top)
The recent history of mobile is the history of missed opportunities. The next big thing will be the revival of an opportunity that went begging in 3G - mobile video calling.
What will make it happen will be the arrival of 4G, with even more bandwidth at lower cost, and Skype. Already 40% of Skype minutes are video - an extraordinary number for a service that mobile operators believed dead.
When 3G was widely introduced in 2004, cellcos heavily promoted mobile video because it was the only obvious differentiation with 2G. But it satisfied a need that didn't exist. Consumers spurned it and instead bought 3G for the lower prices.
Now millions of people talk with their families or collaborate with their colleagues over desktop broadband every day.
It's not a big step to do that on mobile. Of course, thanks to 3.5G, smartphone users are already watching their favorite TV programs or YouTube clips on the go.
For video calling, consumers will need friendly calling plans and reliable QoS. Step forward, Skype, which offers both of those under a familiar brand.
That's why Skype is keen to strike deals to integrate its app into operators' services. Operators - including Tier 1 players such as Verizon Wireless and KDDI - are happy to reciprocate because Skype users are actually heavy mobile customers.
Operators will be sure to dust off their video telephony marketing plans and join the battle. As well they might.
Cisco's authoritative Visual Networking Index (VNI) says mobile video of all kinds will account for most of the mobile data growth over the next four years, and by 2014 will comprise 66% of all mobile data traffic.
Research firm In-Stat predicts that the mobile video calling market will be worth $1 billion by 2015, growing at 115% CAGR. More than half of those calling minutes will be in Asia.
- Robert Clark