Event Report: Mobile World Congress 2010

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Mobile Devices

Mobile Platforms

Applications and Services

Mobile Network Operators


Mobile Infrastructure

Event Report: Mobile World Congress 2010


This year's Mobile World Congress took place in Barcelona from 15 to 18 February 2010. The GSM Association claimed the event was attended by about 49,000 delegates, and the exhibition space was filled with 1,300 companies.

The excitement and trepidation at the show were palpable. Having talked about mobile data services for over a decade, the industry could justifiably declare that this new era had arrived. The meeting of the traditional telecoms world with the Internet was evident and the most obvious demonstration of this was the keynote speech from Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt. This proved to be one of the major talking points of the event.

Mr Schmidt reiterated CCS Insight's long-held belief that a "mash-up" of telecoms, the Web, applications, services and content would change the mobile landscape forever. He signalled that his company, Google, was being reshaped around a "mobile first" philosophy.

In our view, there were tremors at Mobile World Congress 2010 that signal an impending earthquake which will see the industry turned on its head. Such a scenario presents both tremendous opportunities and significant challenges. Demand is outstripping supply. Network operators are no longer worrying about when users will start using mobile data services — they are now buckling under the demand. This set the stage for heated debate about how networks manage and charge for this demand, and accelerated discussions about next-generation technologies such as HSPA+ and LTE.

The challenge has been compounded by the explosion of increasingly capable "smart" devices, which now cost less than €120. Foremost among these in Barcelona were products using the Android operating system, of which we counted at least 50.

As we enter the age of the application there is a land-grab underway to secure control of these valuable commodities, currently synonymous with Apple and its iPhone. Mobile application developers, after years of being ignored, are the new cellular royalty. Over 6,000 developers were offered free entry into Mobile World Congress to attend the much-vaunted but disappointing App Planet.

Mobile network operators have responded in two ways to this new world: offensively, with moves like Vodafone 360, and defensively, with initiatives such as the Wholesale Applications Community, which was announced at the show. We believe we are entering a period of turbulent relationships as a new market equilibrium is established.

Despite the decision by Nokia and LG to give up their stands in Hall 8, the declared numbers for the event were reported to be at record levels. This impressive footfall underlines the vibrancy of the mobile sector at a time when other industries, such as automotive, are in crisis. However, it's clear the profile of the event has changed and the majority of visitors are attending for one or two days rather than all four.

The GSM Association must safeguard this jewel in the mobile crown. As the mobile industry moves closer to broad consumer electronics, budgets could migrate to other shows such as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), and the absence of Apple, Google and most recently Nokia from the show floor is notable. Organisers must be careful to balance revenue goals for the show against inclusion of the companies that will define this sector's future.

More pictures from Mobile World Congress 2010 can be found at www.flickr.com/photos/ccsinsight/