Research Notes

GSM World Congress 2003 – – looking back at 5 exciting days

John Strand,
CEO Strand Consult
Every year when I return from an exciting week in Cannes, I sit down and look back at the many impressions imprinted in my mind from the many meetings, presentations, conferences and lots of networking with colleagues in the mobile business.

After last years conference I was pretty sure that we would see a market moving towards data services and at this years conference the mobile operators, terminal manufactures, technology companies and the the content and service providers have shown all of us and the worlds press, that the mobile world is now ready for data services.

Nokia contributed with a wide range of terminals based on their Series 60 platform, giving us a variety of next generations colour terminals with an intelligent operating system. Nokia’s Series 60 platform has been licensed to a number of other terminal manufactures, to ensure better compatibility between different makes of mobile phones. Siemens announced their new “guitar design” SX1 smart phone – also based on Series 60 – and received the attention an innovative terminal like this deserves. Ericsson presented their first 3G UMTS mobile phone – the Z1010 – also a product showing the path towards the handsets of the future.

Microsoft had a number of announcements in Cannes, of which we think one of the most important was the cooperation with Intel. It will be interesting to see whether Microsoft can deliver on the promise of bringing the development time for a new mobile phone down to around 6 months using the new platforms available to those players on the mobile market that would like their own brand of mobile phone.

This GSM World Congress might be remembered as the one where Microsoft and
Symbian tested each others strengths as they prepared for battle. But looking back I wonder whether the two players are not more in the process of expanding the market for smartphones. Historically, is has usually taken two players in any business area to create a new product category – one player alone will often not make it. By entering the market for mobile terminals I believe that Microsoft are helping smart phones a category of mobile terminal that has enormous potential – combining the best features from the somewhat larger PDA’s in a smaller, more handy device. Not all mobile users will want a smart phone, but there is no doubt that smart phones will help accelerate the uptake of the next generation of mobile phones, helping showing mobile users the leap forward that mobile terminals are taking.

A lot of work is going on behind the scenes, as the technology companies continually announce new faster and smaller technology inside the mobile phones. Stacking chips on top of each other, integrating different chips into a single chip and optimising power consumption are just some of the developments allowing for very powerful, versatile and ever more compact mobile devices.

More and more content providers and service creators are jumping on the mobile wagon, creating results that were unheard of just a few years ago. With the new possibilities on the colour mobile phones with MMS, Java and GPRS, the content possibilities are multiplying by a huge factor compared to what we have seen so far on SMS – and the new services and games are looking really good on the new terminals. It is almost like going from radio directly to colour wide screen TV’s – jumping over the generation of black and white TV’s.

While there still is quite a difference in how various mobile operators are handling this transition to a data-centric mobile world, with their different strategies and rollout of infrastructure, in general the mobile operators are all preparing for a mobile market where data traffic will be part of our everyday lives. The revenues generated from Premium SMS have proved that the mobile users want more out of their mobile phones – and are willing to pay for it – and the new revenue sharing models that are starting to appear, show willingness and a better understanding from the mobile operators for this new market.

Last year, premium mobile services generated 1.2 billion Euro in Europe.
In our report “How to make money on mobile services”   

we have broken down that figure into all the different types of services in each country, looking at how much the mobile operators made and how much they shared with the content owners and service providers. Out of the 1.2 billion Euro, 740 million went directly to the content owners and services providers and our estimates in the report for the coming years show a healthy revenue growth as the new mobile terminals and data technologies hit the markets.

Almost everything is in place for a much more healthy mobile market and the things that are not in place have been identified and are being solved. In my mind, the question is not how we try to get different shares out of the cake, but rather how we can grow the cake. It will be very interesting to see the next 12 months results at next years GSM World conference.
Strand Consult 3GSM website

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