Mobile World Congress 2013 – a Preview by Strand Consult
|At the 2013 Mobile World Congress many will talk about dreams of the mobile industry but few will dare to talk about the nightmares which challenge operators every day.
|Tomorrow begins the mobile industry’s annual event where another record number of mobile industry professionals take to Barcelona to meet, talk, listen, and learn. Strand Consult annually attends the Mobile World Congress (MWC), which over the last 20 years has grown from a backwater event in Cannes to a global gathering that few in the mobile industry could imagine living without. Just as the conference has grown, so has the mobile industry’s dreams for the future.
The MWC is a combination of Hollywood’s Academy Awards and a classic tradeshow similar to the automotive industry. One goes to see and be seen as well as to experience products, visions and dreams. MWC is one of the world’s most impressive trade shows and probably the trade show that attracts the most top people from any industry as measured over a week.
The mobile industry is an industry that loves to dream. In the old days you got what you dreamed about: growth was faster than expected; cash flow and profit margin were positive and increasing. Indeed the mobile industry was an industry where dreams came true. But in the world of dreams, there are good dreams and bad dreams.
Now the the mobile industry has entered the realm of bad dreams, and the everyday reality of a mobile operator is a nightmare. This year’s conference program is similar to the those of the last two years. In other years, there were new business opportunities that the GSMA could hype up, but not this year. It’s like the industry is a surfer waiting for the next wave, but it doesn’t come. Instead the surfer has the nightmare of facing the sharks in the water. Some of the biggest players are struggling to survive, and thousands of employees are losing their jobs every month.
The GSMA always assembles good speakers, but it would be great some of the more controversial topics were featured. When so many top executives are gathered for a week, there should be more opportunities to discuss the “nightmares”.
Consider the World Economic Forum in Davos. They are not afraid to discuss the nightmares: the threat of North Korea, shadow banking, volatility in natural resource markets, and leaders who are so risk-averse that they can take decisive action. Thinking of risk-averse leaders reminds us of Steven Elop two years ago at MWC and his burning platform. It took him a year to announce an alternative to Symbian. Attendees to MWC often don’t get the answers to their questions.
The Mobile World Congress is such an important event and participants desire a sharper program where the critical questions and challenges are addressed. Here are our suggestions for topics:
1. A keynote session with the largest institutional investors who will talk about their views on the industry: Will they continue to invest? Why or why not?
2. Is the dumb pipe future inevitable? The mobile industry is about to merge with the internet industry and the big question is whether mobile operators will become dumb pipes or whether they can be smart pipes that add value to those that develop, market and sell services. We believe that the industry has options. The big question is just whether the leaders have the skills to execute.
3. A flat rate future? Let’s face it. Products such as voice, SMS and MMS will be sold for flat-rate prices. The main differentiators are the traffic and quality. What happened in France with Free is spreading to other countries. This illustrates the way the industry is moving.
In our predictions for 2013, we describe how the mobile industry evolve in 2013 and the operators’ challenges. These would also make good topics for MWC. In any case MWC is still and important event and worth attending. There are many interesting topics and people. There is no other place and time when one can learn so much.
Of the 1500 exhibitors, the presence of innovative small players is particularly important, and this is an area which has expanded. Not only are there more exhibitors than in the past, there are more stands with technology. Innovation is often more likely among the smaller players than the larger ones.
Every year Strand Consult makes a pre-conference overview on MWC as well as a post-conference review. You can read our reviews from the past nine years here.