Tag: Mobile World Congress

Ralf HallerRalf Haller February 21, 2010

Is Europe becoming the “flyover states” in ICT?

This question is something I have been asking myself for quite a while, and a recent article in The Guardian writing from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona reminded me of my own thoughts. Author Rick Wray said:

“Europe has become the ‘flyover states’ of the mobile industry,” says a ­senior European executive, referring to the disparaging term used to describe middle America by high-powered business travellers shuttling between California and New York.

“All the service innovation is being done on the west coast of the US, and all the manufacturing and technical innovation is being done in the Far East. All we’re doing is selling other people’s products.”

Quite frankly, it is not even a flyover state anymore since the traffic goes from the US west coast westwards to Asia. No need to fly across Europe. Rick Wray’s article is worth reading and I concur with his views but would like to add a bit more depth to it and look at some of the reasons, as well as what could be done.

The key reason is that IT, Internet and software innovations, a domain of the US for a long time now, is becoming the ruling power in the mobile landscape. The pure infrastructure business has been targeted by the Chinese government for more than 10 years now, supporting first Huawei and then ZTE, among a few others not yet widely known outside of China such as Datang. These companies profit heavily from government support and the enormous market growth in China, but are now also entering international markets everywhere.

Entirely busy with fighting these Chinese vendors, European infrastructure vendors focused on keeping their customers – the mobile operators – happy by providing more and more services to them (up to outsourcing the whole operation) but ignored the most powerful force, the end users. And that is what Google and Apple are after, the masses of end users, who will in the end decide what is successful. Some of the players have already dropped the ball, such as Siemens, first selling off its mobile phone business and then getting rid of its infrastructure business as well by forming a NOKIA-led joint venture. Now it seems they are trying to become a Chinese-style company shutting down one location after the other. But while cost cutting is inevitable for them, the real thing they should be doing is focusing on cloud computing, and getting extensively into innovative mobile service offerings that they then run for the operators.

They have one advantage that they could play nicely and that is the good long-term relationships with the mobile operators, who are facing similar pressures from the same US companies. The operators also own the networks – hundreds of billions $ worth of assets – and the clients using them. Something a company like Google would love to own, and use to augment their service offering. One note here: Google has the backend infrastructure already (data centers) but not the access networks – yet (for background info on Google’s latest FTTH project read here). I think there is also one other asset that I would play out: Google is seen as a threat by governments and increasingly individuals who simply don’t trust them. Operators – with their local ties to end users might have had customer support issues here and there, but at the least no-one thinks of them as a privacy threat; so this trust base could be used offering cloud computing services.

Mobile operators and the infrastructure vendors need to explore new business models and they also need to find a way to handle advertisements. The biggest threat I see for them though is the speed with which this transformation is happening. And speed has not been something they have been able to handle so far, mostly because their management do not understand the new challenges, threats and opportunities and what to do about them. Most importantly, they need to hire people for these positions who understand the IT and internet business and are not simply large company operational experts.

Now the world is growing together and even if the US president says in his speeches that America has to lead, I think big companies should not be seen as US-, Europe- or Asia-based organizations but as worldwide operating companies since none can survive by only serving parts of the world.

Ralf HallerRalf Haller February 21, 2009

Impressions from Mobile World Congress 2009

As to be expected there were quite a lot fewer visitors attending the MWC 2009 in Barcelona. The – surprisingly – positive about it was that the organizer had to cut things that were quite redundant anyway:

  • no more hall entrance checkers equipped with scanners that were quite annoying because they delayed entrance to each hall
  • no more congress daily news magazines; during times where things move online it made no sense to print tens of thousands of daily news magazines that mostly landed in the dustbin anyway
  • no more free subway tickets for exhibitors (this one I thought was wrong as public transport usage should be encouraged)

The show itself did not have many new things, some of the ones that we saw (we also made a few short interview videos about them) are:

  • Nokia was showing its new music store that offers free songs for one year and a more local song collection, its maps solution looks very strong and its Ovi platform, where all is coming together and being synchronized is at the core of it all, overall Nokia seems to be best positioned to fight off Apple
  • Samsung was showing OLED equipped touch screen smart phones and also a new widget store with about 50 applications so far, it got still obvious that they will have a steep learning curve ahead from being an excellent electronics manufacturer with the slimmest and lightest phones to a vendor who can offer a total solution and user experience with applications as well
  • HTC’s Android phone looked quite boring compared with what Nokia and Samsung were showing, the public domain community so far has not delivered what one might have expected, but maybe that is still coming
  • LG was showing an interesting netbook with two OSs pre-installed, one button launched within eight seconds a Linux OS with some basic software apps and another one lead into Windows OS, nice idea, also the wireless 3G connectivity was built-in
  • LG also show cased its LTE chipset with base stations from Alcatel-Lucent and Nortel and claimed that they had implemented most of the Dec. 2008 standard features, also LG had the by far best interactive terminals with touch sensitive displays, what I was missing though were some competent people standing by and explaining the use, Nokia is doing this one the by far best having product managers at each demo
  • T-Mobile was showing a very nice LTE demo (details in the video), surprisingly they only plan to launch LTE in 2011/12, reasons mentioned made little sense though (no terminals available until then)
  • On the 4G front LTE seems to have won the “battle” now as more and more operators announce that they will go with LTE rather than WiMAX. Motorola had some girls standing at the entrance area with a sign around their neck saying “WiMAX: 4G NOW!” While the message is correct, I felt sorry for the girls as they looked quite lonely and a bit ridiculous in light of the market reality. But of course they were simply paid to do that and did not care or even understand what the sign was saying
  • Huawei had this time a huge area on their own. It reflects how much money they make in China but I think it is a totally wrong thing to do for them as they separate themself with that even more and I had the impression that not many people found their way to their facility. In contrast to T-Mobile’s pavilion who once again sponsored free Wifi access, drinks and snacks plus did some very well prepared demos such as the LTE one.

Why this event still does not offer free Wifi access across the exhibition area is beyond me and does not reflect well in my opinion on the organizers. Money is clearly saved on the wrong end here. But maybe someone reads these lines this year and makes some smart move next year. We will see.

Ralf HallerRalf Haller February 6, 2009

Has GSMA got something against Apple’s iPhone?

Today I received an e-mail from the GSMA Mobile World Congress organization team with information on the soon-to-start event in Barcelona (Feb. 16-19). Included was an offer for a mobile event guide that you can download to your mobile phone. As it turns out, it works for 260 mobiles incl. the Blackberry, but not the iPhone. Quite strange, in light of the iPhone being the biggest success of any product introduction in the mobile communication history (and not only there). I will check and try to find out if there are any other reasons than what I speculate in the above heading.


Make the most of the Mobile World Congress 2009 by downloading the official Event Guide for mobile devices. The guide, sponsored by Tellabs and powered by Velti, allows you to find an exhibitor, locate facilities and services, view the Congress agenda, locate halls, zones and registration areas. The guide works on a variety of handsets* and is stored as an application on your device. To download the official Mobile Event Guide simply text GUIDE to +44 7786 201 765.

*The guide is compatible with over 260 devices including BlackBerry. It is not available for the iPhone. The guide can be deleted from your mobile after the event.