At the close of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, I took some time away from the show floor to recap some of the key mobile industry trends, developments and themes that have emerged at this year’s show.



Last year’s Mobile World Congress was greeted with cautious optimism that has since been replaced by real enthusiasm within an industry that continues to explore its potential

In preparing for this year’s Mobile World Congress I’ve been taking a look at the trends and insights that emerged from last year’s congress and seeing how far the mobile industry has come since then.

Edelman’s Kevin Bossi noted that last year’s event was approached with a kind of cautious optimism that was understandable after a year in 2009 that showed growth in mobile data services but financial instability around the world.

In 2011, this cautious optimism has given way to real excitement around a mobile market that is continually pushing its boundaries and seen as a driver for social and economic development. As ever the scope of the industry continues to grow and this offers up opportunities at the same time raising questions about how businesses define themselves.

The trends and themes from last year’s Mobile World Congress point to an industry that is reaching deeper into the lives of consumers while still exploring how far existing and new technologies can be pushed.

New Enthusiasm, Old Challenges

There has been excitement around new developments in devices with tablet computing taking hold in the market and new networking technologies like LTE hopefully solving mobile data challenges. Apps and gaming have also shown that the opportunities within the mobile market are still vast and not always easy to predict.

From looking at these innovations and the trends from MWC10, the question of the operators’ role in the mobile ecosystem is still one that has yet to be answered. It isn’t an easy question and one that is becoming even more difficult to answer. Pricing, bundled services and increased penetration won’t be generating buzz in the exhibition hall but they are all very real for operators as they try to convert network traffic into revenue gains. Operators have an uncertain future as they watch a vibrant market and seek to carve out a leadership role in it.

What is certain is that the mobile industry as a whole is being seen as a force for good. Mobile Money services are expanding as operators partner across verticals, mHealth is bringing efficiency to healthcare while the increased depth of wireless networking and affordable handsets bring more people online. While the buzz amongst technology journalists has been about the role of mobile phone and social networking in uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, they are already being used in the democratic process in Africa particularly in Uganda as well as regions across the continent.

Lessons to Learn

Emerging markets aren’t just taking advantage of new services as we saw at MWC10. Some of the largest brand presence at the event were from vendors and operators from outside of Europe and North America. Expect to see Huawei , ZTE, HTC on the hardware side and China Telecom, Bharti Airtel and Turkcell to be well represented again this year. Revelations about the Chinese government’s aid to its equipment vendor was not surprising and will not slow these companies down as they continue to take market share from Western mainstays in the equipment market.

What will be exciting is to see what lesson both operators and manufactures from emerging markets have to teach the industry about new services and what they see sustaining growth in the future. Players in emerging market will have some distinct lessons to share and it plays into an overall theme of this year’s congress. While technology is certainly at the core of the mobile industry, meeting the unique needs of different markets, communities and ultimately consumers is its goal.

A User-Centric Congress

Since last year’s congress there has been an increasing shift toward the user with a stronger emphasis on how people are using new technologies not just the technologies themselves. Consumers are more frequently asking themselves, “What can this technology do for me? What need does it meet and how does it improve the way I’m living my life?”

The tablet computing market has shown just how important it is to explain the usage scenarios of a device, not just the device capabilities. That is at least for competitors to the iPad that need a strong rational for why their device is superior and best meets the needs of the consumer.

Nowhere is the user more important than in the app market. MWC10 was awash with talk about apps ranging from mHealth to social media and what will be the next Angry Birds. The proliferation of apps and smartphones have allowed for greater levels of customization and allowed devices to offer suites services that can define a user’s experience.

More than ever it feels like the consumer is able to shape the future of the market and we’ll see this theme play out along side announcements around tablet computing, near field communications, LTE and gaming. All facets of the mobile industry from devices, the network and apps are all showing us something new and hopefully we’ll see a few surprises at this year’s event.



Last week, an all too familiar story: Marisa, from the Barcelona office, had her husband come home from work with lousy news.  Due to an out of town workshop (on a Saturday!!) she would have to reschedule a well-planned dinner at St. Pau located seaside near Barcelona.  Normally Marisa is pretty flexible with these things but this was special – in 2008 St. Pau was awarded three Michelin Stars!

So, as Valentine´s Day approaches we wondered how many people are facing similar situations and how they plan to compensate their loved ones for their absence, especially those attending the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona from the 14-18 of February. Over 50,000 delegates and visitors are anticipated to attend this year’s conference and exhibition, which means many postponed celebrations and cancelled dinners – although hopefully not at three Michelin Star restaurants.

To keep with the technology themed Mobile World Congress we sent out a survey to find out just how people would use technology to compensate their loved ones in the event of their absence on Valentine´s Day. 

It turns out that women more often turn to one-to-one communications and men prefer to ‘broadcast’ their affections.  According to the survey, 59% more women than men would use Skype with video service or equivalent to call their partner and  67% more women than men would send a personal video message via email while out of town.  Male respondents to the survey invariably preferred the one-to-many approach with 70% more men than women proposing to dedicate a Twitter post to their other half.

The survey also produced some interesting country differences, with Spanish respondents demonstrating the highest levels of ingenuity with the use of newer technology; 50% of Spanish respondents would probably or certainly use Skype with video or equivalent to communicate their sentiments if absent on Saint Valentine’s Day compared to a global average of 29%, while over a third of Spaniards would send a personalised video from their mobile phone (compared to a global average of just 13%). 

The least romantic nation in technology terms is Ireland!  According to the survey, 67% of Irish respondents wouldn’t even send a text message to their partner if absent during Saint Valentine’s Day, against a global average of 42%.

It is clear that technology is embedded in our lives and according to our survey can play a key role in keeping your significant other satisfied in the event of an absence.  So, do you think that texting isn’t very romantic, but it is the thought that counts?  Have you or your significant other ever used technology in a creative way to show how much you care?  How would you use technology to communicate your absence on Valentine’s Day?

GSMA causes confusion with a strange choice of taxis at Congress 2010

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated” or so said Mark Twain, once upon a time in a country far far away. Isn’t it great how a little bit of information (or misinformation) can have such a profound effect on the way the world is viewed?

Do you remember where you were when you heard that Nokia were not exhibiting at the Mobile World Congress 2010? Followed by the collective gasps of horror, the ‘tsks’ and ‘tuttings’ and inevitable barrage of rhetorical questions. Was this the end of the show as we knew it?  Would the congress go the way of the likes of Comdex etc?  Did anybody care?

Well no, I don’t think they did. Why?  Because the mobile industry has grown up. They are no longer the ‘kids in hoodies’ hassling the big fixed line communication providers as they try to hang onto shrinking marketplaces and margins.

The mobile boys dumped their ‘L’Enfant terrible’ image years ago and they are ready to do business with the new masters of the mobile world; the companies that offer the holy grail of the mobile marketplace:  “Content Monetization” … if you are allowed to utter such an awful phrase.

Those new masters are the media companies. Disney, Google, News International, Electronic Arts, Sony Pictures etc; the list goes on. As does their list of premium interactive content which we, the viewing, button bashing public, just can’t get enough of.

So what if Nokia hasn’t spent millions of Euros building a booth?  No doubt they will have several hundred of their elite Finnish shock troopers going into battle all over the Fira and up and down “Las Ramblas” doing deals, pressing flesh and generally making their presence felt.

I wouldn’t bet my house on whether the Congress is going to be around forever but in my opinion as long as the operators want to keep selling airtime and m-commerce services, handset manufacturers want to shift volume and the whole world wants to watch the “The Simpsons” on the move Mobile World Congress ain’t going nowhere.


NEWS JUST IN: Nokia Microsite went live today announcing the rumoured presence in Barcelona.  Still – you get our point about Disney and stuff.

Almost 60,000 attendees, 2500 media and a press office the size of half a football pitch…just how do you get your message across at the now (in)famous Mobile World Congress held every February in Barcelona?

Well its simple isn’t it:

You use a large PR machine that throws enormous amounts of time, resource and money at the challenge. You only start talking to your audiences five days before the event and are mystified why they are too busy to talk back to you.

You fire a shotgun of (sometimes irrelevant) information at the over worked, over tired, mostly non-mobile savvy and almost certainly hungover journos in the vain hope some of it might stick. It’s the media relations campaign with the turning circle of an oil tanker.

And guess what? It happens every year without fail; Armies of PRs dotted all over the outer limits of Barcelona in, let’s say, somewhat questionable accommodation (amazing considering they booked it in January!!!) living on bottled water, bread, cured meats and Cava.

Here are our tips to consider at this stage in your congress preparation …

1. Rebook your hotel for the next year as you leave the hotel on the Saturday.
2. Hire a private driver for the entire congress which is much cheaper than taxis in the long run… and there is a good chance that the driver will actually be there.
3. Have people on the ground that speak Spanish and liaise directly with the local council and suppliers
4. It’s a great help to work with people who have been attending congress since mobile phones came in any colour as long as its black and the future was very very bright

We’d welcome your thoughts on MWC preparations and horror stories from years gone by……..