Welcome to Connectivity World Congress…?

Posted on March 5, 2015

Someone visiting this show for the first time, with no preconceived ideas, might well find themselves wondering why it’s still called “Mobile World Congress”. Such a variety of industries, applications and activities are on display here in Barcelona that the overarching theme is open to interpretation. MWC has had several identity changes as it has evolved over the years. Back in the 90’s it was known as GSM World Congress, reflecting a strict technology alignment. With the arrival of UMTS it became 3GSM World Congress in 2001. And six years later, as mobile operators worldwide signalled their intent to converge on a single cellular standard for 4G, it was given the name we still use. These changes follow a narrative of expansion and inclusivity. UMTS brought with it brand new operators with no 2G legacy, hence the subtle but important addition of that ‘3’. The end of a far more significant industry era was reflected in the next change, as the sometimes bitterly opposed GSM and CDMA camps laid down their arms on the common ground of LTE. With each new technology came more options and more operators. In 2015 it feels like the time is right for another change….

Connectivity First: An Operator Census

Posted on March 4, 2015

Mobile operators are not alone in providing wireless connectivity. And as end users’ connectivity options become more diverse, mobile operators must seek out new ways to keep themselves relevant. Mobile World Congress is where the mobile operator community convenes to search its soul. To collectively address the big existential questions: What are we? What are we going to be? In the good old days, when competition existed only within the community itself, imagination was the sole constraint on discussions. In 2015, a new reality has entered the building. You can answer those big questions in many ways. A mobile operator is at once a legally obligated licensee, engineering organization, retailer, distribution channel, billing engine, customer service operation, brand, wholesale dealer, and more. Many have wider aspirations, their sights set on advertising revenues or the Internet of Things. Ask a typical end user, though, and they’ll probably get right to the nub of it, telling you a mobile operator is a company they pay for wireless connectivity. So, how does the operator landscape look today? GSMA counts almost 800 mobile operator members, which shakes out at roughly one operator to every ten million people on the planet. It seems like a…

Connectivity First: Mapping The Landscape

Posted on March 3, 2015

The connectivity landscape is complex and crowded, with huge variation between indoor and outdoor locations. As a real-world walk-through shows, end users need help to navigate their way through it. How do you paint the Connectivity Landscape? For decades mobile operators have relied on coverage maps, which necessarily simplify a complex reality into an easily digestible picture, presented as evidence of available connectivity. Their usage has been sustained by the rollout of every new generation of network technology, with islands of 3G superimposed on saturated 2G maps, and the process repeated with the introduction of LTE. Unfortunately, from day one, these maps aggravated those end users whose experience of connectivity contradicted the pictures they’d been given. Intended to market network strengths, coverage maps simultaneously exposed network weaknesses. The biggest problem with these maps, of course, is that they ignore an entire dimension of the user’s real world. The connectivity landscape they depict is flat and featureless. In life, that landscape is crammed with buildings that create havoc for smartphone users, and the mobile operators trying to keep them connected. These maps hide literally millions of uncomfortable truths beneath their blanket cellular coverage. Provision of indoor coverage is the most daunting…

Connectivity First: Think Like a Smartphone User

Posted on March 2, 2015

Smartphone users just want to get connected. The mobile operator community needs to think more like its customers and think about connectivity first, and technology second.