Back from Barcelona Mobile World Congress

I am just back in KL, after an interesting week in Barcelona. Apart from customer dinners and meeting old friends, the Congress reflected the opportunities and concerns of a changing industry, where Telcos fight to retain value, Telecom Vendors bring innovations to help Telcos, and new Media and Internet companies enter the Mobile space.

Apart from iPhone, Android and other Mobile OS talks, the most spoken topics around wireless technology were:

-Many announcements and discussions about LTE, as the one of Alcatel-Lucent and NEC joining forces to bring 4G faster to the market. Speculation that some emerging markets might go from 2.5G to LTE, skipping 3G/UMTS.

- Intel kept reinforcing their support for WiMAX on the CPE, as new telecom vendors contracts were announced

- Mobile Advertisement, with companies as Alcatel-Lucent showing video ad insertion , and other as Yahoo positioning for agreements with operators for mobile advertisement in the search and WAP area. See our previous post on the matter.

But the two topics that will have the biggest impact in 2008 are : Femto Cells and Mobile TV

Femto cells are IP based BSR (Node-B and RNC in one box) that provide indoor 3G/UMTS at home backhauled through broadband (ADSL, fiber, etc). Femto will be used by 3G telcos to sell to the user a better indoor coverage for both voice, data and high quality video. More interestingly, Femto will enable straight-forward HomeZone charging with lower rates: e.g. unlimited data flat rates at home, as no radio resource is shared, will make 3G data plans more appealing, even replacing Wifi. Femto will also allow Mobile telcos to bundle their offering with broadband ADSL or similar. And furthermore, once a telco has a Femto cell at the end-user home, the telco can easily handle the complete family communications budget, including broadband, all the 3G mobiles at home, and all 3G data-enabled laptops of the family, all in the same bill.

Mobile TV is getting more and more traction with Mobile Operators, specially those who already have a sister company managing content rights. The model forward is to offer an easy-to-use Rich Media Client to handle both broadcast channels (via DVB-H or DVB-SH), as well as unicast channels for VoD, Catch-up-TV, or other pre-recorded channels. The Telco needs to work as a broadcaster, making sure content is updated, and channels are conveniently packaged. Mobile operators will face competition from Internet sites, such as YouTube, already offering the service on the mobile, but with proper exclusivity agreements for premium content, operators can relegate YouTube to be a complementary service for user-generated free content.