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Monday, February 15, 2010

MWC / 3GSM - start of the week

I've got a pretty hectic schedule in Barcelona, but I'll try and put a few posts up as I go along.

First thing to notice is that the mobile-related advertising around the airport and city is still nowhere near the levels of a few years ago - the recession is obviously still hitting corporate marketing budgets quite hard. This is also reflected by the absence of some "big names" in terms of stands, notably Nokia, which has instead set up shop (more cheaply) around the corner in the ONCE building for meetings and demos.

OK, one churlish comment: while I'm grateful to the GSMA for finally sorting out analyst registration as well as press, they *still* have the ridiculous photo-ID policy on *every* entrance and exit to the Fira grounds. Yes, I know security is an issue, but so is privacy. Some sort of PIN code or other authentication is much preferable to having to carry my passport around & show it on demand. I guess that given the GSMA's reputation for trying to centrally-plan the mobile economy, it seems fitting that they have their Stalinist henchmen (and henchwomen) demanding to see your papers all the time.

One other amusement is that the Media Centre at the world's largest mobile conference has around 300 fixed LAN connections and PCs. There's WiFi as well, but they're obviously worried it'll be as flaky as usual at the Fira, while insane data roaming charges will prohibit the use of mobile broadband for most attendees. (Footnote: Barcelona is one of those cities where it's usually cheaper to use a taxi to navigate to your destination, rather than using Google Maps over roaming).

There's going to be a zillion press releases and other announcements over the next few days, I'll cherry-pick the ones that made me curious, or made me wince to comment on.

First up in the firing line is Critical Path, yet another purveyor of "social address books" and various other attempts to force social-networking into the phone without the use of a proper Facebook app. Amusingly, their survey (release not yet up on their web page) claims that "94% of consumers in emerging markets would like to be able to automatically update all of their contacts with new contact information" while also claiming that "Operators are ideally positioned to help ease these frustrations".

The disconnect here seems to be that new contact information is usually associated with churning - especially in the prepay-centric markets the survey focuses on. People buy whichever new SIM card offers the best package and then tell all their friends their new number when they can't/don't port it. I can't really see how that can easily be an operator play or enhance loyalty - unless you separate the service from the access.

Edit: I'm chasing a few themes here in Barcelona, notably femtocells, broadband offload & traffic management (about which this post seems to have had quite a lot of attention), connection management, mobile VoIP and HSPA+/LTE/WiMAX competition.

I'm also hoping to have another shot at my perennial punchbag, IMS RCS. The initiative has 96 hours to show committment from big names like Apple, Google, RIM and Skype, or else I'll have to find time to write a full obituary.

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