Marketing what’s next? – A preview & quick guide to the MWC 2014

MWC2014We are just a few weeks away from the biggest mobile event in the telecom’s industry, the Mobile World Congress 2014 in Barcelona, Spain, an event that typically measures the technologies and trends we will see during the rest of the year in the telecommunications’ world. What a better way of starting this year’s posts on The Madrid Telecom’s Blog, than providing a quick summary of the things you should know about the event and some predictions on the topics to discuss.

The show evolution

The “Mobile World Congress” (MWC) is a well-known show hosted by the GSM Association (GSMA) since 1995, originally done in Madrid in fact but moved to Cannes on 1996. On 2008, the GSMA moved the show to Barcelona, and hosted it there since then… and up to at least 2018 as the GSMA selected Barcelona on 2011 as the “GSMA Mobile World Capital”. Some might challenge the real purpose of the event, but a show that started as a way to purely encouraging technology evolution during the hype of the GSM technology, rapidly became a monster source of marketing and business for the rest of the industry. Some analysts estimates the GSMA represented an impact of around 3.5 million euros in earnings to the city of Barcelona during 2013, and no company in the technology or telecommunication spaces can afford not being present in the MWC show each year if wants to be known in the market.

The MWC2014 in numbers

The Mobile World Congress 2014 will take place from February 24th to 27th, once again in the Fira Gran Via in Barcelona, Spain. The huge exhibition space has been slightly increased to 98000 m2 from the 94000 m2 of last year. Again there will be a total of 8 halls, from which 5 will be used as exhibition areas (halls 1, 5, 6, 7, 8). Huawei was the vendor with the biggest space last year, having a total of 240000 m2 and 8 pavilions used, and we can expect similar sizes this year. Ericsson will also have a huge space allocated. The full exhibitors map can be seen (here).

According to the GSMA a total of 1595 different exhibitors are registered until today, while MWC2013 had a total of nearly 1700. More than 72000 visitors are expected this year, having 72534 as the total record assistance seen during last year’s show. More than 200 countries are expected to be represented, keeping in mind last year’s attendees geographical split was: 67% from Europe, 15% from North America, 13% from Asia Pacific, 5% from the Middle East, 3% from Latin America, and 2% from Africa.

The agenda of conferences fully covers the four days, including 7 keynote conferences. The show is expected to have more than 60 conferences and seminars in total, with more than 10000 attendees. The MWC2014 will be having more than 3000 media and analysts covering the event.

MWC2014_1

There are 4 types of tickets or passes for the show, visitor-silver-gold-platinum, ranging from 750 to 5000 euros depending on the access levels and options. The average price of a room in the hotels in Barcelona during the event is around 400 euros, while the regular price uses to be around 100. More than 25000 hotel rooms are booked in advance for the show with an expected occupation of more than 95% during that week. There will be around 50 restaurants in total across the exhibition spaces. The show will be open for visitors from 09:00 to 19:00.

Conferences Program

If you are lucky enough to have a pass to the conferences, the full schedule can be found (here). The keynote conferences include sessions from Alcatel-Lucent, América Móvil, Bitcoin, Cisco, EMC, Jasper Wireless, Millicom, SK, Telenor, Tele2, and WhatsApp, among many others.

Personally, I would specially highlight the following sessions thinking on what 2014 could bring to the industry:

  • Keynote 1: Industry Perspective: Mobile Operator Strategies (Feb 24th 09:15-10:45)
  • Creating the Next Access Networks (Feb 24th 14:00-15:30)
  • Building the Future Network (Feb 24th 16:00-17:30)
  • Keynote 3: The Connected Lifestyle: Transforming Industries (Feb 25th 09:15-10:45)
  • Smart Cities: Smarter Living (Feb 25th 14:00-15:30)
  • Driving New Revenues & Relationships for Operators & Brands (Feb 25th 16:00-17:30)
  • The Future of: Smart Buildings (Feb 25th 16:00-17:30)
  • Keynote 5: Up Close & Personal: The Power of Big Data (Feb 26th 09:15-10:45)
  • The Future of Voice (Feb 26th 14:00-15:30)
  • Complementing Coverage with Small Cells & Wi-Fi (Feb 26th 14:00-15:30)
  • Spotlight on Business Models for M2M Services (Feb 26th 16:00-17:30)
  • Optimising User Experience with Intelligent Network Assets (Feb 26th 16:00-17:30)
  • Keynote 7: Innovation Unleashed (Feb 27th 09:30-11:00)
  • Exploring Successful M2M Applications in Adjacent Industries (Feb 27th 11:30-13:00)
  • Rise of the Machines: Enabling the Evolution from M2M to an Internet of Things Future (Feb 27th 14:30-16:00)
  • Redefining Reality with Screens, Storage & Wearables
  • ·(Feb 27th 14:30-16:00)
  • Developing the Ecosystem for Mobile Identity Services (Feb 27th 14:30-16:00)

The key Trends and Topics

Every year the event gets bigger and massive, having representation from all the possible areas in the industry. However, we can always identify a few topics and trends as the most commented, or the ones creating the most interest or hype. These give an idea of what the year will bring for the telecommunications.

We can expect the following topics within the most popular during this MWC2014:

1. New wave of smartphones and gadgets, now including wearables: There are unofficial rumours of new smartphones being presented as the new Samsung Galaxy S5, or Sony Xperia Z1 Compact & Z2, among others. The wearables will be everywhere, possibly including a Samsung Galaxy Gear 2, and new features of the Google Glass for developers and designers. This topic will have a lot to say during the show and the rest of the year.

2. Smart Cities: The industry is making an effort to encourage the concept of the Smart Cities. There will be a space for the GSMA Connected City which aims to show the business benefits of the connected life.

3. Spectrum efficiency and automatic networks optimization techniques: We will continue to see many solutions targeting techniques for automation of the networks optimization and organization, now in both the access and core networks. The spectrum efficiency will be also discussed in detail as the vendors and standardization organizations are already starting to plan the next generation of mobile wireless communications.

4. LTE-A & VoLTE: Most of the operators in the world having LTE will continue evolving towards LTE Advanced and/or implementing Voice over LTE. Having the lessons learned from Asia and their successful deployments, we can now see the leader CSPs making plans for the next step in the evolution.

5. NFV , SDN, and the Cloud: The biggest hype in the industry during 2013 will continue growing during 2014. In the show we will hear a lot about virtualization, as almost every vendor will claim to support it in some level for catching up with the evolution wave. We should follow the demonstrations the NFV leading vendors and consultants, as this is the only way to have a taste of reality.

6. Everything connected, M2M and IoT: The Internet of Everything, as the industry is calling the Machine-to-Machine and Internet of Things these days, will be a key topic during the MWC2014 and the rest of the year. There are important evolutions in terms of hardware size and cost reduction for the devices, as well as connectivity and “cloudification” of the software and data from these. We will see a lot of different approaches and fun gadgets for the connected industry, connected car, and the connected homes.

7. Indoor coverage, small cells, WiFi: The next step in the wireless evolution, after the LTE is well established as the leading outdoor access technology, is covering the gap for the indoor access. Interesting solutions will aim to cover the gap with a combination of WiFi, small cells, and optimization techniques. Keep a close eye on the big players and their solutions for this space.

8. Big Data & Predictive Analytics: Once again, Big Data is the common topic among the business and network intelligence experts. We can expect more mature and sophisticated solutions for prediction of network performances and business behaviours. We can also expect highly advanced analytics solutions based on big data globally collected.

9. Consolidation of core networks and services: As most of the operators are taking the consolidation path, installing solutions from the big players for unifying all of the access technologies in a convergent core network and services, we will see more maturity in these solutions for providing easier transitions and additional features to the mix.

Companies to follow

What to see and who to meet during the event, totally depends on your area and your strategy for this year. However, I would highlight the following as the most interesting in my view:

– The big players Google (through its associates), Ericsson, Huawei, Alcatel-Lucent, NSN, Samsung, Sony, Telefonica, Vodafone, etc. are always a must see

– The ones covering the most evolved systems and products AT&T, EE, Oracle, Juniper, Cisco, LG, HTC, Ixia, Spirent, etc. are also interesting to check out

– The smart start-ups Jolla, Spark, Lifx, Stick n find, Smart Things, Cyan, Connectem, Affirmed, Metaswitch, members of the CloudNFV, and a BIG etc….

MWC2014_2

Your list will of course depend on your specific interests. The important is having a clear plan, as the four days typically pass too fast for all the information and space available and you are not just collecting “goodies” in such an expensive show. Also, do not miss the chance to explore Barcelona outside the Fira, as you will find better food, nice people, and a very interesting city.

A. Rodriguez

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The European race for Wireless Spectrum

As the mobile telecommunications market gets more crowded every year, and the technologies for delivering mobile cellular services evolves, the wireless spectrum has become one of the most precious goods for the telecom carriers. The government agencies are making efforts for ensuring a fair competition and split of the wireless spectrum within each country and continents, via the public spectrum auctions and regulation mechanisms.

Europe1

When an operator plans a new technology deployment, like the most recent case with the 4G/LTE, the process must start by having the spectrum secured for operating. That is why it is so important to invest in the spectrum auctions on time. In Europe, we have seen cases where an operator takes huge competitive advantages by having wireless spectrum granted earlier than the competition, like the case of EE in the UK (here). UK regulator Ofcom approved the use of part of the 1800MHz band for LTE in August 2012, ahead of the proper auction carried later on February 2013, allowing them to claim being the first 4G operator in the UK and winning an important number of churner subscribers. We have also seen cases where a European operator is left behind in the LTE offer for not being able to use the available spectrum granted, like the case of Telefonica Movistar in Spain (here). Telefonica saw themselves forced to collaborate on a network infrastructure sharing with Yoigo on July 2013 for allowing a late 4G rollout in the near future, while their granted 800MHz band is liberated from the Terrestrial Digital Television (TDT) and they build their own LTE infrastructure.

The issue of the 800MHz wireless spectrum usage is quite important in Europe these days. As we know the available bands for LTE are in the ranges of 800, 1800, and 2600 MHz, but the lower the frequency of the spectrum the easier and cheaper to cover states and reach geographical areas, making the 800MHz band strategically important. In example most of the operators plan or have roll-out the 4G/LTE coverage for big population cities with the higher 1800 and 2600MHz bands, and use the 800MHz bands to ensure the rest of the geographical extensions are fully covered in the countries. That is mainly why the European Commission decided that every country in the European Union should have the 800MHz band liberated by January 2013, as stated by the Commission “Opening up the 800 MHz band is an essential for expanding use of popular wireless broadband services”. However, recent statements from the European Commission has indicated 17 out of the 28 European Union’ states have not been able to meet the January 2013 deadline (here), with some of them asking for postponements or derogations due to exceptional reasons like having the spectrum occupied with previously agreed usages for TV, etc. So far, the only EU countries with the 800MHz band liberated from different uses, and able to offer LTE services on it are Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, UK, Luxemburg, Croatia, and Ireland. A full table of the operators in Europe and the band used for 4G/LTE is shown below.

(List of LTE deployments per operator and country)

Apart from that, the European Commission also highlighted the poor LTE coverage in Europe compared with USA: “Three out of every four people living in the EU can’t access 4G/LTE mobile connections in their hometowns, and virtually no rural area has 4G. In the United States over 90% of people have 4G access” (here). This is said in response to the early victory claims from some operators with advanced 4G roll-outs, which according to the Commission are still far from really cover all of the geographical extensions as expected. It is simply a truth during the last years USA has advanced gigantic steps towards the mobile communications evolution, while Europe is struggling trying to catch up.

Looking ahead of the 4G/LTE spectrum issues, the small cells are ways to benefit from the spectrum shortage in the macro networks. A recent study (here) also from the European Commission reveals, “71% of all EU wireless data traffic in 2012 was delivered to smartphones and tablets using Wi-Fi, possibly rising to 78% by 2016”. The results far from shocking are totally expected, considering the low cost the small cells technologies and particularly the Wi-Fi represents to both the end user and to the operators for delivering this. The recommendations made by the Commission are at least encouraging “The study recommends:

  • to make spectrum from 5150 MHz to 5925 MHz available globally for Wi Fi;
  • to continue making the 2.6 GHz and the 3.5 GHz bands fully available for mobile use and to consult on future licensing options for 3.5 GHz and other potential new licensed mobile frequency bands; and
  • to reduce the administrative burden on the deployment of off-load services and networks in public locations.”

As it is a fact, the future of the telecoms is most likely a combination of macro networks and small cells. Transitioning those with seamless offload functionalities available now, and being evolved every day by the incumbent vendors.