Friday, February 22, 2008

Mobile World Congress 2008 -Summary

BARCELONA - I'm posting a good wrap-up for the MWC 08 a friend of mine passed on. It is by Dr. Mehmet Unsoy, Partner at Cartagena Capital and offers a good overall view of this year' show:

"Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2008 (aka 3GSM) was held for the third time in Barcelona, Spain, during Feb 11-14, 2008. Organizers claimed that there was a slight increase in the attendance (expected to be over 50,000) and 1,600 companies exhibiting, compared to 1,300 last year. But most of us felt that the attendance was about the same or even slightly lower, maybe because crowds and queues were better managed!

In this Industry Perspectives, I am giving my views and observations below. We also have Jane Zweig offering a rather different perspective on the overall direction of the industry [read article]. Finally, Alan Quayle, as a guest author, describes why he thinks the industry is at the crossroads [read article].


The major theme of this congress was mobile broadband. HSPA deployments have really taken off, with 174 commercial HSDPA deployments, 36 of them delivering 7.2 Mbps download speeds. They are targeting 42 Mbps and 12 Mbps for downlink and uplink respectively, using HSPA+/ HSPA Evolved by 2009. These are outstanding data rates! Also significant is that there are currently 420 HSPA enabled mobile devices, including the USB dongles, for laptops. Speaking of laptops, the mobile broadband Notebook competition was won by Dell and ECS, with HSPA embedded notebooks, at $550 price points, which is rather impressive! This HSPA enabled notebook market is estimated to be a $50B global market.

There were lots of talk, presentations and demonstrations on LTE. With the recent uptake of the HSPA based mobile broadband, there seems to be genuine pressure to realize LTE as early as possible. Ericsson, with their strong LTE commitment, demonstrated a first end-to-end phone call using LTE. There were long line-ups to see this Ericsson demo! Ericsson claims that they will have first commercial deployments of LTE by end of 2009. Nortel was also demonstrating LTE, with a target of commercial deployment with Verizon by end of 2009. However, these all sound awfully optimistic. Also, Alcatel-Lucent and NEC announced a major partnership to jointly develop LTE, but a few people I talked to were quite skeptical of such partnerships!


WiMAX was a relatively low-key topic at this show with only a few high-profile demonstrations. Cisco was demonstrating their recently bought Navini gear, which targets primarily the developing markets. However, the most interesting were the discussions/presentations around the relative positioning of WiMAX Mobile and LTE. Several industry leaders, including Vodafone’s CEO Arun Sarin, pushed for LTE making room for WiMAX Mobile, as part of the TDD solution, thus, creating a convergence of WiMAX and LTE. One implication of this is that those operators that deploy WiMAX Mobile in the next 2-3 years, can evolve to be part of LTE by 2010 or later. However, this view is not shared by everyone. China Mobile is collaborating with Vodafone and Verizon on LTE trials, but seems to be pushing TD-SCDMA as the TDD portion of LTE.

A couple of very interesting WiMAX related developments were a “WiMAX on an SD card” by Mitsumi using Sequans chip, showing a high degree of integration and NXP’s dual-mode EDGE-WiMAX reference design. Both of these are important steps in launching WiMAX services. One of the topics we had touched on in a previous “Cartagena Industry Insights” was the possibility of mobile TV over WiMAX and at this congress UDcast announced a mobile TV platform for WiMAX with broadcast and multicast capabilities. Also interesting was the seamless WiMAX - Wi-Fi roaming/ hand-off demo by Alvarion, Comfone and Intel, showing the complementary positioning of these two technologies.

Huawei had an impressive presence at the congress this year with a recent string of European operator successes. I was particularly impressed with the emphasis on “IP transport infrastructure for mobile evolution” for mobile networks. With mobile broadband demanding significant bandwidth and networking, this looks like the right emphasis for Huawei and others.


I have observed a degree of maturing in the Femtocell companies understanding and responding to the requirements and challenges they are facing. Even though I had been somewhat critical of the Femtocell companies in the recent past, I think they are developing capabilities and solutions to tackle interference issues, remote management, as well as bringing down the unit cost. Several young companies worth to mention here are ip.access, picoChip and Ubiquisys. Also, some companies are looking at merging Femtocell units with other devices at home, such as residential or home gateways.

On the mobile device side, the first surprise of the congress was Microsoft’s announcement of the Danger acquisition for $160M. Lots of people expressed puzzlement around this acquisition and various theories around the motivation of Microsoft and whether it has anything to do with their intended Yahoo acquisition to compete more effectively with Google/ Android/ gPhone, etc. This probably is a separate topic of discussion!

Apple was not really present at the congress, but their presence was felt enormously. First, there were numerous (hundreds of) new handsets announced and most of them with significantly improved “user experience”, some with a touch screen, obviously showing some iPhone and iTouch influence. Nokia announced their Touch UI, but are not sure when it will be available on handsets. SonyEricsson had their first Windows Mobile handset, Xperia X1, which looked superb! It has 9 panels or screens, each catering for different environments. It is not tied to Windows and they could change it to another OS later! With numerous handset announcements, it seems that Sony Ericsson is trying very hard to improve their market-share, currently #4 with 8.8%, after Nokia (38.1%), Samsung (14.5%) and Motorola (13.1%). Also there were lots of rumors about Motorola and what they may do with their handset division.

Incidentally Nokia had one very impressive handset announced, the N96, with 5 Megapixel camera, recording videos at 30 fps, supporting MPEG-4 as well as DVB-H, 16GB memory and microSD slot. But you cannot get your hands on it until Q3 and it would cost you around 550 EUR.

LiMo Foundation announced the first wave of 18 new phones that are Mobile Linux based as well as their SDK strategy. These include handsets from LG, Samsung, Motorola, NEC and Panasonic and some prototypes from Aplix and PurpleLabs. This shows that LiMo can compete effectively with Google’s recently announced Open Handset Alliance (OHA), in offering an open operating system for mobile handsets that is hardware independent. LiMo Foundation needs to be taken more seriously thanks to increased membership recently including companies such as Access, AMD, Broadcom, Ericsson, Huawei, McAfee, Montavista, NXP, Open Plug, Softbank, ST, Trolltech and WindRiver.

Several OHA members such as Qualcomm, TI, ARM, NEC, ST and WindRiver also demonstrated some very early versions of the Android prototype platform. However, it will be late 2008 before any mobile handsets be available with such a platform. It is interesting to note that companies like Wind River are in both LiMo and OHA camps!

With the growing number of video and TV capable handsets, mobile TV is reaching a degree of maturity. There were solutions delivering mobile TV over 3G, HSPA, DVB-H, MediaFlo as well as over Wi-Fi. Alcatel-Lucent demonstrated the new satellite based DVB-HS system, together with DiBcom, Eutelsat, Sagem, SES Astra, TeamCast and UDcast. It was announced that Japan has reached the 20 Million mobile TV phone mark this month after only 2 years in service. New ABI research report predicts that by 2012 the mobile TV market will boast nearly half a billion subscribers. The growth of 3G/ HSPA will be a major factor in this growth.


Greening of the wireless industry was yet another theme at the congress. Most of the emphasis was in base-stations that used less power, less space, etc. But also, recycling of mobiles and batteries in China, for example, was noteworthy. Greening is particularly important since several countries are experiencing significant mobile penetration growth. China now has over 525M subs, with 39% penetration and 18% y/y growth, the USA has 254M subs, with 87% penetration, India has 237M subs, with 21% penetration and a whooping 60% y/y growth and Russia has 169M subs, with 120% penetration!! Interestingly enough, we observe several European countries with over 100% penetration, led by Italy (154%), followed by U.K. (122%) and Germany (117%).

Even though China and India attract lots of attention as key developing markets, the African market is experiencing the highest rate of growth these days. There are about 270M subs today in various African countries and most countries are experiencing over 60% annual growth with blended ARPU being around 10 EUR. We should expect all sorts of new solutions targeting such a growth market, but with a low ARPU.


Mobile advertising was still a hot topic in this show, with over 30 companies (maybe more!) offering various solutions, some end-to-end, some partial, for this potentially explosive area. The global advertising market is considered to be about $640B and there is lots of debate as to what percentage of this can be expected to be shifted to mobile. Also, if X% is shifted from print or on-line to the mobile medium, it would be worth substantially more due to better targeting and higher response rates. Analysts estimate the mobile ad market as $12B by 2011. Several industry collaborations also announced during this congress, showing that the mobile operators are taking this more seriously and are attempting to regulate themselves. They are starting to realize that rich media mobile content delivery will have to rely on an advertising based business model as opposed to a simple subscription based model if it is going to succeed.


Social Networking was also a hot topic at the congress, with Facebook’s and MySpace’s initiatives in the mobile area attracting lots of attention. But also RIM’s co-CEO Jim Balsillie emphasized that Blackberry’s future depends on business-oriented social networking. Mobile phones are becoming so much better tool for generating user generated content (UGC). Thus, mobile becomes such an important part of social networking. Analysts are expecting 600 Million active users for mobile social networks by 2012.

Mobile VoIP deployments have taken off partially due to mobile broadband deployments around the globe. Most of the mobile VoIP deployments are said to be mobile operator-friendly, i.e. conducted in collaboration with the mobile operators. VCC (Voice Call Continuity) solutions are now available for hand-offs between mobile and Wi-Fi networks. There is also a strong element of social networking in the XoIP service deployments.


Increased penetration of GPS integrated handsets is now enabling a series of interesting Location Based Services. Nokia and Navteq had various product announcements. Yahoo announced oneConnect that alerts you when friends are in town. It also aggregates social network connections from Facebook, MySpace, etc. and delivers your email!

There were a lot of interesting companies worth to mention at the show, but I can only highlight a few of them:

  • Aepona – won the best service delivery platform award
  • GestureTek – most innovative application with its gesture recognition technology for mobile gaming and navigational software
  • Valimo Wireless – mobile signature and user authentication and one of the finalists for most innovative consumer applications
  • – best mobile social networking service

Finally, the Mobile World Congress is becoming less and less mobile operator centric. However, there is a need for further openness. Google, Apple and other internet players are at the gate and they should be invited and given a more active role at the future MWCs."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

uLocate Press release: New Buddy Beacon version released

Boston, MA - On the 13th February 2008, with the release of a new version of Buddy Beacon, uLocate Communications introduced the world’s most advanced location enabled mobile friend finding service. With Buddy Beacon, users can choose when to share their location, and what they are up to, with their friends. Buddy Beacon is the first location enabled friend finding application that is interoperable between multiple carriers.

In addition to cross-carrier interoperability, the Buddy Beacon platform allows users to update their location and status on leading online social networking sites, including Facebook. As a compliment to this feature, uLocate has also unveiled a Buddy Beacon application on Facebook. This functionality extends the Buddy Beacon user experience beyond mobile devices.

“Historically, consumers who use mobile friend finding applications have been limited to interacting only with other users who share their same carrier,” said Scott Ellison, VP of Mobile and Wireless Communications at IDC. “With Buddy Beacon, uLocate has removed this limitation by providing a friend finding product that transcends the single carrier barrier. Additionally, the introduction of cross-platform functionality with online services, such as Facebook, provides the potential for viral adoption of the application. uLocate has clearly emerged as a leader in the mobile friend finding space.”

“Helio has always been committed to providing our members with innovative ways to communicate with their trusted circle of friends,” said Greg Hayes, Head of Convergence at Helio. “The new Buddy Beacon experience provides better context for location sharing, enhances ease of use and creates new occasions to publish location as a social networking activity. We know that our members will benefit from the enhanced capabilities that we have developed in conjunction with uLocate.”

“Consumer adoption of Buddy Beacon has been remarkable. We are delighted to now offer the service across numerous carriers and the iPhone, as well as extend the service functionality to the web,” said Walt Doyle, CEO of uLocate Communications. “Buddy Beacon is a revolutionary application that offers a new way to interact with your friends and keep them updated on where you are and what you are up to. We plan to continually advance the functionality and availability of the service in the months ahead.”

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Year of Location Based Services (LBS)

BARCELONA -I attended a great seminar on Wednesday at the Mobile World Congress, where various panellists presented and then debated their view on LBS's for 2008, including Nokia's Michael Halbherr and Googles' Gummi Hafsteinsson.

Nokia kicked off the session by stating their expectation to ship 35m handsets with GPS in 2008 and that all N-series will come equipped with in-built GPS. Michael also stated that increasingly, Nokia is looking to incorporate a compass for navigation within their handsets (making the vision outlined in my earlier post on 'Point to Discover' one step closer).

A key note from Nokia was that LBS were 'really about the pedestrian experience', a point that is sometimes lost amongst the noise surrounding LBS.

Onwards to Gummi from Google, who emphasised that for LBS's to work they need to get 3 things right: Openness, Comprehensiveness and Juxtaposition of Data.

Other key items discussed were: the need for educating the consumer on the usage of GPS functionality and for hybrid solutions that can ensure location coverage in all situations (GPS outdoors and Wi-Fi hotspots indoors) as well as the trend towards 3D mapping, with the height of buildings in urban areas being an important factor in adding relevance to a LBS.

Finally, the panellists concurred that in the same way as Web 2.0 was all about the comunity effect, so will the success of future LBS applications be determined by community-generated content.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

From Search to Discovery

BARCELONA -Another hectic day at the Mobile World Congress, which explains the backlog I am building up in reporting on the various events happening.

Just attended a seminar on the Future of Mobile Search, where Steve Boom, of Yahoo Life, discussed his experience around the world in building up the Yahoo search funtionality.

In his view, 4 criteria are pre-eminent in determing the future of mobile search:

1. Ease of Use -Operator portals, he said, are a 2007 story. Users want now to directly access the mobile web and find relevant results

2. Pricing simplicity -simply put, the demand is for flat rates and complex pricing structures will ultimately fail to entice the user

3. Openness -search engines need to work across all platforms (a key trend in 2008)

4. Monetization -so long as those in the mobile search (sub) ecosystem are able to make money, there will be significant progress in this area. The 'how' of monetization is still to be defined, though.

An interesting question from the audience was concerning the future of voice search -Steve's reply was that this is still way in the future, as the technology is not mature and users still need to be educated on how this works.

Thursday, February 7, 2008 site to be unveiled at Mobile World Congress 08

A few sharp-eyed observers will have noticed that a test-site for the development went live at the beginning of the month.

The much-anticipated launch of the official site (part of a global drive by the mTLD consortium to market the .mobi domain name) is expected to occur at the Mobile World Congress next week.

With heavy backing from the Barcelona Town Council, the new site will replace a (now outdated) WAP portal that users linked through to from the Council's main web page, The site is expected to mark a key milestone for the consortium and is the second key site launched (following from the successful development in 2007).

More sites are expected to be launched later this year as mTLD battles it out to acquire the supremacy in the race to be the premier format for mobile-adapted websites.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Point to Discover (P2D)-the LBS of the future?

Location-based services (LBS) are receiving plenty of buzz these days. However, what I consider to be exciting is to look at the future possibilities for these services that lie beyond our current reckoning.

The idea of the mobile device as a pointer came up recently at the CES in Las Vegas -where we saw some prototypes of handsets capable of projecting their screen's image when pointed at a blank wall.

Rainer Simon of the Telecommunications Research Centre in Vienna published a paper last year where he gives us an insight into the possibilities of P2D (Point to Discover) technology.

In his paper he asks us to: "Imagine you could point your mobile phone at a bus stop to find out when the next bus is leaving; or point at a tourist landmark to get travel guide information; at an advertisement billboard to take part in a prize draw; or at a mountain top to find out the name of the mountain while you are hiking or skiing". Sounds pretty neat, doesn't it?

Rainer also goes on to postulate that the handset of the future may well come equipped with tilt sensors and digital compasses that would turn them into true interactive, navigational devices. Eventually, handsets could be able to recognise the 3D landscape around them and compute schematized 360-degrees panoramas , presenting nearby buildings and points of interest in a simple skyline-view that scrolls horizontally as the user turns.

Some food for thought for the good folks over at Google Mobile Maps, who may well be testing how to build this future functionality into their current application as we speak...

Picsel -One to Watch #8

Glasgow-based Picsel has emerged from what is know as Silicon Glen to become a world leading mobile software company. It is being praised from all corners for delivering a great solution to a painful problem -viewing detailed graphics on a mobile screen.

Picsel uses Flash technology to render web pages on mobile devices, allowing users to zoom in and out with no loss of picture quality. They also offer a document viewer that allows users to flick through graphics-heavy powerpoint presentations in a flash.Some claim it is even better than iPhone's Safari browser.

Picsel is now working on a rendering solution for streaming online video content.Meanwhile, their ePage mobile browser is getting better and better, with competitor browser companies running for cover. Picsel's Attachment Solution also offers a neat answer to those bulky PDF files, by storing the entire attachment on a server and splitting them into individual pages -so you can get at what you need faster.

Awarded with the Red Herring Global 100 Winner accolade last December, Picsel will be one to watch at the Mobile World Congress. I for one will be checking them out at Stand

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

uLocate Update-Major Carrier Launch Announced

I talked about up-and-coming uLocate in a recent post, and how the company was positioned to grab a substantial chunk of the LBS market in the US.

They announced just yesterday the signing of a new carrier, AT&T, growing to six the number of US wireless operators adopting uLocate's WHERE GPS widget platform.

Dan Gilmartin, VP of Marketing at uLocate, enthused the following:

" ... We are excited about the ability to reach AT&Ts 60+ million consumers. This launch extends the reach for applications created and built on the WHERE platform and brings the total potential audience for the platform to 130 million consumers. This launch represents a significant milestone for our company and our content partners as WHERE has the ability to offer content owners the broadest distribution network and largest potential audience of any location based application platform."

uLocate's two-pronged strategy is clearly yielding fruits -not only is it succeeding in establishing an ample base amongst US mobile subscribers-but is also stimulating rollout of new BREW/J2ME -based GPS widgets by the developer community on its proprietary WHERE platform by investing in its own Developer Program.

Look out for its BuddyBeacon service, which is bound to be revamped soon to offer new possibilities by being fully integrated within the WHERE platform.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Mobile Freakonomics

I’ve studied my fair share of economics over the years during grad school and my MBA, and keep up my interest in the subject by scanning economic bulletins and reading economic forecasts (it is always amusing to see how badly forecasts tend to reflect reality despite their repeated adjustments).

I also like to lift my cap to innovative thinkers, so in a tribute to Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt, of Freakonomics fame, I thought I’d take a look at some of the freak-est stats about the mobile industry that I could come up with. If it proves popular in stimulating debate I will update the list with readers’ contributions and keep a running tab.

Here goes:

1. What is an emerging market when it comes to mobile technology? The answer is a country that is both below the World Bank average for GNP/capita and that has less than 60% penetration of mobile within the population (so, it includes China, Mexico, Turkey, South Africa, India and Malaysia but excludes Poland and Libya.)

2. Europe throws away 100 million mobile phones each year (most of them still in working condition). At the same time, handset manufacturers, notably Motorola, have launched cheap handsets for emerging markets –erm, another case of misallocation of assets?

3. One of the fastest growing mobile markets in Asia in 2007 was not China, but Bhutan, reaching over 100% year-on-year growth in some quarters of the year

4. One of the fastest growing mobile markets in Eastern Europe in 2007 was Uzbekistan, reaching 130% year-on-year growth in the last quarter

5. In 2006, 4.2 million websites, roughly 12% of all Internet sites were pornographic, constituting 420 million pages worldwide. The value of porn websites runs into hundreds of billions of dollars worldwide (it is $27bn in China alone).When it comes to mobile web, some estimates put the value of mobile adult content worldwide at $3.5bn by 2010 (Source: Juniper Research 2007). Yet, mobile operators haven’t quite come up with an agreed way forward to filter this content on your mobile and the estimated value of this adult mobile market today is tiny…could it be that forecast is a little too optimistic?

Now over to the reader community out there to contribute your list of Mobile Freakonomics to this blog…Some questions to consider could be: “Would mobile coverage on airplanes enhance or deteriorate worker productivity?” Or, “If fixed line telephony subsidised entirely by advertising didn’t take off (the idea was that you got a free call if you were willing to first listen to an ad), does it mean the same model won’t work for mobile?”.

Richard Windsor's Mobile Predictions

I was following an interview that Richard Windsor, a leading mobile analyst over at Japanese bank Nomura, was giving recently to the CNBC network and jotted down some of his thoughts for what is ahead for the mobile sector. He was quoted heavily quite recently for his comments on Motorola's handset business, but had other insights to offer:

On Russia, he said to keep eyes peeled on a massive rollout of 3G infrastructure this year throughout the country, in what promises to be a key investment year over there.

On China, he expects a massive hike in 3G capital investment instead to take place in 2009, with key upgrades to infrastructure planned for that time

Unsurprisingly, Richard mentioned that 2008 is going to be tougher for operators, and he expected them to shave off Capex spend from their budgets as they brace themselves for potential consumer slowdown in spending

On HSDPA, he confirmed what is a general feeling out there, and that is that the technology, while in demand, is still patently too expensive for the average Joe and backed this up with lower shipment numbers of HSDPA-enabled handsets worldwide.He expected a pick-up in shipments for 2009.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Mobile World Congress 2008 -10 Days to Go

BARCELONA -Slowly but surely, Barcelona is coming alive with the buzz of mobilists from across the globe as anticipation for the Mobile World Congress heightens.

This year promises to be bigger and better than prior events, with around 70,000 participants expected to crowd the local scene and several billion of dollars worth of deals to be sealed during intense activity from the 11-14th February.

Plenty of great companies, personalities and seminars are expected, and I'll be casting my eye over the packed agenda to highlight some key events.

A couple of seminars have so far grabbed my attention :

On Tuesday 12th Feb, 16.15-17.45 in Hall 5 there is the Moving from Search to Discovery Seminar, with Dan Olschwang from JumpTap and Steve Boom from Yahoo, looking at " What's the Business Case for Mobile Search?" and "Taking Internet Search Mobile".

On Wednesday 13th Feb, 16.30-18.00 in Hall 5 there is the Social Networking Seminar, with Jed Stremel from Facebook, where they will be addressing juicy questions like:"What Will Be the Killer Mobile Social Networking Application" and "How Mobile Can Change the Social Networking Phenomena".

Next, I'll be taking a look at some of the innovative companies that will be at MWC so that you can add them to your this space...

Google Launches 'New' Mobile Search Engine

Shortly before releasing their latest results showing a slowdown in advertising sales in the fourth quarter of 2007, Google announced the launch of their 'new' mobile search engine (or, should we say, the improved version of the previous one).

Google says that with the new search service, mobile phone users will get results that best fit what they're looking for, with search results combined from different bodies of information, so users don't need to sift through both mobile and regular web results, or specify their search type. Instead, Google will search through the whole web, mobile web, news articles, local business listings, and image index to get the information needed and then provide the most relevant results. A search for cats, for example, provides links to photos of cats as well as web pages.

Google's new mobile search also improves the local search experience. By remembering a user's recent search locations, the new service is said to provide relevant local results in subsequent searches-no need to retype the location every time. Once a user has entered a location, searches for weather or restaurants, for example, provide information tailored specifically to that user's location. The service is now available in the UK, France, Germany and Canada. It has been available in the US since March last year.

It is claimed that fewer clicks will now be necessary to access meaningful search results on mobile devices, which is a welcome improvement. The jury is still out as to how effective the new search engine is, but while we may not be there in terms of ultimate functionality, it is clearly a step in the right direction. Bizarrely, we still have to type in "" instead of just "" or "", but that's a different story...