The trek to the tech mecca was on last week in Barcelona for Mobile World Congress. Of course, the news, the hype, and the crowd are all mind-bogglingly big! One piece of news that caught my eye the first day was when one of the speakers threw out a piece of data: In the eyes of consumers, mobile operators’ reputations trend just above the tobacco industry!
That’s not very good. So, what gives?
It’s largely because of the international data roaming fees. Overwhelmingly, the majority of mobile phone consumers and travellers simply turn their phones off when they are away from their home service zones: 55% of the time for people in developed countries and a whopping 90% in developing countries. Roaming is costly, and it suppresses usage and hinders productivity.
At an event that covers all things mobile, this is the last thing you want to hear. And the torrent of exciting development in the mobile ecosystem almost certainly drowned it out. Or did it?
Usage, adoption, connection — these are the things at the very core of mobile; mobile devices, mobile platforms, and an increasingly mobile global community of innovations and commerce. We want all participants in the mobile ecosystem to be encouraged to use and expand, whether B2C or B2B. Mobile phones themselves drive the demand for bandwidth and the need for higher speed and reliability in the mobile network. This drives applications and services to run smoothly over that network. So all of those who talk about the 5G network, the Internet of Things (IoT), smart cities, smart homes, virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR), or mobile healthcare, it all starts and ends with that little device in our hands.
Mobile phones and other connected devices are actually becoming more than just a device. They are being morphed into a platform; a platform of always-on connectedness. A platform for communication and entertainment, commerce, and more. The presence of mobile broadband and the adoption of smartphones is ubiquitous. One study cited that worldwide, over 2.1 billion people use smartphones today. In another five years, that number is going to triple. By 2022, that’s 70% of the world’s population!
Underpinning that platform is the speed, bandwidth, and the reliability of the mobile network. Indeed, as 4G networks become increasingly widely deployed, 5G becomes the center-stage topic — connecting everything, anywhere, at anytime. IoT assumed center stage at MWC.
What are the business drivers behind the unrelenting push for faster speeds in 5G? It’s the mobile Internet, it’s mobile video consumption, it’s the new services and new business models enabled by low-latency, high-bandwidth, intelligent networks that allow for a massive number of devices to be connected. IoT is paramount and can be seen with innovations such as smart metering; security; low latency video surveillance; telematic optimization in real time; and automated driving. A new acronym sums it up succinctly: ROADS – Real-time, On-demand, All-online, DIY, and Social. This is the digital transformation that an intelligent network enables! Industries at large are affected! This is changing industries across the board including automotive, logistics, healthcare, education, smart homes, and smart cities.
For mobile service providers, giving consumers a reliable connection to activate their services as they roam between networks and devices means enabling self-authentication, auto provisioning, security, and service quality management. This results in minimized truck rolls, a reduction in service calls (which significantly impacts revenue), ease of adoption, and reduced operating expenses.
We, as technology enablers on the software development side, have an opportunity — and a challenge — to help every service provider to get there.