Mobile reformation: Piecing together Mobile World Congress

Keith Mallinson American poet John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887) based his well-known poem about misconceptions on an old tale from India. It is a salutary warning on the shortcomings of uncoordinated investigations on component parts and their relationships with the whole. Similarly, we should be recognise the limitations of piecemeal, space-by-space analysis of announcements, speeches and demos at trade shows such as the Mobile World Congress. Whereas various individuals and constituencies may perceive the show differently, depending upon their vantage points in the industry, there are many interdependent parts that make up the bigger picture of an entire industry in transformation.

The MWC's worldwide popularity and diverse participation ensures a fair representation of what is going on in the mobile industry. Here is my alignment of the fabled blind men's perceptions on the elephant's body parts to key aspects of Barcelona 2010:

Spear = tusk: Video; the bandwidth-hungry killer application that is spearheading technological developments and stoking demand across the entire ecosystem. Multiple HD and 3D streams are made possible by Moore's law effects in silicon with miniaturization and impressive power efficiencies in ARM- based processors, multiple cores and GHz clock speeds. Texas Instruments, Nvidia and Broadcom had some eye-popping demos. Qualcomm showed off its Mirasol screen technology that will before long render the above onto colour screens that need only ambient light and draw a small fraction of the power used by LCDs.

Snake = trunk: Mobile sector incursion by friends of the masses from the PC and Internet world. Anti-evil Google is engaging in a serpentine manner throughout the mobile ecosystem. With "Mobile First", it proclaims to bring the cloud and other good things to mobile. Following in 3's footsteps, Verizon Wireless also seeks to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty by opening up its device and customer access to Skype, with the world's largest base of international callers. However, while omiabsent at these shows, Apple is still the most profound and talked-about exemplar.

Tree = leg: The pillar of LTE upon which next generation connectivity will stand, with broadband data rates, low latency and an all-IP core for everything including voice calls, but it needs a crutch. All the big OEMs were bragging about their customer wins, including trials and commercial deployments. The GSMA also used the show to anoint the preexisting IMS-based OneVoice initiative with a switch to the new VoLTE acronym. WiFi is the supplement that many a nay-sayer--myself included--has eventually realized is essential to off-load the escalating traffic that macronetworks cannot accommodate. WiFi along with femtocells are helping mitigate the capacity crunch, while also improving coverage and speed in places where people congregate...Continued

Next page