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This year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona topped attendance records with over 60,000 participants.  In my opinion, this mega-trade (8 FILLED halls) show keeps getting better and better and this year continued to reset expectations.  We found our stand traffic extremely active, with several very nice prospects visiting us, unannounced.  Of course, as we had almost 100 meetings scheduled, we were a busy bunch.  I believe we even closed some business, here.

This year, general themes were mobile broadband, specifically LTE deployments and technology, Android Apps and ecosystem, new handsets and tablets, and mobile payment solutions.

Samsung's Mega-Stand - Mobile World Congress 2011

Handset vendors were still the biggest advertisers and booth builders, with none larger than Samsung’s Galaxy S II .  The S II is certainly to be one of the premier Android handsets of 2011, supporting a 4.3” Super AMOLED display, support for HSPA+ up to 21Mbps (some carriers will call this “4G”), with many more unique features such as an 8 megapixel camera with LED flash, full 1080p HD recording & playback, voice recognition and translation and a “Social Hub.”  The Social Hub enables users to organize and synchronize all contacts and services such as SMS, IM, and social networks (Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, etc) into a one unified box.    The unified in-box concept is not new – Facebook has incorporated it as are several NUVOs providing similar unified messaging / IM / chat concepts as well.  Of course, like many other handsets being introduced, the Galaxy S II includes Near Field Communications (NFC).  The Galaxy S II also contains on-board device management, courtesy of Sybase Afaria as one of its many Enterprise-class feature sets that will likely make this phone quite useful in business ecosystems.

Android was everywhere and the hot collectible were 86 of these Android pins. I’m not sure I know anyone that really got more than one or two.  Still, a very nice marketing concept!

Not to be outdone, LG Electronics was demonstrating their new 3D (yes, that’s three dimensions, not 3rd generation) mobile device called the Optimus 3D .   This Android handset enables you to record, share and view 3D video without the use of glasses.  I saw this and wasn’t particularly impressed, although, video shot with this handset, displayed on the 3D compatible television monitor, looked much better.  I guess it will have its niche market and its fans.  Not sure if 3D mobile handsets will catch on too much at this point.

Like the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the MWC was also a show of tablets.   Most were various versions of Android and ranged from well known tablets expected from Samsung, and LG as well as ViewSonic, Huawei, Acer, Motorola  (Xoom), HTC and Toshiba.  Frankly, given that they are all Android-based and that many of them use different versions of Android, ranging from Version 2.3 to 3.0, what will that do to app compatibility?   Hopefully, the Android Tablet market will quickly converge on Android 3.0 “Honeycomb.”   When I saw RIM Playbook, it seemed like a nice little tablet; however, colleagues noted to me that they saw it crash and it seemed rather “sluggish” in its performance. 

I would like to note that, despite all of the recent tablet launches at CES and MWC, Apple’s upcoming iPAD 2 introduction still seems to generate more twitter and news buzz, than all of them put together.

I attended an RCS (Rich Communications Suite – a GSMA initiative ) presentation where operator groups consisting of Deutsche Telecom, Orange, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, and Vodafone all announced that they were launching RCS services in 2011 to 2012 in several European markets.   RCS enables subscribers to use IM, share live video and share files such as photos simultaneously, during calls, regardless of network or device.   RCS also enables an active address book.  Subscribers will be able to see the services available to him by contact name.  This core group of operators is working with various handset OEMs to ensure that the service is integrated in address books.  I would still suppose that we’ll see 3rd party smartphone applications that support an RCS address book and functionality, in lieu of this capability being built into the OEM devices.   I am hopeful that RCS will see some commercial success and uptake by these core operators.   RCS is what the now-defunct GSMA Personal Instant Messaging (PIM) initiative morphed into.  PIM was not successful, in that it simply created another closed IM community to compete with the too-many, non interoperable ones, already in place. 

MWC 2011 018

SK Telecom has launched a nice RCS video calling service they market as “HD Videocall.”  This enables subscribers with Android devices to launch video from voice calls, launch video calls directly from the app, share contacts, launch a sketch book with the video and share files.  Subscribers can also share their locations with friends.  I saw an impressive demonstration of this service.  Sadly, it is only available within SK Telecom at the moment, but the engineer I spoke to said he was hopeful that it could interoperate with other Korean operators in the future (no time frame given).   RCS is a technology, if treated right by the operators and 3rd party application and client providers, could provide a needed boost to MNO services like mobile messaging did and still does.

Another interesting demonstration that I saw, was Verizon’s Voice over LTE  .  Verizon actually set up a small LTE radio network within the show confines for the demos.  VoLTE should be a higher quality voice service and will roll-out into production sometime in 2012.  The demo that I attended was indeed a very high quality voice call and was quite impressive, considering the heavy background noise of Hall 8.  I believe that high-definition voice calls will be coming to a network near us all, soon.  Certainly, LTE has enough bandwidth to ultimately replace Circuit-Switched voice, but this won’t be for years.   I think that VoLTE has IPX voice transport written all over it. 

Finally, in 2012, Barcelona will host the Mobile World Congress for, what could be, the last time.  The GSMA is in the process of selecting a potential new location for the 2013-2018 MWC .  The finalists are Paris, Munich, Milan and Barcelona for another 5 years.  For me, I am hoping for Barcelona for another 5  years.  This city really pulls out all of the stops for the MWC and it is certainly good business for Spain and Barcelona.  They do a great job.

And after at least 3 years, no one still knows what CBOSS does.

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