Next week’s Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, Spain, is regarded as the world’s largest wireless-only event, with nearly 100,000 attendees expected to descend onto the country’s Mediterranean coast. With such a turn out, companies in the mobile space are not expected to hold back in rolling out their biggest news for the year.
RCR Wireless News polled its editors to find out what we expect to see as the main news drivers for the event.
1. Small cells: Mobile World Congress is meant to bring together companies from all over the wireless ecosystem, but in the small cell space coming together has been a market-driven imperative for months. Next week companies that offer small cell solutions will showcase how femtocells, picocells, Wi-Fi and DAS are starting to work together to enable carriers to offer customers seamless mobile broadband experience.
TE Connectivity is expected to demo a picocell solution from Ip.access that works with TE’s distributed antenna system. “Traditionally we have seen indoor small cells and DAS as competitive, but as time has gone on we have seen these product solutions as compatible,” Ip.access CTO Nick Johnson told RCR Wireless News.
Meanwhile Nokia Siemens Networks is set to demonstrate a network of small LTE, HSPA and Wi-Fi cells that creates a “fabric,” which the larger network views as a single cell site. Called Flexi Zone, the product sounds like DAS on steroids, offering service providers the chance to pack a huge number of cells into a small area, and precisely target areas that need maximum coverage.
Integration is also an evolving trend for consumer small cells. This week Alcatel Lucent, Broadcom and NetGear announced the Small Cell Home Gateway, an integrated Wi-Fi and small cell router with femtocell technology. NetGear says this technology has been around for years but service providers are now becoming more interested.
2. Cloud: Cloud computing has been a trend for some time, and now it’s time for the cloud to go mobile. The main question will be what role will carriers play in this migration? This will be one discussion themes at the show.
3. Mobile health: The mobile health market is booming, and carriers have to understand the challenges in that market if they want to play a role. The GSMA forecasts m-health will reach $23 billion by 2017, and m-health services and applications worldwide are expected to generate $11.5 billion in revenues for mobile operators by 2017.
It’s not just the carriers that are set to benefit. Devices vendors are looking at a $6.6 billion opportunity, while content and applications providers are forecast to generate $2.6 billion in revenues and healthcare providers up to $2.4 billion in revenues by 2017.
4. LTE-enables smartphones: Sure, this is old hat in many markets, but for most of the world the integration of data-savvy LTE networks and data-hungry LTE devices is just beginning to coalesce. We expect most of the big device makers to make a significant push with smartphones pumped up with LTE chipsets and running a variety of mobile operating systems.
5. Operating systems: Speaking of operating systems, look for Microsoft to again make a splash at the MWC event, this time with the help of device powerhouse Nokia. Microsoft made a splash at MWC in 2010 with the rollout of its Windows Phone 7 OS, though the product itself did not hit the market until later that year. Since then, Nokia has ditched its efforts to further the Symbian platform in order to ride the Microsoft OS train. Look for both to aggressively push the ecosystem at MWC.
Also on the OS front, look for Google’s Android to continue to find its way into just about every smartphone not sporting a Nokia or Apple logo. This growth will come at the expense of Research In Motion’s BlackBerry ecosystem, which continues to struggle through an identity crisis.
6. More core: Device and chipset makers are going crazy for more cores, bolstering the products with greater capabilities inherent in adding multiple cores to their products. Last year witnessed the move to dual-core processors, with 2012 looking like the year for triple- and quad-core advances.
While consumers may not actually need the performance benefits of such upgrades yet, the growing application space is looking to tap into the increased possibilities these chipsets can provide. Plus, any device maker worth its salt knows that in order to compete in the higher-margin world of premium devices, you must pack as many cores into those devices as possible.
7. Over-the-top: On the software front, over-the-top services are gaining momentum thanks to relatively open operating systems and consumer demand for something, anything outside of the carrier’s walled garden of services. Whether its messaging, calling or social media services, the race to develop the “next big thing” is on amongst the developer community.
This is not to say that carriers will just stand idly by and watch that revenue floats by. The industry’s heavyweights will aggressively target these OTT players with their own offerings that will look to hook consumers perhaps weary of straying too far out into the wild world of third-party software.
To see how we did on our predictions, follow RCR Wireless News’ extensive coverage of the 2012 MWC event, including video interviews and up-to-the-minute updates via Twitter and join us on March 7 at 12 pm EST for a post-MWC webinar hosted by RCR Wireless News Editor-in-Chief Dan Meyer, where we will take a look back at the biggest stories from this year’s event.