Mobile World Congress (“MWC”) 2016 was attended by Mark Howard and Dhana Doobay. Whilst this year’s strapline, “Mobile is Everything”, may have sounded impossibly grand, MWC certainly demonstrated that the latest innovations across the mobile ecosystem look set to drive growth across both the mobile industry and a range of related industries.
Key themes featured in relation to major technological advances and growth strategies included:
THE CONNECTED WORLD
Mobile-connected products continue to transform working and personal lives, and the following were all in focus at MWC this year:
- Smart Cities, smart buildings and smart assets
- connected appliances and devices delivered over a narrowband the Internet of Things (IoT)
- Virtual Reality (VR) Wearables and experiences – with Mark Zuckerberg predicting that VR could one day become the world’s most social platform
- autonomous and connected cars
- expansion of digital financial services beyond mobile payments and remittances to savings, loans and insurance.
Interoperable open platforms and secure Machine to Machine communications remain priorities if the enormous business and lifestyle opportunities presented by IoT are to be seized and delivered.
BIG DATA AND DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION
Digital services are also being transformed as a result of the dramatic increase in the consumption and monetisation of Big Data. Communications providers are continuing the development of customer centric business models to drive mobile data traffic growth and remain competitive against Over The Top players.
Diversification and aggregation of services into adjacent markets, such as public services, automotive, financial services, and health, will also drive digital transformation in these industries and desire to “own” the customer relationship.
PROMISE OF 5G
Focus appeared to finally be moving away from R&D towards deployment and partnering opportunities. Indeed, BT delivered ambitious plans to be at the forefront of delivery of 5G services in the UK around 2020.
CYBER-CRIME AND DATA PROTECTION
Technological advancements create major challenges within the areas of Cyber-security and Data Protection, transfer, privacy and retention. Perhaps the biggest threat to the advancement of “Mobile is Everything” is Cyber-crime risk, and the extent to which the security of systems, processing and data can be assured.
Meanwhile, there was plenty of chatter about the impact the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will have when it comes into force in early 2018. Designed to help empower consumers, businesses, as data guardians, will need to be prepared to act on the changes, building “privacy by design” into products, services and processes.
STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS AND M&A
Opportunities for cross-sector and vertical industry acquisitions and partnerships appear extensive, driven by the need for collaboration and cost sharing in such areas as:
- IoT/M2M/5G standards between operators, IT service providers and asset manufacturers
- active network sharing between operators for mobile internet deployment
- promotion of VR experiences by car and smartphone manufacturers
- content providers and social networks driving mobile video use.
Effective profit-sharing/risk-sharing mechanisms will drive the parties’ appetite for the necessary investment and co-operation in these ventures.
EXPLOITATION OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS (IPR)
Complex IPR issues connected with shared platform, content and services are evolving, such as the use of VR technology and user created content by brand and platform owners.
START-UP/ SEED INVESTMENT
Crowdfunding continues to challenge the more traditional funding routes of venture capital, angel and corporate funds for start-ups and entrepreneurs. Securing investment at the right stage and on the right terms will be key to the growth strategy for these businesses.