Big news from Barca

Big news from Barca

Barcelona

Barcelona

Once again, Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was like a never-ending tapas bar of news and thrills for your roving reporter, Heather McLean. From mobile money to Wi- Fi, from handsets and tablets to accessories and networks, it was one bottle of cava short of overwhelming for a true mobile junky. Read on…

At this year’s Mobile World Congress mobile money was a major theme, from how it enables people in developing countries to access the world as true citizens, to high end technologies behind services in developed markets, to deals and handshakes on numerous commercial services taking off into the marketplace across the world today. This topic was as hot and tasty as patatas bravas.

Mobile financial services have been billed as the meal ticket to take mobile operators to the next level of sticky services, according to Telenor. Speaking in the Financial Services Keynote at Mobile World Congress, Telenor’s Kristin Skogen Lund, EVP and head of digital services and Nordic, Telenor, said that mobile banking and payments in the developing world should be of particular interest to mobile operators.

 

Skogen Lund stated: “We believe there is a great future in mobile banking for mobile operators. It is one of the biggest opportunities we have as mobile operators, especially in emerging markets, because of things like speed, simplicity and cost. As a mobile operator, these services make your churn go down and your average revenue per user go up; the stickiness of these services is essential,” she enthused.

Skogen Lund pointed to Telenor’s EasyPaisa service in Pakistan, run in conjunction with Tameer Microfinance, which brings mobile banking and transactions to the unbanked in that country. “This service is growing incredibly fast,” she stated. “We are seeing double digit growth month on month, and last year we passed 30 million transactions.”

 

Mobile money

Visa and Samsung debuted the official mobile payments application of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Barcelona. The application is based on Visa’s payWave technology that enables contactless payments at the Point of Sale. To make payments, customers simply hold the phone in front of a contactless reader at the point of purchase. Purchases above 15 pounds require a passcode. The application also lets customers check their transaction history and view their up to date account balance. Backed by the multi-layered

 

Monitoring driver safety minimises risk and liabilities

security and reliability of Visa’s processing platform, mobile contactless payments are protected by the same standard terms and conditions that apply to Visa cards.

“London 2012 is a unique opportunity to show the future of payments coming to life and leave a lasting legacy post-2012. The new mobile payment application is central to this showcase,” said Sandra Alzetta, head of innovation at Visa Europe. “We are also working with a number of partners to put live mobile payment technology into consumer hands. We’ve recently announced the certification of a number of major manufacturer handsets for NFC payments, which brings mainstream commercial mobile payments a step closer to reality.”

Mobile operators can use near field communications (NFC) as a strategy to avoid being labelled a ‘dumb pipe’, Orange told me at the show. A solid NFC strategy is steering Orange away from being seen by consumers as a utility, said Daniel Gurrola, vice president of strategy and business development, mobile consumer, at Orange.

Gurrola explained: “This is about Orange working to be relevant in people’s lives. NFC plays right into our vision, which has two angles: becoming our customers’ ‘digital coach’; and enriching their communications needs, wherever, however, easily and securely. When it comes down to it, we want to continue to be seen as relevant, and saying we want to be seen as relevant in people’s lives is the opposite of saying we want to be a dumb pipe. We mustn’t demonise the dumb pipe though,” he added. “You can make very healthy returns being a dumb pipe. The point is, Orange has decided we don’t want to be a dumb pipe.”

Orange sees NFC as the direction communications is evolving towards, Gurrola continued. “It’s a really exciting area. We see NFC as the third revolution; the first was SMS, the second was mobile broadband, and the third is NFC.”

Gemalto and Sony meanwhile announced they are working together to create a dual Sony FeliCa and NFC SIM card, to increase market competition in Japan. Under the agreement, Gemalto will incorporate FeliCa software technology into its UpTeq NFC SIM product lineup in 2012, offering mobile operators a more comprehensive range of mobile NFC services globally.

FeliCa is Japan’s homegrown version of NFC. It has been in use in the country for several years, but as NFC has evolved, FeliCa it has effectively hampered the market with legacy of proprietary contactless technology. FeliCa is used for public transportation, access management, event ticketing, customer loyalty programs and micropayments. As of March 2011, there were over 516 million units of FeliCa IC Chips worldwide, incorporated in 346 million cards and 170 million mobile phones.

Dominique Brule, trusted service management, business line at Gemalto, told me: “We will have this SIM with NFC and FeliCa, which means service providers now have a choice; they don’t have to be stuck to FeliCa. The beauty of this announcement is FeliCa can now go out of Japan as it is finally interoperable with NFC.”

He added that the new dual-contactless technology SIM card will speed the death of FeliCa: “This will definitely help phase out FeliCa. It will open up competition for local service providers; competition is always good for the market in general, but NFC is bringing mobile services into a different dimension. App developers can create crazy apps for NFC. NFC will create new businesses and ideas.”

 

Wi-Fi data offload

TeliaSonera said at the show that it estimates that within Sweden, over the next five years an average smartphone owner will use almost three gigabytes of data every month, compared to around 300 megabytes today, a tenfold increase. In the same timeframe the company estimates that a 4G mobile broadband user will consume an astonishing 45 Gigabytes of data every month. TeliaSonera claimed the trend is universal, going beyond Sweden.

The GSMA predicts that in 2015 there will be 9.1 billion mobile connections worldwide. It’s not only people connecting, as machine to machine (M2M) connections are exploding also; TeliaSonera predicts that by 2020 there will be 100 million M2M SIM-cards in the Nordics and Baltics alone. “Providing access and quality of service to millions of data-hungry users every day is our challenge for the future. Understanding how to deal with exploding volumes of data, increased video usage, and removing barriers for international usage are keys to future success”, said Lars Nyberg, president and CEO TeliaSonera.

A reflection of that growth was a big theme at the show; Wi-Fi data offload from the mobile network, which seems to have come of age according to key businesses in the Wi-Fi space talking to me in Barcelona. BelAir, Stoke, Ruckus Wireless, Ericsson and Orange all stated that Wi-Fi is now a key technology in the bid to reduce capacity challenges in mobile networks, as it can be used as an additional network to push heavy data mobile traffic over, for instance video.

Steven Hartley, practice leader of Ovum’s telco strategy practice, quoted Orange CTO Thierry Bonhomme who said at the show that deploying Wi-Fi was as important as rolling out LTE. Hartley commented: “Orange has made no secret of its fondness for Wi-Fi over the years, but combining this statement with the prevalence of Wi-Fi announcements at MWC 2012 is testimony to the fact that it is no longer Wi-Fi ‘or’ cellular, but Wi-Fi ‘and’ cellular that is key to operators handling future traffic demands.”

BelAir said the use of Wi-Fi for data offload reflects a genuine heterogeneous network (hetnet) model, as operators finally step up and embrace small cell technology. Husnain Bajwa, vice president of product marketing at BelAir, told me: “Wi-Fi offload will be a substantial story this year. Data consumption by end users is ever-increasing, and the gigabit consumer is among us now, with the top 2% to 3% of mobile subscribers using more than 5GB per month. The hunger for data never seems to abate and video looks like it will be a big driver.

“If a mobile operator deploys 35 to 40 of our access points in a hot zone, they can easily offload 60 terabytes of data a year. That means substantial savings for mobile operators as it is far cheaper to roll out Wi-Fi than 3G, and a significantly improved user experience; the user benefits on Wi-Fi, and so does everyone on the mobile network because that heavy traffic is moved over.”

Recently BelAir announced it has been acquired by Ericsson, which is using the purchase to offer an integrated carrier Wi-Fi offering into the heart of the Ericsson hetnet strategy, and also to offer carriergrade Wi-Fi as a standalone product.

On day one at the show, Ericsson announced the introduction of small cell products, including a pico radio base station with integrated Wi-Fi, the Pico RBS. Hans Vestberg, president and CEO of Ericsson, said this means it is now possible to easily add small cells to the network in the form of Ericsson’s new small RBS products, using both 3GPP-licensed spectrum and unlicensed spectrum such as Wi-Fi, transported over the same backhaul.

While Ruckus Wireless launched SmartCell, a new line of small cell products specifically designed for service providers, that include: the SmartCell 8800, a multi-radio outdoor access node developed to integrate 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi and backhaul into a single, lightweight, small form factor; and the SmartCell 200, the first scalable small cell hetnet edge gateway capable of supporting hundreds of thousands of Ruckus or non-Ruckus access points and millions of clients, as well as providing standards-based 3GPP integration into existing and future mobile core infrastructures.

Dan McBride, vice president of marketing at Stoke, commented: “Wi-Fi is now no longer a pariah to mobile operators; it’s needed to make capacity. In 2012 operators will really move forward in their Wi- Fi data offload. This is the second wave of Wi-Fi. The first wave was drowned out by 3G, but then smartphones came along and 3G crapped out, so now everyone’s saying they need Wi-Fi again.”

However, McBride warned that operators should be careful in how they deal with maintaining the customer relationship with regard to Wi-Fi for data offload. He explained: “Mobile operators authenticate users on Wi-Fi, but then they set them adrift. Wi-Fi is fine as short term relief to capacity overload, but it does lead to distance between the operator and customer, and user churn increases. This dump to Wi-Fi is a tactical offload technique, driven normally by the operations team who are the ones with the congested network to deal with. We need to include the guys with a little longer range view of the customer as well; understanding the user experience is important.”

 

LTE on the cards

Moving onto LTE, BT’s Advanced Research Mobility Team and mobile broadband gateway developer, Stoke, announced at the show the completion of joint lab trials investigating different deployment models for LTE networks. The tests, initiated in February 2011, were designed to explore potential synergies between mobile and fixed networks and examine a variety of options for LTE transport connectivity.

“This research with Stoke has enabled us to determine some high potential opportunities to develop innovative services for current 3G environments and opportunities for evolving the architecture to 4G,” said Chris Bilton, director, research and technology, BT. “The programme findings, especially the proof of vendor interoperability, have provided invaluable insights which will help formulate next steps in proving our findings.”

Stoke’s Security eXchange was used to examine aspects of scaleability, enhanced security, and multi-tenant network sharing scenarios, and acted as an anchor device in enabling the demonstration of different architectural strategies for LTE deployment. BT and Stoke are now able to define new architectural strategies that provide important information for LTE licence holders.

Dave Williams, CTO at Stoke, added: “With spectrum owners looking at options ranging from build-own-operate to complete outsourcing arrangements, there are many unanswered questions. The test results shed much needed light on to the feasibility of LTE roll-out options, and point the way to some viable alternatives.”

 

Award-winning devices

And of course, the devices. There were more device launches at Mobile World Congress this year than bottles of Rioja in Barcelona. And that’s a lot. The main features included Samsung, which won two big GSMA Awards at the show, with ‘Device Manufacturer of the Year’ and the Galaxy S II was named ‘Best Smartphone’, in recognition of the device’s powerful performance and overwhelming response from consumers. Samsung’s flagship smartphone achieved worldwide sales of over 10 million units in only five months, quicker than any device in Samsung’s history, and surpassed over 20 million sales in 10 months.

At the show Samsung also announced the Samsung Galaxy Beam, a projector smartphone that lets people display and share multimedia content anywhere. The Galaxy Beam lets people share photos, videos and other digital media with family or friends by beaming content stored on the device directly onto walls, ceilings or flat surfaces. Galaxy Beam’s ultra-bright 15 lumens works instantly, even in outdoor environments.

Nokia, which won ‘Best Feature Phone’ at the GSMA Awards with its Nokia C3 device, also won ‘Best New Mobile Handset, Device or Tablet at Mobile World Congress 2012’ with the Nokia 808 PureView, a device that grabbed headlines thanks to its 41 megapixels. The Nokia 808 PureView features a large, high resolution 41 megapixel sensor with high performance Carl Zeiss optics and new pixel oversampling technology. Wow!

At standard resolutions (2/3, 5 and 8 megapixels) this means the ability to zoom with the 808 PureView without loss of clarity, and capture seven pixels of information, condensing into one pixel for the sharpest images imaginable. At high resolution (38 megapixel maximum) it means the ability to capture an image, then zoom, reframe, crop and resize afterwards to expose previously unseen levels of details. With superior low-light performance and the ability to save in compact file sizes for sharing in email, MMS, and on social networks, the Nokia 808 PureView makes it possible for anyone to capture professional looking images in any conditions. The phone also includes Dolby technologies to dramatically improve the mobile entertainment experience and complement the other hot features of this new device.

 

Handset flurry

ZTE laid out its challenge to the global leaders in the mobile handset market with the announcement of a wide range of new high specification handsets and tablets. The new devices will target, in particular, users in the high volume and high value markets of Europe, Japan, the US and China. Leading the ZTE charge is one of the thinnest quad-core smartphones on the market today, the ZTE Era, which will be launched in Europe and China in the second half of 2012. Based on the NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core mobile processor and equipped with an NVIDIA Icera 450 HSPA+ modem, with a 4.3 inch QHD (960 x 540 pixels), 8GB of expandable memory, HD voice and Dolby sound, and running Android 4.0, the ZTE Era provides powerful new ways of communicating and sharing, with easy multitasking, rich notifications and deep interactivity.

“Last year, ZTE terminal shipments grew by 50%, exceeding our objectives, and we achieved a 400% increase in smartphone shipments,” said ZTE EVP and head of the terminals division, He Shiyou. “This growth has been worldwide; ZTE smart terminal shipments in Europe increased by over 300% last year, and terminal shipments in the US by 100%. Revenue from international business is now over 60% of ZTE’s terminal revenues.”

Another Chinese competitor, Huawei, introduced the world’s first 10 inch quad-core tablet at the show. The Huawei MediaPad 10 FHD is a fast performing tablet with excellent audio-visual entertainment features including a Huawei 1.5GHz quad-core processor and Google Android 4.0 operating system. It also introduced the world’s fastest quad-core smartphone, the Huawei Ascend D quad (turn to our page 54 for more on that).

HTC announced its HTC One Series at the show. These three handsets are designed to provide a premium smartphone experience with innovative design, good cameras and great sound. The HTC One X is a powerful 1.5GHz Super 4-PLUS-1 quadcore processor device; the HTC One S, HTC’s thinnest phone yet, includes a dual-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor; the HTC One V is about premium audio and image experience with broad market appeal; and all integrate Android 4.0 with HTC Sense 4, showcasing the new version of HTC’s user experience. This includes HTC ImageSense, a new suite of camera and imaging features. Each device will be widely available across a range of operators from Q2.

Meanwhile, Telefónica Digital, in association with VMWare, announced the launch of an interesting cloud service, Dual Persona. The service, which means companies can manage all corporate smartphone applications while allowing those using the device to have their own profiles, is set to launch in the second quarter of 2012. The Dual Persona service is part of the Telefónica Cloud Computing catalogue which is committed to versatility and segmentation, helping companies effectively manage their databases, employees’ PCs, documents and productivity applications.

The growing need for access to information and company tools while on the move has driven increased mobility of applications and processes. According to Forrester, 60% of companies allow their employees to use personal smartphones and tablets at work, which, along with the fragmentation of mobile operating systems, can lead to security breaches. With Dual Persona, a company’s IT manager can administer employees’ work profiles and professional virtual smartphones on their Android devices whether they are personal or corporate devices. The service allows the complete life cycle of virtual smartphones to be managed, from the provisioning of new employees and the updating of applications and security programmes, to the removal and complete erasing of corporate information on the mobile device.

 

Accessories bonanza

Finally, to the accessories. The two coolest stands were those of Avenir and SuperTooth. Avenir Accessories was at Mobile World Congress, presenting its new product lines and licensed brands, including Energizer performance products, Energizer cables for multimedia devices, high quality audio sound with Oxo Platinum headsets, plus cases and accessories by Rebecca Bonbon, Miami Ink and Oxo Platinum.

Avenir also showcased new luxury brand, Umberto Bellini, with a range of iPhone 4 and 4S cases made from silver, gold and platinum, plus a further range in leather. The entire precious metals range is manufactured in France, using precious metals in the tradition of the finest jewellers. The leather cases come in five versions, each available for iPhone, Blackberry, Samsung and Sony Ericsson. They are available in five types of leather and six colours (black, brown, grey, orange, navy and purple).

Meanwhile, SuperTooth, manufacturer of hands-free car kits and portable accessories, showcased its line of Bluetooth accessories at MWC 2012, including the Disco2, Crystal and Melody. The Disco2, SuperTooth’s fresh take on its popular Disco, is a portable, rechargeable speaker featuring an avant-garde design, more compact footprint and great sound quality. This rather sexy device, available in white and black, means users can stream music wirelessly from any mobile, tablet, computer or mp3 player supporting Bluetooth A2DP to a single or duelling pair of Disco2s.

A single Disco2 kicks out 16 watts RMS audio power, with a high efficiency subwoofer and two speakers, producing an even more powerful 360° surround sound. Users can pair their first Disco2 with a second Disco2 for a right-left stereo effect with twice as much output (32 watts), via SuperTooth’s unique new technology that provides left speaker to right speaker functionality for an intense full range sound.

And that’s it for this year. Your roving reporter will be back on the plane at the next Mobile World Congress!

 
 
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