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A Changing Mobile World at MWC

Cost cuts and travel bans have thinned crowds at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona this year. So those braving the uncharacteristically drab weather in the Catalonian capital really mean business—only it’s quite a different business from a few years ago.

With the heady days of double-digit subscriber growth now just a memory in most developed markets, operators can no longer rely on new customers for revenue growth. And price competition has long been chipping away at the average revenue per user from voice calls.

To cope with these problems, many operators have invested in third-generation (3G) mobile networks which allow you to do everything from watching videos to updating your Facebook page on your phone.

These data applications represent a big opportunity for the mobile phone companies, but also pose two important challenges. 

The first is to maximize the profitability of data services; the second is to ultimately provide them at a speed which matches wire-line, so users get the same experience on their mobile as they would get on their home broadband connection. It turns out that Cisco can help with both issues. 

When it comes to maximizing profitability—or ‘monetization’, to use the MWC argot—it helps to know exactly what the data on your network is so that you can charge for it appropriately.

Users might be happy paying more for video or music file downloads, for example, than they would for mobile e-mail. But making the most of this business opportunity requires a network that can distinguish between a bit that belongs to a video and a bit that belongs to an e-mail.

TDM networks, of the kind traditionally used in the mobile industry, cannot do this easily. Cisco IP Next-Generation Networks can, and last year the company’s engagement with the mobile industry moved up a gear with the acquisition of Starent Networks.

Not only is Starent firmly established as a mobile IP network core supplier, but it is also practically the only company in the world that offers a proven migration path from 3G to 4G—the standard that will finally bring gigabit speeds to the mobile world—over IP, solving operators’ second challenge. 

“With the Starent acquisition we are now really well positioned,” says Sameer Padhye, Senior Vice President of the Worldwide Service Provider Line of Business. “We can contribute to the revenue side of an operator’s business, whereas before a lot of our products were seen as an added cost.”

Add Starent’s IP network core expertise to Cisco’s capabilities in the data center and in customer premises equipment (through Scientific Atlanta and Linksys), and you get a complete end-to-end IP-based portfolio for the mobile industry—which is something operators seem pretty keen on.

Cisco customer meetings have more than doubled on the level of 2009, says marketing manager Jeff Steinberg, and the number of executive briefing center events is up 75 percent, Kevin Petschow of the corporate communications team tells me.

But perhaps even more significant than the quantity is the quality of conversations that Cisco is now having with customers. Says Padhye: “Now we are able to contribute benefits, it’s a board-level discussion… it’s a partnership approach.” 

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29 Comments.


  1. In my point of view 3g is the best thing mobile companies have come with.

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  2. Nice post. So maybe 4g will make DSL which most europeans now have for internet obsolete? Like more and more landline phones get disconnected cos of mobile phones, and certain services where you can even be reached under a normal landline phone number but via mobile, and for certain discount charges if you´re in a certain area from your home. But I dont see people paying extra for video by mobile, I want full mobile internet and it´s my choice what I do with it, why pay to go to cisco blog? Why pay to watch youtube vid? Flat Fee is the only thing people will accept.

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  3. Thanks for sharing. I think it Swedish Telia who started with 4G first, am I right?

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  4. It is very informative to read your article. Can you explain bit more. What is the difference and benefits of 4G over 3G? And how Cisco next-generation networks make it possible?

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  5. Yes, nice blog, eh, I want to know what do you think about putting Boise State in The MWC? I think adding Boise State to the schedule of Utah, BYU, and TCU would provide a number of AWESOME games.

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  6. thanks for useful and meaningful article.

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  7. I’m looking for more information about mobile devices and I’m glad to have found your site. Definitely this article has opened my eyes to the everchanging possibility. Thanks a lot!

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  8. mobile have become a part of our life. Now a days we cannot live without mobile phones and their technology is also improving day by day.

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  9. This is where the third world could leapfrog the developed world. Network operators (certainly in the UK) are saddled with huge debts for buying 3G spectrum licences.So going 4G might be a tough migration.But without this debt, developing countries, MAY be able to push ahead.

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  10. I think that Cisco has been a company that always is right on the money. Internet acces these days is a BIG business.

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  11. Keeping a customer focus is what has made Cisco. It’s good to hear a company that hasn’t abandoned its platform even after success…

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  12. Security is another challenge for the mobile phone companies. So, How Can Starent’s IP network make mobiles useless to thieves?

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  13. Thanks for sharing. I think it Swedish Telia who started with 4G first

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  14. thank you for this post. i like barcelona :)

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  15. greatfull posting!!! keep a blogging, also dont forget to visit back/???

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  16. thank you for your message man .

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  17. i went to mwc last year with a reputable mobile data reseller in London. It was interesting but im not convinced about 46 making dsl obsolete.Its still serves a great purpose amongst many businesses all over the globe..

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  18. Hello from Barcelona! I love to see that conference is so important in the enire world!I think te future of mobile industry is the use of internet in mobile platforms, I have a phone for sail in the internet…and is so sllllooooowwww… that I can’t use it,really…A very goog articcle!

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  19. Thank you for this very useful information.

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  20. After using the both 4G over 3G , I think 4G is more effiace than 3G .

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  21. Forever cisco modem =) Thanks for share

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  22. I have been using Internet Explorer ever since. This has given me lots of taught.

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  23. How ironic that the countries that were so technologically behind 20 years ago are now being built with a stronger, faster data backbone than the US. We are having to retool and workaround all this old infrastructure while the developing countries get to start from scratch.

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  24. 4G is where they will finally start to see high returns and have people shift away from home internet, the same way they have from home phones.

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  25. Dreamer, yes! You are right!

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  26. With the heady days of double-digit subscriber growth now just a memory in most developed markets, operators can no longer rely on new customers for revenue growth. And price competition has long been chipping away at the average revenue per user from voice calls.”"i don’t see any price competition between telcos – at least not here in new zealand. no matter what you choose, the rates are pretty much the same everywhere and way over the top. why would they expect “”double-digit subscriber growth”" if they charge me $20 for 100MB of data via 3G, when i pay $10 for 1GB broadband via land line? sure, 3G is more convenient on my laptop, but not so convenient that i would spent 20 times as much for the same service.”

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  27. I always support cisco to the end!

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  28. 1GB broadband via land line? sure, 3G is more convenient on my laptop

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  29. Hello There. I found your blog the usage of msn. This is a really neatly written article. I will make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful information. Thank you for the post. I’ll certainly comeback.

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