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For Mobile Carriers, Five Key Trends Promise Pain and Prospects

Mobile carriers face no shortage of pain points as new data streams create unprecedented and staggering amounts of information. But it is important to remember that pain points often arrive in tandem with new opportunities.

From my perspective, observing the driving forces shaping the mobile industry, five key trends stand out. All are laced with challenges and opportunities. And each represents a core element in an interconnected system that is pushing the entire marketplace forward, while demanding innovative breakthroughs in monetizing and optimizing data.

On February 25-28, I will be attending Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona. This year’s event is expected to be the largest ever, with 1,500 exhibitors. I expect these five trends will be major sources of discussion:

  1. Video. We are already seeing the true inflection point in video where it becomes mainstream on multiple devices. The mobile and nomadic consumption of video—whether served by mobile carriers or localized Wi-Fi—is popular, commonplace, and growing rapidly. But video will completely reshape the demand side of the industry, creating enormous amounts of data. It threatens to load and clog networks, and it will demand new models for monetization.
  2. Accelerating connections. As the Internet of Things transforms into the Internet of Everything, machine-to-machine communications evolve exponentially, enabling a world where everything from cars to trees to washing machines becomes connected. Together with video, this seemingly endless ocean of endpoints will fuel a tsunami of data, increasing the load on networks. Businesses, business models, innovations, and infrastructure will all need to meet these challenges. But on the flip side, the industry is beginning to embrace these changes. Which brings us to . . .
  3. Market dynamics. I believe that market dynamics are driving these trends. Service providers are reaching mobile saturation in every market. So, they are finding new ways to sell more to their existing users, and they are finding more ways to monetize what users do (for example, video). But they are also trying to find ways to connect “non-subscribers,” moving from people to things as individual consumers are surrounded with multiple devices and connected objects. In short, new business models must evolve to coincide with the spiraling demand for data and the new opportunities to monetize and optimize it.
  4. Innovation. These trends are also going to require leaps in innovation. In particular, a rapid evolution in network infrastructure will be required to handle all of this mobile traffic. Wi-Fi offloading, able to handle heavy data demands in fixed locations, will be crucial. Software-driven, virtualized components will also be essential for this growth. This will enable the network to “flex” to facilitate irregular and unpredictable demands in ways that would overwhelm hardware-based architectures. In moving to such a cloud-based model, carriers will also be able to create a wide variety of new services and experiences for third-party businesses and consumers, all fueled by…
  5. Data. The glue that is going to hold all of these other trends together is data. It will run the infrastructure and enable the new business models. And Big Data analytics will provide the contextual intelligence that will drive an entirely new generation of personalized, targeted Connected Life experiences.

Overall, I see this as a very exciting time for mobile carriers as they adapt to a rapidly changing landscape with exciting, new innovations and business models. Clearly, the opportunities are there to be taken. And I’m sure this excitement will make for a fascinating event in Barcelona.

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