3G World or Mobile World Congress as it is officially called, has continued the growing excitement that the Mobile or Cellular Industry is a key industry in a changing social and technology conscious society as some 50,000 people descended on Barcelona to see, discuss and of course hopefully decide how to make money out of all the new capabilities and products on display.
The key message is unchanged; the Mobile device is already the ubiquitous device that everyone has and therefore will be the most widely used common device. All the usual players and themes are there; Microsoft pushing hard, Nokia holding on hard, operators talking about Mobile Broadband being the breakthrough to them delivering a new generation of services. Content under the spotlight; is it music, social networking or TV and films that will drive this new generation. All of which misses two key differentiations; Mobility, it’s the only device that’s always with you, and that makes it Location aware, both in a way a PC simply doesn’t compete with. In an airport lounge I could pull out my PC from my briefcase and connect by WiFi but it’s much easier to just check my mail etc by grabbing my phone from my hip holster.
Adding GPS, whether using the GPS satellites, getting simpler cheaper and less clunky, or GPS style methodology to calculate position from the cellular base stations, is looking to be the next standard feature, and that has a huge impact on what I call ‘S&S’, the combining of ‘Search and Service’ to really create something new. Yahoo are saying this is a core focus area for them with an approach around a ‘portal’ style way of showing contextually valid information about your location with the ability to tailor this to your likes and dislikes. That’s going to make for a whole new value proposition to advertisers, and that’s where the money is, of course.
Funny thing is that I haven’t seen much comment on the Microsoft push to get a strong position with Mobility OS platforms linked to the Yahoo focus on Mobility portals. It doesn’t always have to be a head on fight in the search engine market with Yahoo plus Microsoft taking on Google by combining the second and third players, there are other emerging and potentially lucrative markets for context-based advertising. Something Google has clearly noticed with its new ‘trial’ of being able to obtain search results around location over Google Maps, or Earth.
However it’s Femtocell technology announcement by Spain’s Telefonica, clearly playing to the home side with the event on its own turf, by announcing and I quote; ‘exploring different business models for Femtocells’ that really grabbed my attention. Unlike the GPS location finding which then can be used by any Web based service provider to grab their share of the business, Femtocells are almost certainly going to be owned and operated by a Telco operator, so they will have complete control over the information on who, or what, is in what cell at what time etc. Ideal information for them to be able to use as a unique commercial control/ownership for making money.
So what are Femtocells? Basically micro 3G cells that will cover a home, or a smaller office, or maybe even a department in an office, perhaps a particular part of a public building such as one terminal area at an airport. Think of it as a telecoms version of a WiFi, but that’s the important difference: it is a connection to a telecom operator, and it doesn’t require all the logging on and off that public WiFi demands, plus all the user management and billing services are in place already.
As Telefonica says there must be some new ‘business models’ arising from this technology, and curiously enough it is a move in the exact opposite direction from the Internet technology shift towards WiMax which is all about driving up the size of WiFi coverage at hotspots. Perhaps Google did have all of this better worked out then I for one realised when I heard that they are going to bid at public auction this year by the USA FCC for the 700MHz wireless band.
My colleague, whose field of expertise this is, added a good comment on this pointing out that some of the Operators, including Vodafone, are asking for a merger in the technology to close the gap between WiMax and LTE which has the backing of China Mobile to ensure that it will have some big deployment. His take on this is that WiMax could either gain as an ‘infill’ technology providing complementary network coverage, or be left out all together as the operators wait for LTE to arrive. A provocative statement, but definitely one to think about as there is a lot at stake here.