HomeEditor's CommentsIt's been a riot...

    It’s been a riot…


    By general accord this has been a very productive Mobile World Congress. Exhibitors, never slow to point the finger if booth traffic is down, have almost universally said that they have had more meetings with potential and actual customers than ever. The GSMA had trailed the fact that this would be its biggest ever show, and it certainly felt like it on Monday and Tuesday as the halls filled up, and the Conference sessions played out to packed houses.

    The Association also managed to negotiate some kind of last minute deal with the Transport Union not to strike, and on Wednesday evening successfully evacuated 30 thousand odd attendees out the “back door” of Congress as Barcelona’s Mossas did their best to turn a protest into a riot out the front.

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    Also rioting was the EC’s Steely Neelie Kroes, who picked a Twitter fight with Vodafone’s  CEO, Vittorio Colao. To use the playground jargon that seems appropriate, Colao started it, when on Monday he said in his operator keynote: “Does Europe need employment or does Europe need rate cuts? We should stop having this continuous intervention on prices and let the industry reinvest the money,” he said. But on Tuesday, Digital Agenda Commissioner, Neelie Kroes, said, on Twitter, that she would not be intimidated.

    “Message to Vittorio and Vodafone: I call your bluff. I take the side of the Vodafone customer. Remember, if consumers lose their fear of using their smartphones and tablets when traveling across Europe, operators will benefit as well,” said Kroes.

    This Twitter intervention made a change from her tactic a couple of years ago, which was to hold an impromptu press conference on the steps of the Congress, efectively gatecrashing a GSMA-managed press event (featuring the top industry CEOs) that was not proceeding to her liking. What has she planned for next year? Perhaps a Mobile World Live streamed Keynote: going toe to toe for 12 Rounds in the Ring with Mr Bernabe?

    Bluff or not, the operators tend to get their party-line in place before MWC, arriving with a top line message. They say they want to invest, and they seem to be doing just that – giving some serious buying signals in the areas of small cells, WiFi control and integration, backhaul, customer analytics and in high capacity platforms that will allow them to apply security, policy and charging in real time, at massive scale.

    And what is more, the vendors have turned up with some actually quite interesting products and developments. Alcatel-Lucent, for example, is on the warpath with its lightRadio cube and network products. We saw a glimpse of its product path, which included a dual radio metrocell, supporting LTE and 3G, as well as a high power metrocell for rural use (a ruracell?). Very interestingly, there was also talk of an extreme broadband Cube, that is being thought about in terms of operators sharing the radio. This would be transformational, and have a real economic impact in the small cell market.

    Alcatel-Lucent had also placed 8 lightRadio picocells around the Fira, operating LTE in 2.6GHz spectrum from Telefonica along with two macro cells. We saw a speed test on one LTE device show 35Mbps throughput, and vanishingly low latency.

    The handset vendors were also in a weapons race, arming themselves with 40 megapixel warheads, and quad core missiles. Samsung probably won the “cute marketing” race with its Galaxy Note, employing artists to sketch caricatures of attendees on the tablet.

    Huawei unveiled a shiny black horse in front of the fountain to publicise its Ascend D phone range. Placed in front of the slightly fascistic towers at the top of the Avenue, it looked vaguely threatening, as if about to trample a rioter underfoot, rather than aspirational.

    And speaking of threatening, we heard from one exhibitor whose stand was visited by some “phantom” operator representatives who didn’t seem quite right. (Big clue, they weren’t remotely from the country they claimed to come from). When challenged, they fled quickly, having offered Googlemail addresses as evidence of their operator credentials. Espionage is live and kicking, still, at MWC.

    Next year the event will be in the new Fira location, which is bigger than the grand old dame on the Avenue. We’re already hearing that the major vendors have booked up large amounts of space, putting a premium on booth space for the rebooking of smaller vendors. It’s a shake-up, which is not a bad thing, but it’s giving the vendors a bit of a headache at the moment.

    So we might have quite a different looking exhibition next year, it seems. Bring it on. But for now, it’s time for some sleep and reflection.

    We’ll back next week catching up and following up on more news and analysis from the event, as well as a whole clutch of videos. Then our post-show round-up digital issue will be out very soon after, putting all our content into one place.


    Keith Dyer
    Mobile Europe