Mobile World Congress Keynote 1: Mobile Operator Strategies

Last updated: 11 April 2014

We’ve already blogged about handset manufacturers and innovators in the mobile space, but where would be without the mobile operators? In the opening keynote of 2013’s Mobile World Congress, CEOs from some of the world’s largest and most important operators discussed the challenges and opportunities ahead for the mobile industry.

Here are some of the key points from the likes of China Mobile, AT&T, Vodafone and Telefónica:

Franco Bernabé, Chairman of the GSMA, explained that MNOs are currently undergoing great change, as revenues are under pressure. They will face three key issues: spectrum, privacy protection and investment. While there are challenges, there are also opportunities to be had, but growth can only occur if there is timely and reasonable access to harmonized spectrum.

Also, as our lives become increasingly digitized, portability and interoperability will be vital. The SIM is the only element that can be securely updated over-the-air (OTA). However, mobile identity services will create further opportunities for MNOs based on secure access to personal data and, in an increasingly complex ecosystem, finding the right balance between competition, innovation and investment will be crucial.

For Randall L. Stephenson, CEO of AT&T’s perspective, transformation is all around us. We are at a remarkable point in time, with 4G/LTE and the cloud disrupting and evolving what we’re used to. With everything linked and accessible, we are moving from the smartphone era to the cloud era and that is changing every industry.

MWC 2This is something that Xi Guohau, Vice Chairman of China Mobile agrees with. While there is increased competition in the ecosystem, there are a multitude of new opportunities generated by smart pipes and an open platform for apps and services development. Over 2 billion apps were downloaded in 2012. China Mobile plans to sell 120 million mobile devices in 2013, so is clearly one to watch.

From César Alierta, CEO of Telefónica’s point of view, LATAM is set to be the fastest growing region in the world, with over 40 percent of subscribers using a smartphone by 2016. In an as yet unwritten digital world, Firefox OS will be the answer to make the web the platform, and break monopolies. Earning the customer’s trust to become more relevant will be the MNO’s biggest challenge in future.

Finally, Vittorio Colao, CEO of Vodafone concluded with the well-known fact that life is mobile. For example, a whopping 86% of employees demand flexible working hours. This mobile operator has already adapted and changed its strategy in 2012 to comply with people preferring free services such as WhatsApp and Skype. With Vodafone Red, consumers now have a great network but also generous data packages. Some of the key trends Vodafone has been investing in include mCommerce, unified communications, M2M and security.

Based on what these mobile operators are saying, the mobile industry is still in flux and there are plenty of opportunities to be had. What do you think are the key issues facing the mobile industry?