The expansion of the mobile industry is demonstrated by the increased number of exhibitors at this year's event: over 1,300 companies came to do business. An estimated 55,000 visitors from across the globe gathered at the Barcelona 3GSM Congress to do business and discuss the hottest trends in the mobile phone industry. First-timers included a China pavilion dedicated to showcasing the region's impact on the global mobile industry.
Convergence is breaking down barriers between fixed and mobile communications systems and between these and the internet and broadcast environments, attendees heard. Furthermore, the mobile industry is now embracing the media and entertainment worlds as mobile establishes its reputation as the fourth medium.
In the years to come the speed of mobile internet access technologies should reach 100Mbps, which is the format of the 4G standard.
Ericsson's president and CEO, Carl-Henric Svanberg, stressed the importance of mobile broadband and predicted that by 2014 there will be around four billion subscribers for mobile telephony services. With about 100 HSPA (HSDPA and HSUPA combined) networks launched around the world in the last year, Svanberg considers HSPA technology the most popular one for mobility and wireless broadband.
A recently released study by the global management consulting company Arthur D. Little found that HSPA is likely to account for the majority of investment in global mobile broadband networks over the next five years, as this is a natural evolution of the GSM and UMTS operators that already operate inside the 3G spectrum.
While Svanberg sees a bigger interest in HSPA in countries with less developed land-line networks, he still believes that the commercial launch of 3G services in Europe did not have the expected response from the subscribers because it was too early, as the number of handsets compatible with the technology was small and the licenses were too expensive.
Furthermore the convergence of mobile telephony with fields like multimedia should generate the further increase of revenues for the operators and should push forward the development of mobile broadband technologies. The next step for HSPA after HSDPA is high speed uplink packet access (HSUPA) which will provide uplink speeds approaching 1.8 megabytes per second. Hakan Eriksson, CTO of
Ericsson, expects the service to be commercially launched by mid-year, with PC cards entering the market this spring and compatible handsets in the second half of the year.
The increase of speed will not stop here, as a new standard, called 3G long term evolution (LTE), is already on its way to enter the market. The standard is specified for data rates of up to 100 Mbps downlink. Significant improvements of access times, data throughput, and spectral efficiency will also follow.
Hakan Djuphammar, vice-president systems management of R&D with Ericsson, expects the general application of LTE on the market to take place in the second half of 2009, with the first office application taking place in the first half of the same year.
The development of this new technology should be speeded up, in the opinion of the industry leaders like Arun Sarin, CEO of Vodafone, who said that WiMAX is already present on the market and that talk should be left aside and facts should appear. “We need to make sure that LTE is not still at the standards stage when WiMAX is a commercial reality,” he said.
The Arthur D. Little study found that in a few years WiMAX will be a niche technology within the overall global mobile broadband wireless access market, likely to account for at most 15 percent of the network equipment market and 10 percent of the mobile broadband wireless subscribers by 2011-2012.
Johan Bergendahl, marketing vice-president for Ericsson, believes that there is a great growth potential for broadband, which will reach 1.5 billion subscribers by the end of 2011 with the number of mobile connections exceeding land-lines by the same time.
The consolidation of the mobile broadband market is already taking place with partnerships between content providers, operators and internet companies in place. The digital media is provided over networks, and the networked media should play an important part in this, as it is expected to reach EUR 100 billion in revenues in 2011 from only EUR 30 billion in 2006. This sum includes revenue from subscribers and advertisers, and the following services: TV, video, music, gaming, print and radio content, over both fixed and mobile networks.
Although the killer application for 3G services has not yet been found, the operators, together with the network integrators and the multimedia content providers, are trying to make mobile TV one of the most successful applications after voice. More than 120 operators worldwide commercially launched the mobile TV service, with interactivity and adapted content driving the growth of its popularity. The usage of the service from 20-30 minutes a month could double if the mobile telephony operator adds interactivity to the service.
Besides new technologies and business models, the Congress focused on newly introduced handsets like the E65 mobile phone from Nokia and the MOTO Q q9 and MOTO Q gsm from Motorola which will reach the market by the second half of the year.
Roxana Mihul in Barcelona