2010 Year in Review: Long live data, the new king

The mobile industry in Europe entered 2010 with hope--namely that the business environment couldn't be worse than 2008 and 2009.

Of particular note throughout the year was the attention paid to the seemingly unstoppable rise in mobile data usage--dongles, smartphones and, latterly, tablets, all contributing to this surge.

This caught some operators by surprise with city-centre base stations becoming overloaded with data traffic, a nice problem for the equipment vendors and a possible revenue boost for the operators.

However, operators reacted with a knee-jerk and cut their unlimited data plans back to something more sensible--albeit that some of the smaller operators took advantage and did the reverse in an attempt to grab dissatisfied subscribers.

Elsewhere, the established list of handset vendors suffered another torrid year, with Nokia being the most obvious to fall from grace. This company--once held high as an example of marketing genius--seemed incapable throughout most of 2010 to do anything other than to inelegantly shoot itself in both feet.

Only towards the close of the year did new management give any impression that its high-handed and arrogant ways of the recent past might just be drawing to a close.

More positively, commercial LTE saw the light in Europe--to be exact Scandinavia first, and then late in 2010 with Vodafone Germany. But a significant step for the cellular industry, and one that seems to be progressing in a more orderly and realistic manner than the launch of 3G.

On everyone's lips was the rise of the smartphone. While Apple has confidently ruled this segment since its inception--others, namely HTC and Samsung, gallantly fought back and managed to stop the iPhone from being all-conquering.

Maybe 2010 will have been the turning point for the iPhone when other vendors managed--just, to start offering a viable alternative.

So, perhaps 2010 will be seen as a year of transition--a move to data, a regime change within the handset royalty, LTE goes commercial and consumers having a choice of smartphones. - Paul

P.S. FierceWireless:Europe will be taking a short break for the holidays. We will see you back here on January 3rd! Have a happy holiday!