Juniper Research’s top ten wireless predictions

1. Mobile data traffic explosion to put strain on 3G networks

Though 3G is less than ten years old, 2010 could be the year when 3G networks begin to fall over under the burden of mobile data, due largely to some 33.8m IPhones that have been sold since launch.

There is a bit of an irony in this: for the last five years operators have been looking for ways to boost data traffic, and while IPhone Apps have boosted revenues as well as traffic for Apple’s selected carriers, they are also bringing the day closer when network’s need to be overhauled.

The silver lining for carriers may be that clogged up networks gives mobile operators a genuine excuse to charge more for premium traffic, something that Vodafone’s CEO seems to have been hinting at in recent weeks. It could even spur them into action on LTE roll outs.

2. Mobile ecosystem starts to go green

A combination of continuing strong global subscriber growth and ever increasing voice and data usage levels means that the mobile industry is under increasing pressure to develop strategies which both embrace environmental sustainability and substantially reduce average CO2 emissions both in the usage phase and across the life-cycle of a handset.

We envisage that 2010 will see a surge in the deployment of high-profile “green” handsets, featuring recycled plastic casings, energy saving modes and preloaded “ecotainment” apps which promote sustainable lifestyles.

More handsets will come equipped with solar-powered chargers; there will be greater promotion of handset recycling schemes. On the network side, there will be an industry-wide movement to address inefficiencies, notably in base station power consumption, and a far greater emphasis in developing markets on migrating off-grid base stations to renewable energy.

3. Mobile heads for the cloud

The surge in the popularity of mobile applications – in large part due to the success of Apple’s App Store – has prompted a rethink on the optimal method by which apps can be delivered to end-users.

The emergence of cloud-based platforms- where thin clients reside on the handset and data is processed and stored primarily in the cloud- will be bolstered by the open standards BONDI OneAPI initiative and HTML5.

Increasingly, mobile IT resources – such as storage, platforms and software – will be sold and packaged as services on an on-demand basis. The model also presents a substantial opportunity for developers, who will be able to develop apps which are portable across mobile devices.

4. New category of smartbooks to emerge

Juniper believes that Smartbooks will create a new category of device, falling between smartphones and netbooks. Unlike a netbook however, the smartbook will be 3G+/HSDPA enabled, always on and have an impressive all-day battery life.

If they are cheaper than netbooks, as expected, they will be even more popular. The advantage over smartphones is clear- the larger screen and keyboard alone should make the internet and entertainment experience much more compelling.

With the imminent launch of new smartbook devices from vendors such as Lenovo, and a possible launch from Apple, the industry is poised to make a big push into this segment. Qualcomm in particular has pronounced that smartbooks are “The smartest way to be mobile”. Smartbooks are likely to find a rich seam in 2010.

5. Apps stores all round

The sheer scale of downloads achieved by Apple’s App Store – 2 billion in less than 15 months – prompted operators, handset vendors and OS providers alike to consider emulating the Apple approach. There are now around 30 apps stores; this number will more than double in the coming year, with the majority of Tier 1 operators expected to follow in the wake of Vodafone and China Mobile.

As for the apps themselves: expect a plethora of branded apps at the forefront of advertising/marketing campaigns, together with a host of retail applications which enable consumers to view and purchase physical goods.

6. Mobile social networking to integrate with other applications including m-commerce

With mobile access to the likes of Facebook, MySpace and Twitter commonplace, adding commerce capability is the next step. And its development will start in 2010.

Viral marketing is something that marketers aspire to achieve and there is no better way of reaching that goal for those younger than 35 than through social networking on the move, featured already in many phones.

For popular products such as MP3 downloads, beverages, food (especially fast food), brands and retailers will be looking to add apps and links to make commerce on the move a natural extension of social networking. Already in the USA, we are seeing this happen with social community sites for particular demographics.

7. NFC phones appear in the shops

Juniper is sticking its neck out, predicting that by the end of 2010 it will be possible to walk into the local phone shop and churn your regular phone for an NFC phone in a number of countries! NFC combines smart card and contactless technology to enable transactions with mobile devices by waving them close to a reader. Applications include lower value retail purchases, transport tickets and coupons. So NFC holds the potential to make a real difference to one’s life.

OK so since the 1H09 launch of the Maxis FasTap service in Malaysia and Nokia’s 6126 Classic announcement, 2H09 hasn’t seen much significant news for NFC. In fact NFC may be in a transition phase. Some people think there won’t be any NFC phones – because every phone will have it, just as nearly all phones have a camera now. The word is that several vendors are very close to shipping.

8. At least 10 LTE networks will be launched into service

The year 2010 will be when Super fast mobile broadband in the form of LTE, offering speeds up to 100Mb/s to the device could finally arrive- some 40 mobile network operators have committed to LTE build-out and Juniper believes that at least 10 will enter commercial service in 2010 in Japan North America and Europe.

Smart phones, flat rate data tariffs and sophisticated (often video) apps will drive the bandwidth demand, which will in turn drive the need to build the LTE networks.

But with the cost of an LTE build out coming in at $1bn plus for a medium sized country, some operators are understandably looking to use HSPA for as long as possible: after all, mobile broadband is commercially deployed in 285 HSPA networks in around 100 countries with approximately 170 million connections.

9. Smartphones to get augmented reality makeover

Augmented Reality (AR) is still in its infancy on the mobile: until Q2 2009, just a single AR app – Wikitude – was available for a single handset (the G1). However, with a raft of new Android handsets fitted with the key AR-enablers – cameras, Internet, GPS, accelerometers, digital compasses – and with the launch of the similarly-equipped iPhone 3GS and Nokia N97, new AR apps are emerging every week.

In 2010, these launches will accelerate dramatically as other smartphone vendors begin to incorporate digital compasses and accelerometers in high-end handsets. Meanwhile, more handsets will feature preloaded AR browsers to encourage consumer adoption of the technology.

10. Christmas Kindle sales expected to herald the rise of the connected embedded consumer devices
If Christmas sales of Amazon’s Kindle eReader are unlikely to grab quite as many headlines this Christmas as the IPhone managed to in 2008 and 2009, Kindle reaching the Christmas best seller-list in the US could be good news for operators, particularly if it heralds a new revenue stream.

A host of consumer devices with SIM cards embedded directly into the device itself could be on their way, from gaming consoles to cameras, but for the time being eReaders are all the rage.

As with most good ideas, it has not taken long for others to follow suit- eReaders are already on the shelves at the book seller Barnes & Noble, publishing house Hearst through (Spring Nextel), and a launch from Murdoch’s News Corp is round the corner.

The challenge for operators, of course, will be to cut themselves into some of the content revenues in an increasingly crowded market- it is unfortunate, then, that Sprint, Amazon’s carrier partner, cannot manage an international roll-out for Amazon for lack of GSM coverage. That honor will go to AT&T instead.
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