MWC 2015: Plotting your way through the madness

My favourite week in the mobile industry trade fair calendar is rapidly approaching. Yes, I am talking about Mobile World Congress in Barcelona--the show that has ballooned from a modest event in Cannes to a rather bloated celebration of anything that has the remotest connection to mobile or wireless technology (including smart toothbrushes with Bluetooth for optimal brushing!).

For many attendees, the show is also about surviving several long days on the trot, dozens of interviews, repeated after-show drinks, and the constant shuttling between halls 1 and 8. It is certainly not an event to be taken lightly, and I am happy to share my pre-show training agenda with anyone who needs it.

It is also about spending a few days in Barcelona (what's not to like?), catching up with colleagues and acquaintances and--of course--trying to find out a little more about this complex, rapidly evolving and endlessly fascinating industry of which we are all part.

To say the nature of the event has changed is a huge understatement; it is practically unrecognisable from 10 years ago. Now we have cars taking up floor space, huge brands looking for business and technology solutions, and a burgeoning volume of devices staking their claim in the "Internet of Things".

The question is: how do you pick out the interesting stuff from the morass of events, product launches, conference keynotes and presentations that are clamouring for your time and attention? To help you chart a path through the madness, I asked a couple of leading mobile industry analyst firms for their views on what they expect to be the hot topics at the show.

Emma Mohr McClune, service director, global consumer services at Current Analysis, said we could hear more about carrier intentions in the WebRTC space, particularly announcements in the same vein as AT&T's recent Enhanced WebRTC launch.

Mohr McClune also thinks this is "arguably Joyn's last chance to demonstrate genuine carrier commitment and momentum, and win back the industry confidence that has been on the wane for years."

She is also expecting to see consumer security emerge as a major area of carrier service innovation, and said over-the-top (OTT) players urgently need to showcase the win-win value of carrier partnerships.

"I'm expecting to hear Facebook touting the success of its initiative in emerging markets, and I also wouldn't be surprised to see WhatsApp use MWC as the venue to announce its long-awaited voice enhancement, potentially in collaboration with carriers," she said.

Analysys Mason, meanwhile, predicts there will be several announcements in the area of network virtualisation. "Expect every network infrastructure and OSS/BSS software vendor to highlight the state of their virtualisation offerings," said Dana Cooperson, practice head for network-focused software research.

Cooperson also predicts that "at least one large vendor will publicly pool resources from what were separate, autonomous divisions together to create a stronger virtualisation strategy and go-to-market approach."

In addition, she said vendors and CSPs are both likely to emphasise virtual network functions that are tied to specific services, such as virtual IP Multimedia Subsystem (vIMS), virtual evolved packet core (vEPC) announcements linked to VoLTE service launches and virtual ccustomer premises equipment (vCPE) announcements tied to capabilities including parental controls and URL filtering.

Other announcements are expected to be in areas such as developments in HetNets, LTE Advanced, voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) and even Small-Cell-as-a-Service (SCaaS). As you would expect, machine-to-machine (M2M) and the Internet of Things (IoT) will also remain strong themes.

Accenture has something to say on the subject of devices, noting that consumer demand is increasingly turning to larger-screen devices such as phablets.

"Expect there to be more unveilings of innovative phablets, and overall growth of the market category, during MWC," said John Curran, managing director in Accenture's Communications, Media and Technology practice.

As for wearables, Accenture said its research shows that consumer purchase intent is modest in the short term but much more robust in the long term, with fitness monitors, smart watches and wearable heads-up display glasses among the products that consumers appear most likely to buy.

See (some of) you in Barcelona!--Anne