Year in review 2011: An exciting and unpredictable year for Europe

The European mobile industry had a dynamic year in 2011. Operators, handset vendors and infrastructure suppliers experienced successes and failures.

The following five reviews outline the progress European companies or industry sectors made during 2011, providing insight into the timelines and events that shaped the year. In brief:

One company that was followed closely throughout the year was Nokia, which chose Windows Phone as its primary smartphone platform in a blockbuster alliance with Microsoft. Nokia's traumatic restructuring was plain to see as the new management fought to bring some fresh direction and strategy into this once proud, but failing, company. 2012 will be a year when Nokia will be just as closely watched.

European operators also attempted to reshape themselves, unleashing a wave of joint ventures and partnerships to ramp-up their involvement in mobile commerce and machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity. The year was splattered with announcements, but evidence of any real success was lacking. 2012 will be a critical year for delivery.

Operators were also in the picture with their networks becoming overloaded with smartphone-generated traffic. One might ask, How did they miss this when selling so many of these new devices? This problem, which is not easily solved, appears as if it will stay with us until LTE arrives on a more widespread basis--together with the integration of Wi-Fi and small cells--in city-centre networks.

Another company that was observed with interest was Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN). Always said by some to be an awkward combination of cultures, NSN struggled to make headway against mounting opposition, finally succumbing to massive job cuts and a decision to sharpen its focus on mobile broadband. 2012 will be a decisive year for NSN, as it will need to quickly re-energise on its chosen focus of mobile broadband--a sector that is already heavily targeted by its stronger competitors.

The major European operators also recognised the need for change and sold off minority holdings to concentrate on sectors where they were more in control. For some, including Vodafone and perhaps France Telecom Orange, this strategy is nearly complete. For Deutsche Telekom the route forward looks strewn with hurdles and roadblocks, given that its $39 billion to sell T-Mobile USA fell apart as the year came to a close.

I believe 2012 will be equally as exciting and unpredictable as 2011. --Paul

P.S. FierceWireless:Europe will be on a publishing break for the holidays. We will be updating the website with any breaking news, but will be back in your inbox Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012. Enjoy the holidays and have a Happy New Year!