CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment Roundup 2009 October 12, 2009Posted by chetan in : 3G, 4G, AORTA, ARPU, BRIC, CTIA, Carriers, Devices, Enterprise Mobility, European Wireless Market, Federal, Indian Wireless Market, Japan Wireless Market, Location Based Services, M&A, MVNO, Microsoft Mobile, Middleware, Mobile Advertising, Mobile Applications, Mobile Content, Mobile Ecosystem, Mobile Entertainment, Mobile Gaming, Mobile Search, Mobile TV, Mobile Usability, Mobile Users, Networks, Smart Phones, Speaking Engagements, US Wireless Market, Unified Messaging, Wireless Value Chain, Worldwide Wireless Market , trackback
CTIA San Diego Roundup
San Diego is a casual town so this year’s CTIA fit nicely with an equally casual show, that felt more like a networking party sprinkled with some striking keynotes and engaging sessions. However, the biggest tremors were felt a day before the event started with Verizon getting in bed with Google and AT&T embracing VoIP with open arms. FCC’s curiosity into the wireless world has yielded more action in 3 months than many years combined before. I was drawn more to the policy debate and the implications to the wireless industry in the US and to the rest of the world. There was intense discussion on appstores and their place in the future, mobile advertising and its maturity, enhancing retail experience, accelerated growth in mobile health in recent times, and of course the tremendous growth in the US wireless data market but if you already knew that. This note summarizes the observations and opinions from the event, discussions, and briefings.
A friend of mine at the FCC invited me to the FCC Broadband Field Hearing occurring simultaneously with the CTIA at the University of San Diego. I am glad I went. The first panel was on the App Ecosystem with a diverse panel of industry verticals – rural, public safety, health care, environment, air quality, health care complimented by the discussion of the iPhone and its impact on the mobile industry. Chairman Julius Genachowski is to iPhone what President Obama was to Blackberry. He described his love for the apps with tender affection.
I am finding that the whole process of broadband planning to be quite interesting. The proceedings have been open and participatory, interest and feedback has been intense, and the principles have been clearly stated. This helped with a broader question that my CTO team for the FiREGlobal panel (to be held on Oct 15th) is addressing. We are tasked with a unique challenge of coming up with technology solutions for better civic discourse and our team consists of experts in the public and private enterprise to give a set of recommendations. We are currently under intense discussions and will unveil our suggestions on thursday. Stay Tuned.
Coming back to the FCC talk, Julius described four key principles:
- Most importantly he described the spectrum shortage as a looming crisis and that additional spectrum capacity is needed to handle the demand of data traffic from data cards and smartphones (something we have illustrated in detail in our paper - "Managing growth and profits in the Yottabyte era")
- Removing red tape to allow wireless carriers to build their network faster, for example, the work with cell towers
- Codify and enforce net-neutrality policies
- Operate more openly
While 1) and 2) have been discussed in the industry for some time, it is the mention of 3) and 4) that has changed industry in more ways than one. AT&T’s Ralph de la Vega took the stage after the Chairman and gave a spirited defense of the industry that requires no regulation. Frankly, the mere mention of the word "open" has had quite an impact on the industry in last 3 months. (I will be moderating two panels at the upcoming Open Mobile Summit on "What open means to apps providers" and "Apps in the cloud" in Nov, 2009)
Of course, as always, it is from the details that the devil flexes it muscles. How FCC will end up defining "open," "net neutrality," "network management" and other key items will determine the course of the industry. I wrote a piece that appeared in RCR Wireless “Defining Mobile Broadband” that outlined some of the same principles but from an operator strategy point of view suggested a much broader strategic imperative of building intelligent platform to survive long-term. The recommendations we made in our Yottabyte paper are being adopted and discussed much more openly since it was released in July. Due to significant interest, we will some follow-up research on the topic in the coming days, so stay tuned. I will be giving a ISACA luncheon keynote on the topic on Oct 20th. Of course, our Mobile Breakfast Series panel on mobile broadband will delve into the details of the broadband ecosystem on Dec 4th. Be sure to register.
Each year our small community in Issaquah, WA celebrates a festival “Salmon Days.” As I was strolling around the hatchery, it helped me prepare for my talk on the Appstore ecosystem. The fish traveling upstream has several parallels to the developers trying to make in the 80,000 db appond. So, I focused my talk on how the ecosystem needs to come together urgently to build the fish ladder to give more developers a chance to make it to the next level to create a vibrant and sustainable ecosystem. While Microsoft’s mobile strategy is disarray right now, they are one of the few companies who understand the caring and feeding of the developer ecosystem (another one is Ebay). If the ecosystem focuses primarily on their profits and margins, the rich ecosystem might be at a risk of collapsing.
I discussed several factors that can help foster a healthier ecosystem starting with fish ladder. If you are interested in the presentation, please drop me a line. There was pretty good discussion from some experienced and successful developers. The emergence of appstore mania has been a double-edged sword. Developers are back in demand but their attention is finite and they are forced to allocate resources accordingly. I was also surprised to find out about the level of piracy and counterfeit goods in the appstore and how little is being done to protect legitimate developers. Some of the ladder factors I discussed were: greater revenue share, connection with investors, iTunes and carrier billing, location and presence, user profile and context, reports and analytics, $0 signup and certification, better search and discovery, social interaction and virality, flexible payment and billing models, better networks and devices, reduced fragmentation, more open APIs and marketing dollars. If you are interested, drop me a line and I will send you the ppt.
I also had a chance to moderate a panel on Mobile Advertising and the current state of affairs. While mobile advertising is the only advertising sector that has shown growth this year, it is not breaking out to stand on its own. Large media companies are primarily looking mobile as a complimentary channel though they are clearly enamored by its potential. Lack of clear, uniform, auditable metrics is another issue though various industry bodies have been working together and some guidelines are expected to be released next quarter.
Overall, the show felt like a sponsored networking party with hardly any new announcements, the show floor was easier on the feet, the attendance was down again. However, the hallway conversations and running into friends and colleagues from the distant past is always priceless. The only newsworthy highlight for me was the emergence of mobile healthcare and mobile retail as separate categories at CTIA. There is clearly much potential and interest in these areas. We will have more on these topics in the coming months.
Some of the news worth items were:
- John Donovan, CTO of AT&T opined on the growth in data consumption and how the company is tackling the upsurge in usage
- Qualcomm released FLO TV service and devices but at $250 and $9/month, it, like Kindle seems to be stuck in the fidelity belly.
- A number of local search services/apps are popping up: Geodelic, Aloqa, Decarta, etc. I built my first location app in 1996. 13 years hence, market seems to be coming around to the concept of LBS.
- Number of mobile health companies were displaying their wares: Airstrip, Corventis, TotGuard, Sensiotec, and others. Lot of investment will flow into this sector in the coming days.
- Companies like Openwave and Bytemobile talked about solutions for mobile data management.
- Mobile Retail is picking up with NFC and now Nokia’s initiative of Global Retail Executive Council
- More Androids are slated for release in 2010
It was great catching-up with friends and colleagues. Looking forward to the next one.