CHETAN SHARMA
 

CTIA Wireless IT and Entertainment Roundup 2009

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:

  1. 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")
  2. Removing red tape to allow wireless carriers to build their network faster, for example, the work with cell towers
  3. Codify and enforce net-neutrality policies
  4. 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

As usual, we will be keeping a close eye on the trends in the wireless data sector in our blog, twitter feeds, future research reports, and articles. The next US Wireless Data Market update will be released in Nov 2009. The next Global Wireless Data Market update will be issued in March 2010.

Your feedback is always welcome.

Thanks.

Chetan Sharma

Disclaimer: Some of the companies mentioned in this note are our clients.

 

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Recent Publications/Media Interviews/Mentions

Whitepaper

AdvertisingAge

Mobile Video Gets Ready for the Masses

Moconews Full speed ahead as US carriers invest billions, is it too much?
FierceWireless

Mobile advertising measurements still lack standardization

MobileMarketer

Mobile CPM measurement standards are essential

RCRWireless Defining Mobile Broadband
Fortune

Bandwidth hogs - iPhone and other smartphones

WSJ Big Phone Companies Are Unlikely US Antitrust Target
Xconomy A Yotta Insights on Making Money in Mobile
Gestion Del compromiso a la compra (in Spanish)
NY Times Customers angered as iPhones overload AT&T
Boston Globe Surreptitious success
RCR Wireless

The RCR Ecosystem - An Overview

Wireless Week Tough Times Call for Superior Customer Care
Mercury News Your phone, your life: New apps change how you use mobile devices
CNN Money US Wireless Data Revenues on the Brink
MIT Technology Review The New Faces of Android
GigaOM

New Metrics for Mobile Ad Networks

How the iPhone is driving a wireless bandwidth boom

Don't Neglect the Network, The Ultraband Panel

BusinessWeek

The Wireless Data Boom Will Cost the Carriers

AT&T's Designs for the Wireless Market

The iPhone's Wary New Rivals

Wireless Industry: Engaged in Double Counting?

Advertising Age Mobile Video Gets Ready for the Masses
WIRED

Smartphone War Heats Up, Google Phones Still MIA

Concept Phones go on Display at Wireless Trade Show

The Next Netbook Trend: Cellphone-Like Contract Deals

CNN Money The iPhone and the Ensuing Wireless Broadband Boom
Washington Post

Is the Rush to Develop iPhone Apps Creating A Bubble?

Data Revenue Growth Nearly Offsets Plunge in Voice Revenues

Mercury News FCC probes Apple's rejection of Google Voice for iPhone
Books

Mobile Advertising: Supercharge your brand in the exploding wireless market (John Wiley & Sons)

Wireless Broadband: Conflict and Convergence (IEEE Press/John Wiley)

Enterprise Mobility: Applications, Technologies and Strategies (IOS Press)

Survey Mobile Industry Predictions Survey
Whitepaper Inside the USPTO: A guide to the patenting process
Whitepaper What is your Patent Portfolio Quotient (PPQ)?

Missed an article? All articles can be found here.

 

 Upcoming Events

Notes from recent events PARC, CTIA, NAB, TiE, Mobilebeat, GigaOM, Mobile Breakfast Series
Oct 15 FiREGlobal West Coast, Seattle
Oct 20 ISACA, Bellevue
Nov 4-5 Open Mobile Summit, San Francisco
Nov 16 Mobile Northwest, Seattle
Dec 4 Mobile Breakfast Series, Seattle. The Impact and Evolution of Mobile Broadband (w/ Om Malik, Scott Richardson, Ken Denman, Charlie Martin) Seattle. Register

In addition, Chetan will be doing some private briefings to carriers, content providers and enterprise solution providers

 Upcoming Research

Nov US Wireless Data Market Update Q3 2009
Jan 2009 Year End Report and Predictions for 2010
March Global Wireless Data Market Update 2009

Missed an update? All research notes can be found here.

© Chetan Sharma Consulting 2001-2009. All Rights Reserved.
Chetan Sharma Consulting is a consulting and advisory firm helping companies in the mobile and voice communications sector. Our expertise is in developing innovation-driven product, business, and IP strategy. We've helped companies like NTT DoCoMo, China Mobile, Samsung, KDDI, Motorola, Alcatel-Lucent, Sony, Virgin Mobile, KTF, Sprint Nextel, Reuters, Disney, Qualcomm, Motricity, Reliance, BEA, HP, Merrill Lynch, Cincinnati Bell, Bain, SAP, Vulcan, American Express, and many others. What can we do for you? www.chetansharma.com

 

If you have questions or suggestions or feedback on this subject or on the wireless & mobile industry at large, please contact us at feedback@chetansharma.com - we look forward to hearing from you.

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