Event Recap: PNWS (Vancouver) and Location Based Advertising (PARC)

Event Recap: PNWS (Vancouver) and Location Based Advertising (PARC)


My event calendar this year started like last year – with a trip to Vancouver to attend Pacific Northwest Wireless Summit (PNWS) – the best wireless conference in Canada (18 and 19 Jan) . The weather was clear and sunny for a change, the drive beautiful, and the views from the conference rooms just drop-dead-gorgeous. The first day was Leadership summit where over 50+ C-level executives participated in discussing the state of affairs in the wireless industry and how to respond to the slumping economy.

Canada seems to be hit much harder than US by the slumping economy especially eastern Canada with the likes of Nortel struggling to survive.There were several interesting presentations and discussions. Some of the comments that stood out –

Steve Morley (former VP Qualcomm) – Qualcomm didn’t have any patents, any strategy, any product plan, any VC money but had a good group of people who figured things out. So, entrepreneurs shouldn’t feel disheartened and go with their dreams. The things that will get traction are – productivity tools, things that provide comfort, social connection tools, and simplifiers.

Wang Jing (Chair TD-SCDMA Forum, China) The ultimate battleground is LTE, TD-SCDMA is just a stepping stone to 4G. The mobile data market won’t pick up for the next 2 years

Laurence Dunbar (Partner, Fasken Martineau) Regulations can create new opportunities for new players and incumbents alike but it is important to understand the implications

Howard Donaldson (VP Disney) – It is very important to capture IP to maximize returns

I also moderated a panel on Global Opportunity – where are the opportunities and how to capture them. It is clear that certain segments are getting hit hard like Infrastructure and handsets, operators are also cutting back. Consumer data spending is still strong in the North American market as was evident form the strong AT&T and Verizon Q4 numbers. China and India are finally going 3G and some of the biggest contracts will be doled out.

China is pursuing a three technology strategy with China Mobile with TD-SCDMA, China Telecom with CDMA2000, and China Unicom with WCDMA. On the TD-SCDMA, China is trying to attract traditional OEMs to supplement Chinese OEMs but will the big boys invest in a technology that might not too long? To avail international opportunities, one has to understand the local market perfectly before jumping in. Despite the nuclear winter, there are new opportunities surfacing in various parts of the globe.

Next day, the full conference was in full flow with 6 interesting and diverse keynote addresses and panel discussion. Soundbites (courtesy PNWS)

During the session on Mobile Advertising, I presented my thoughts on the state of affairs of the mobile advertising ecosystem

I also wrote a small piece for the PNWS newsletter (below) based on our annual mobile predictions survey.

The best guesses for 2009
It’s that time of year again; time for predictions and forecasts for the year ahead. Chetan Sharma gives you some ideas based on the annual mobile survey conducted by Chetan Sharma Consulting with industry execs. Don’t miss Chetan live at PNWS where he will give you the inside track on mobile advertising and give you some insight on what consumers are thinking.

  • Despite the tough economy, overall, the mood is still optimistic that the mobile industry might be able to weather the storm a bit better than some of its counterparts.
  • There is predicted growth in prepaid subscriptions in the North American market.
  • Acceleration in the declining mode of downloadables already visible over the last few quarters.
  • The increase in the subscriber base will nullify the loss in data subscriptions, with the caveat that if the job loss rate increases substantially, there might be a flattening of data revenues in Q109 and gradual decline over the course of the year.
  • Continued growth in 3G and smartphone penetration especially in the western markets
  • Voice ARPU will continue its downward trend and data ARPU will become a more dominant factor of the overall ARPU mix by the end of 2009.
  • Wireless data is likely to help in carrying the wireless industry through these tough times; the global percentage contribution from data is likely to exceed 25% by the end of 2009.
  • OPEN will continue to be the buzzword for 2009 and Google is likely to set the agenda on “open” for others to follow.
  • While the overall advertising budgets will shrink, mobile advertising ad-spend will keep increasing from the 2008 levels. Targeting capability is increasing and CPMs are coming down making for a more efficient mobile channel for advertising. Brands are falling in two camps: one who are scaling down on inefficient channels like print and radio and moving money into digital including mobile and the others who don’t have quite the appetite for mobile and want to keep investing in channels that they are most comfortable with.
  • After many years of delay, India and China will finally start investing in 3G deployments with China focusing on TD-SCDMA/WCDMA and India on WCDMA.
  • Plans for mobile payments will get pulled back a bit due to economic crisis. Limited trials and rollouts will continue in western Europe and North America.
  • Infrastructure players are amongst the worst hit in the wireless ecosystem. Players like Nortel, Alcatel-Lucent, and others are suffering. Will they continue to exist in their existing form or will a Chinese player see an opportunity to acquire them? Handset market is also seeing resetting of the landscape with the Korean manufacturers rising above Motorola to be counted amongst top three. The biggest infrastructure contracts will come from China and India this year but the majority of the $50B budget will be spent on TD-SCDMA equipment so the opportunity might be limited to local vendors with minor participation from global players.
  • Tough economic times are also ripe opportunities for M&A. Companies with cash will be able to swoop the struggling players who don’t have runway to survive 2009-10. We are likely to see several transactions and fire-sales.
  • Finally, though venture money is scarce, bear markets also give birth to new business models, new companies, new darlings of the wall street, and completely new opportunities and value propositions that weren’t envisioned before. Overall, consumer mobile data spending is expected to stay strong through this time economic cycles.
  • Good Luck and Best wishes.

Thanks to Michael Bidu for inviting me to participate.

Earlier this week, I headed down to Palo Alto to moderate a panel on Location Based Advertising being hosted by the Wireless Communication Alliance LBS SIG at Palo Alto Research Center (PARC)

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Being involved in the wireless industry for almost 15 years, I used to follow the works of the legendary Mark Weiser, founder of the Ubiquitous Computing (UC) group at PARC and father of Ubiquitous Computing in general. His works and words have inspired many in the industry including me.

In fact, in 1999, when I was picking a name for our wireless practice at Luminant, Ubiquitous Computing was on the top of my list but I found myself explaining it the industry. We gradually changed to Pervasive Computing (which was also chosen by IBM around that time). People still found it hard to grasp the meaning, so I reluctantly changed (IBM also started de-emphasizing PvC) it to “wireless practice.”

Anyway, it was an absolute thrill and an honor to interact with the folks at UC at PARC and moderate a panel at PARC. There is so much computing history at PARC that even the walls seem to whisper UC.

The panelists were

— Brian Levin, Useful Networks
— Ujjal Kolhi, RhythmNewMedia
— Ilan Zorman, AdYouNet
— Blair Swedeen, Placecast
— David Turner, NAVTEQ

presenting different points of view regarding LBA. These guys have been around the block with location and advertising so it was a good spirited discussion. I have great respect for Ujjal (before Rhythm, he used to be CMO of Airtouch responsible for $250M/yr advertising budget), he has good insights into how advertising is bought and sold. Unlike the other panelists, Ujjal wasn’t particularly bullish on the LBA opportunity in terms of size and scale and thought it will be at best a niche play.

David talked about some interesting campaigns they have been launching on portable navigation devices from Garmin. Blair and Ilan talked about the differences with online targeting and how location targeting can improve performance. Brian from Useful Networks (I like the tag line – we take the BS out of LBS, neat!) gave some information about their European trials. Their role as location aggregator is being received well and they will have some numbers to announce next month in Barcelona.

Privacy was a common theme for the panelists, something that has to be done right or else the industry risks the regulatory hammer. We covered quite a bit in a short amount of time, yet there was still so much to discuss.

Thanks to Kurt Partridge for inviting me to help out with the event.