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GSM Roadshow - Highlights of the GSMA Mobile World Congress 2010

March 15, 2010
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The heavyweights of the global mobile industry including operators, handset manufacturers, start-ups, VCs, internet, media and entertainment leaders, government delegates, application developers, and service and content providers shared the stage again this year in February, in Barcelona, the venue for the GSM Association (GSMA) Mobile World Congress 2010. The four-day summit was attended by about 50,000 visitors from 189 countries, according to the organisers.

Approximately 1,300 companies showcased their new devices, technologies, applications, back-end solutions and accessories across eight halls at Fira Barcelona.

Besides, the GSMA had several stands and pavilions to highlight some of the initiatives benefiting the industry like OneAPI, Embedded Mobile, Mobile Money for the Unbanked and Mobile Innovation.

The event saw promotions and launches by some top names such as AT&T, Nokia, British Telecom, Cable and Wireless, Motorola, China Mobile, China Unicom, Ericsson, Bharti Airtel, Microsoft, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Telenor, Verizon Communications, Reliance Communications and Vodafone.

The GSMA Mobile World Congress this year was much busier than its previous edition. CEOs from Vodafone, Research In Motion (RIM) and AlcatelLucent struck an optimistic note at the opening keynote session, claiming that the new decade presents a tremendous opportunity if the industry embraces openness and innovation.

The launch of several smartphones and feature-rich devices was among the high points of the event, which broadly indicates the trends for the year. Green applications, next-generation routers, switches and base stations, and content and software applications received a lot of attention. There was an added emphasis on increasing the uptake of mobile broadband.

With a focus on mobile applications this year, App Planet, an event designed to bring together the critical elements of the broad mobile application ecosystem, was set up. Google, Motorola, RIM, Sony Ericsson, Vodafone and WIPJam held application developer conferences at App Planet, which attracted more than 20,000 visitors.

The congress ended with a special awards ceremony hosted by British actor and presenter Stephen Fry. Carl-Henric Svanberg, former CEO of Ericsson, was honoured with the GSMA Chairman's Award, which is considered the highest honour conferred by the association. Instituted in 1995, the award recognises outstanding contribution to the growth and development of mobile communications around the world.

tele.net takes a look at the highlights of the GSMA Mobile World Congress 2010...

Mobile broadband
Considering the current economic climate, all major technology developers and service providers felt that there was a need to give a fillip to mobile broadband. Taking the lead, the GSMA announced that it was all for adopting the "One Voice" initiative, which is expected to drive the global mobile industry towards a standard way of delivering voice and messaging services for long term evolution (LTE).

The GSMA's Voice-over-LTE initiative has already garnered the support of over 40 companies worldwide, including the world's leading mobile operators, handset manufacturers and equipment vendors, all of whom support the principle of a single, IMS-based voice solution for next-generation mobile broadband networks. The GSMA has also committed itself to lead the development of the specifications that will enable interconnection and international roaming between LTE networks, which are expected to be ready by the first quarter of 2011.

In a major development at the meet, major CDMA operators such as China Telecom, KDDI and Verizon Wireless gained membership to the GSMA following their commitment to deploy services based on LTE. All of them indicated that they will begin the commercial deployment of LTE as early as in 2010. According to industry analysts, LTE, when combined with the expansive footprint of these operators' existing mobile broadband services, will deliver high speed services to more than 150 million users over the next three years.

Qualcomm also joined the GSMA as an associate member and will work with the operators to aid the smooth integration of LTE with the existing mobile broadband technologies.

"With its high speed and cost-effective network architecture, LTE is bringing the GSM and CDMA communities together. We are delighted that China Telecom, KDDI and Verizon Wireless have joined the GSMA along with Qualcomm, and will be among the first operators to launch commercial LTE services," said Alex Sinclair, chief technology and strategy officer at the GSMA.

Software launches
Interestingly, it was software that stole the show at the event. Windows Mobile and Symbian, which have struggled to keep up with their rivals in the mobile operating systems (OS) market, made their mark at the congress.

Microsoft took the wraps off the Windows Phone 7 Series, the long-awaited and new version of its mobile OS for smartphones. The company expects the system to reinvigorate support for OS among handset vendors, mobile operators and developers.

In an effort to compete better with rivals such as Apple and the Google-backed Android platform, Microsoft showcased its social networking and content capabilities while downplaying its role as a productivity tool. The first phones running the Windows Phone 7 Series will be available in the market by December 2010.

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, while acknowledging the need for change with the introduction of the latest OS version, stated: "No question we had to step back ... to recast our strategy and design approach.

Microsoft has already clinched commitments from manufacturers such as Samsung, LG, Sony Ericsson, HTC, HP, Dell, Toshiba and Garmin-Asus for the use of its Windows Phone 7. The company has also drawn support from mobile operators such as AT&T, Orange, T-Mobile, Telefonica, Sprint Nextel, Vodafone, SFR, Verizon Wireless, Telstra and Telecom Italia. Microsoft intends to work particularly closely with AT&T and Orange.

The Symbian Foundation introduced Symbian 3, a stepping stone for Symbian 4, a major revamp of the mobile OS. Symbian 3 brings in the much-needed improvements in the key areas of user interface, multimedia and performance. Such enhancements include HDMI support, single-tap user interface and the addition of multiple home screens.

Nokia and Intel announced their proposal to merge their respective Linux initiatives to form a new platform for high-end mobile computers. Known as MeeGo, the platform will combine Nokia's Maemo and Intel's Moblin. The deal will intensify competition in the mobile Linux space where it will compete with platforms like Google's Android. The deal builds on an alliance forged between Nokia and Intel in 2009.

Operators team up
Twenty-four leading telecom operators including Bharti Airtel signed up for the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC), an alliance to build an open platform that delivers applications to all mobile phone users. These operators, with access to over 3 billion users around the world, have committed to create an ecosystem for the development and distribution of mobile and internet applications, irrespective of device or technology.

The WAC aims to unite a fragmented marketplace and create an open industry platform that benefits everybody –­ from application developers and network operators to mobile phone users. The alliance's stated goal is to create a wholesale application ecosystem that will establish a simple route to the market for developers to deliver the latest innovative applications and services to the widest possible customer base around the world. In the immediate future, the alliance will seek to unite members' developer communities, and create a single, harmonised point of entry.

Handsets
There was a whole range of handsets on display at Barcelona. As expected, Android smartphones were a hit and had the biggest presence. Motorola introduced the Cliq XT handset with Motoblur software for T-Mobile. Sony Ericsson showed plenty of Android support, adding the Xperia X10 Mini and Xperia X10 Mini Pro handhelds to its portfolio. The Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 made news for being the world's first Windows Mobile smartphone. The device is equipped with a 3 inch screen, an arc sliding QWERTY keyboard, high speed downlink packet access and high speed uplink packet access technologies and a 3.2 megapixel camera apart from GPS and Wi-Fi.

HTC launched the HTC Legend and HTC Desire handsets. It also delivered a revamped HTC Advantage with TouchFlo. The LG GT540 and the Garmin-Asus Nuvifone A50 were among the other notable Android phones to be introduced.

In a departure from touchscreen phones, Samsung introduced the G810 handheld, a slider phone running on the Symbian S60 operating system. The phone has a 5 megapixel camera, TV out, GPS and Wi-Fi.

To conclude, the GSMA Mobile World Congress 2010 was a closely watched event among mobile operators and vendors. The discussions and debates among companies like Alcatel-Lucent, the BBC, Bharti Airtel, China Unicom, Ericsson, Huawei, KDDI, RIM, Samsung, Spotify, Telstra and Vodafone served as useful pointers to the future trends that are likely to shape the mobile industry.

 
 
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