Six Key Mobile Trends

Foto: GSMA
Photo: GSMA

“Explore the New Mobile Horizon” is the slogan for this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC), which is expected to attract more than 1,500 exhibitors and 67,000 visitors from 205 different countries. The event, staged by the GSM Association, will present the very latest developments in mobile technology.

Last year, the business community was more concerned with security and risk management (“bring your own device”) than about the opportunities offered by mobility, says Nicholas McQuire, a mobile enterprise strategies analyst at IDC. He expects to see a paradigm shift in 2013. “Mobile platforms and mobile apps will become the standard in enterprises, and the “mobile first” premise will trigger a fundamental change in the role of IT,” he says.

Along with new cell phones, tablets, “phablets” (smartphones with a screen size of between 4.8 and 7 inches), and all manner of gadgets and accessories, the following  trends could emerge as the major talking points at this year’s event:

1. “Mobile first” in the enterprise

2. LTE and NFC enable new applications

3. New cell phone operating systems

4. Machine-to-machine communication

5. Mobile payment in the cards

6. Data replaces voice telephony

Next page: “Mobile first” in the enterprise

Foto: MWC
Photo: GSMA

1. “Mobile first” in the enterprise

In businesses, smartphone usage now stands at 80%. Corporate IT departments will have to adapt to this new situation and add mobile platforms to their IT infrastructure. Because it is no longer just the field sales force that uses mobile applications such as mobile CRM; soon, almost all applications will also available as apps for smartphones and tablets.

“A growing number of the apps that are hitting the market are relevant for enterprises,” says IDC analyst McQuire. But companies will have to strategically realign their IT systems. And they’ll have to do a lot more than just make existing processes mobile, agrees Christof Knapp, a mobile solutions expert at Capgemini. Mobility, he says, is evolving into the accelerator for change and there will be an “industrialization of app development”. Testing, above all, will become more and more important.

“IT will finally become mobile,” says Jens Schulte-Bockum, head of Vodafone in Germany and a member of BITKOM’s presiding committee. Even if it is still the consumer market that dictates the pace of mobile development, the mobile industry has discovered enterprises as a target customer group.

Next page: LTE and NFC enable new applications

2. LTE and NFC enable new applications

Many manufacturers are now equipping their smart devices to support LTE (long-term evolution). And, if the network operators are right, the spread of LTE could mean that 2013 sees the start of the fourth mobile generation, following on from analog, GSM, and UMTS. High data transmission rates of 100 Mbit/s and more allow video telephony and the streaming of TV content onto smartphones and tablets.

The MWC will also showcase the topic of Near Field Communication (NFC). Visitors will be able to use their NFC-enabled devices to gain instant access to the congress and to make wireless payments at NFC terminals throughout the venue and at locations in Barcelona city center. Smart posters at the airport will carry NFC tags containing more information about the congress and about NFC.

NFC-enabled smartphones are already being used in the U.S. as mobile password stores and as keys to unlock computers and protected applications – and even to open office doors. In Japan, air travelers use NFC airline ticketing systems to enable them to check in and board their flights faster.

Next page: New cell phone operating systems

3. Beyond Android: new cell phone operating systems

Telecoms have high hopes of Mozilla’s Firefox operating system. This new browser-based operating system stores apps in the cloud. This means that manufacturers will be able to bring inexpensive smartphones to the market that are easy to operate and always up to date. Telefonica and Deutsche Telekom both support Firefox OS. Other new niche suppliers are Canonical (Ubuntu), Samsung and Intel (Tizen), and Finnish startup Jolla (Sailfish).

Currently, the Google and Apple operating systems command 90% of the smartphone market, and the launch of Windows Phone 8 from Microsoft has done little to reduce their dominance.

BlackBerry 10 by BlackBerry (formerly: RIM) is a new OS version that cleverly separates private and business applications from each other.  “That’s something the business market has been waiting for,” says Knapp.

Next page: Machine-to-machine communication

4. Machine-to-machine communication

Automatic data transmission between technical devices (M2M) will continue to develop and open up new fields of application.  “M2M will trigger the fourth revolution in IT,” says mobile expert Knapp.

Vehicles, freight containers, alarm systems, and vending machines are examples of practical applications for device connectivity. Thanks to mobile technology, devices can control each other remotely and transmit data back and forth wherever they happen to be located. “Sensors, machines, individual modules, and complete systems can communicate with each other across the globe,” say the network operators.

Next page: Mobile payment in the cards

5. Mobile payment in the cards

Smartphone payment is a future trend that has already been tried out frequently in Europe, but not yet become established. In East Africa, on the other hand, the “M-Pesa” service has made mobile payment a very popular choice.

The vendors of Paypal, Google Wallet, O2 Wallet, and country-specific solutions such as “mPowa” in Portugal are pushing for success in the European mobile payment market. “The infrastructure in Europe is too good and the security requirements too high,” says Knapp. “However, from the customers’ viewpoint, mobile payment would cut out long queuing times at the checkout and speed up payment transactions significantly.”

And it’s not just the mobile operators who are active in this area: All the major banks are currently looking into this topic too.

Next page: Data replaces voice telephony

6. Data replaces voice telephony – new concepts for avoiding data jams

The mobile Internet market is replacing mobile telephony as the main source of revenue for telcos. In Germany alone, the mobile data services business has been growing at a two-digit rate since 2009; at the same time, revenue from cell phone calls has been falling since 2006.

According to the latest EITO study, the global market for mobile data services will grow by 15% to 288 billion euros in 2013. “The growth trend in mobile data services will accelerate further in the future,” says Schulte-Bockum. Worldwide, every single mobile user sent an average of 200 megabytes per month through mobile networks in 2012. Just five years later, in 2017, the average figure is likely to be ten times higher.

As data traffic increases, small cells and WiFi offloading will become more important in helping avoid data traffic jams. Automatic WiFi connectivity is a way of ensuring that mobile networks are future-enabled and cost-effective. Femtocells, small base stations that transmit and receive data cellular signals over small distances, can also be used in the domestic context and thus could also extend the mobile operators’ networks.