Article first published as MWC 2012 Barcelona: What a Difference 20 years Can Make! on Technorati.
This coming week is Mobile World Congress 2012 in Barcelona, Spain where more than 60,000 mobile industry experts will gather to share the latest and greatest in mobile technology. This event is both a showcase for the industry and also a soapbox for luminaries. It also demonstrates how far the industry has come from the early days of a conference in Cannes, France where technologists, engineers and management from fledgling GSM mobile operators got together to talk about increasing penetration and getting manufacturers to develop low-cost portable handsets. In fact GSM was dubbed “God Send Mobiles”, so desperate was the industry!
What a difference 20 years can make. The first ever text message (SMS) was sent in 1992 and now we send more than 7 trillion a year on a global basis. Ahead of the show, comScore released a report “2012 mobile future in focus” that shows that smartphone penetration in the UK and Spain has achieved over 50% and that more than 48.4 million consumers access social media in Europe utilizing mobile phones; this represents an increase of over 76% since last year. Media and industry analysts are having their inboxes swamped with pre-show press releases about new developments covering everything from blisteringly fast chip sets and infrastructure to offload systems, 5G Wi-Fi and mobile payments, as well as a plethora of new mobile devices. ZTE will be reportedly announcing 8 new devices, prompting gizmodo.com to point out that “less is more” and that launching 8 devices isn’t impressive but actually indecisive!
It’s been quite a journey from the pre-mobile era and yet some things never change. The first ever roaming arrangement was signed in 1992 between Vodafone of the UK and Telecom Finland. In the early days of GSM, the cost of roaming calls made outside of your home country was astronomical. Over time the cost has come down, although not that significantly. Now, with the growth of smartphones, the issue has become the cost of data roaming. I use T-Mobile in the US, for example, which doesn’t offer a comparable data roaming package as, say, AT&T. With AT&T you can buy a 50 megabytes package for $25 while roaming but with T-Mobile those same 50 megabytes will cost you a staggering $750. I guess I’ll be buying a prepaid SIM while inBarcelona …. or using Wi-Fi!
As key trends and news emerge in Barcelona this week that will be impacting your digital life in the near future, we shall keep you informed.
Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global