Author(s): Ben Wood
Liberty Global Strikes Cautious Note on 5G
CCS Insight was invited to an exclusive interview with Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global. This is the first time Mr Fries and Liberty Global have attended the show. The interview came on the heels of a panel session at Mobile World Congress that included Mr Fries. During the session, Mr Fries stated his belief that the target of 2020 for the deployment of 5G networks was an ambitious one. We largely agree, especially in Europe. During the interview, Mr Fries stressed the importance of connectivity and said Liberty Global plans to make opportunistic moves in both mobile and content. He predicted more consolidation in the European media market, including cross-border acquisitions and greater vertical integration of existing players. These views align with our own expectations for media providers in Europe.
Lenovo and MobileIron Forge Partnership
Perhaps one of the most interesting announcements to emerge during Mobile World Congress this year (although not at the show) was a global partnership between Lenovo and MobileIron. All new Windows 10 laptops manufactured by Lenovo will have an option to be sold with MobileIron's mobility management and security software. The software provider has made a big push on the opportunity for enterprise mobility management offered by Windows 10, and it will be hoping that the option of bundling its software licences with new laptop purchases will make it easier for buyers to move away from older security technology. The move will be watched closely by VMware, which will move closer into the Dell organisation in 2017 after the latter's acquisition of VMware's parent EMC. Dell and VMware will no doubt have similar plans in the coming months.
US Carriers Will Welcome Lighter Regulation from the FCC
A change of regulatory stance at the Federal Communications Commission under new chairman Ajit Pai will be welcomed by carriers such as AT&T and Verizon, but will draw criticism from Net neutrality advocates. In a speech at Mobile World Congress, Mr Pai discussed his most significant move to date, a backtracking of the previous regime's Net neutrality policy. This is particularly relevant as US carriers seek to exploit recent investments in content and video services and roll out unlimited data tariffs in an increasingly competitive market.
Trend of Narrower Bezels for Smartphones Comes to Fruition
Last year CCS Insight predicted that a common design direction in smartphones would be smaller bezels that allowed devices to accommodate larger screens but retain the same or smaller dimensions. The trendsetter in this area was Xiaomi's Mi Mix smartphone, which shipped in November 2016, but Mobile World Congress 2017 has evidenced further progress in this area. The best example has been LG's G6, and I expect Samsung's much-anticipated Galaxy S8 to also embrace this approach. When it comes to smartphones, for many users it's now all about the screen. CCS Insight's user research confirms a clear trend of watching more and more videos on smartphones; with ever-improving bandwidth, video consumption will just keep on growing.
DoCoMo Demonstrates the Power of Operator Data
Japanese operator DoCoMo showed off its artificial intelligence-powered predictive taxi service, which is currently in trials in Tokyo, and due for launch later in 2017. The system combines aggregate data on current and past movements of DoCoMo subscribers around the city with taxi location data to predict demand for taxis within 500 m by 500 m areas throughout the city. The predictions appear on an app for taxi drivers, enabling them to go to areas likely to see higher demand. Early tests demonstrated revenue gains of 49 percent for taxis using the app. Sensitive to the problem of taxis going only to locations with higher demand, DoCoMo is considering removing visible data when an area is overserved by taxis.
Cisco Jasper Highlights Gathering Momentum of IoT
Since its acquisition by Cisco 12 months ago, Jasper has seen excellent growth. The number of enterprises using its platform is up from 3,500 to 9,000; the number of devices connected up from 17 million to 40 million, and the number of service providers using the platform up from 35 to 50. This echoes our main finding in the IoT space at Mobile World Congress 2017: there were fewer large announcements about IoT technology, but many more examples of companies just getting on with using it.
Synchronoss Study Charts Progress of Enterprise Mobility Adoption
Managed mobility services provider Synchronoss has released a study that measured the link between a business's performance and its maturity with enterprise mobility technology. The study of companies in the UK and US revealed that basic adopters of mobile technology at work were 29 percent less profitable than those that invest in innovative mobility projects to drive efficiencies. It also found that firms that are weak in maturing were 15 percent less productive. CCS Insight has a similar view of this area and it's fascinating to see studies that are now measuring if firms are performing better through the use the technology. With OECD statistics indicating that economic output has not grown in over a decade in Europe and the US, this type of research will be welcomed by suppliers looking to prompt companies to increase their investments in mobility technology.
Wearables Payments Off to a Slow Start
For over a year, both Mastercard and Visa have been offering ways to pay for things using wearable devices though a method known as tokenisation. This entails temporarily linking a wearable with an embedded NFC chip to its owner's mobile banking app. Although the process is straightforward and both financial companies assure complete security, uptake by banks and wearable device companies so far has been discouraging. Despite this, I remain positive, thanks to the rapid proliferation of contactless payment cards and terminals in developed markets, in combination with efforts by Apple, Google and Samsung to implement this capability in their devices.
Asavie Unveils IoT Products
Asavie, a provider of software to manage enterprise mobility connectivity and IoT applications, showcased a host of solutions in the industrial IoT space, including an "IoT accelerator kit" in partnership with Dell and EpiSensor. The kit allies Asavie's connectivity management software with Dell's gateway products and sensors from EpiSensor. It aims to encourage more-rapid, flexible and simple adoption of IoT applications. Asavie is an increasingly critical player in the converging worlds of enterprise mobility and IoT. Largely focused on enabling network operators in both markets, the deals with Dell and EpiSensor will make it easier for companies to quickly assemble "best of breed" components, including the critical connectivity management element, more quickly.
India's Jio Sets Bold Customer Targets
At a press event with network partner Samsung, Indian operator Reliance Jio boldly declared plans to become the fifth largest operator in the world. It has already signed up 100 million customers in just five months by offering a range of free voice, data and messaging services. The move has had a huge impact on the Indian market as rivals scurry to offer lower tariffs and more inclusive data in response. Consolidation is another likely consequence, with Telenor already exiting the market and Vodafone and Idea announcing merger plans. Vodafone made a €5 billion write-down relating to India in November 2016, reflecting the cutthroat market competition.
SAP to Release iOS Software Development Kit for Cloud Platform
This is the first major output from a partnership between SAP and Apple that was announced in 2016. It's a big opportunity for SAP to boost the addressable opportunity for its cloud services. The company will look to infuse some of Apple's design methods into its Fiori platform and suite of apps. In doing so, it will hope that its huge number of existing customers will accelerate their journeys to cloud services with the provider.
Imagination Technologies Highlights Design Win in MediaTek Chipset
Imagination Technologies has suffered a tumultuous 18 months, with restructuring and intense competition. Although it has retained a strategically critical place for its graphics processor in the iPhone, Imagination Technologies has found its presence in the smartphone market coming under heavy pressure from ARM's Mali design, particularly in the mid-tier. MediaTek's decision to integrate the PowerVR Series7XT Plus graphics processor into its X30 chipset rather than Mali is a crucial design win that the UK company will hope can help reassert its position in the smartphone mass market. However, with MediaTek being squeezed between the rising tide of Chinese silicon investment and Qualcomm, Imagination Technologies must urgently forge new alliances.
Jolla Announces China Consortium and Sony Xperia Device Support
Despite the dominance of Android, Jolla continues to forge its own path and made two intriguing announcements at Mobile World Congress. Most importantly, it signed an exclusive licence agreement with a Chinese consortium to build an independent mobile operating system specifically for China. The Sailfish China Consortium will develop Sailfish OS-based solutions for smartphones, automotive, TV, IoT and smartwatches and intends to invest $250 million in development. This is the result of a number of years of investment from Jolla to identify opportunities in China and Russia, which have unique distribution and usage dynamics. Although the initiative is likely to remain a niche project and there's no details of current or future members, Jolla continues to work hard to identify opportunities. In a separate announcement it also said that it will be making Sailfish OS available for Sony Xperia smartphones. This is a welcome announcement for the dedicated band of Jolla enthusiasts and important to ongoing development.