Having been put back by two weeks from its usual place in the calendar MWC enjoyed the breaking Iberian spring; and the difference this makes to the event is astonishing â€“ as all those poor wet-through souls who attended last year will testify.
Enough about the weather, the GSMA said that more than 67,000 visitors from 205 countries attended the 2012 Mobile World Congress, a new record and 11% up on last year. This was a surprise to many people I spoke to who were talking about downturns, credit crunches and declining revenues. But this view fails to recognise a theme of recent MWC gatherings: With the mobile world changing so fast, many of the exhibitors and attendees are a new breed of mobile species, and one operatorâ€™s declining ARPU is another App developerâ€™s opportunity.
I always begin a definition of MWC by looking at whoâ€™s there â€“ and who isnâ€™t. So, many of the usual suspects were present: Alcatel-Lucent, ARM, AT&T, Bharti Airtel, China Mobile, Cisco Systems, Citigroup, Ericsson, Facebook, Foursquare, Google, HTC, Huawei, Interpublic Group, ISIS, Juniper Networks, Nokia (back this year after a 2 year boycott â€“ hmm that did them a lot of good didnâ€™t it!), NTT DOCOMO, Sprint Nextel, Qualcomm, TelefĂłnica, Telenor Group, VimpelCom, Vodafone and ZTE. But – and hereâ€™s where we detect the changing nature of our industry â€“ some of the not so usual suspects were also in attendance: Best Buy, Citigroup, Booze & Co., eBay, Ford Motor Company, Visa. As for who wasnâ€™t there: Apple (too arrogant?), Amazon (canâ€™t find Barcelona on a map?) T-Mobile (too cost conscious these days), and Openwave (a surprise no-show).
Again with thanks to the GSMA I can report that more than 50% of this yearâ€™s Mobile World Congress attendees hold C-level positions, including more than 3,500 CEOs.Â The trending here is clear â€“ more and more, MWC is a major networking event than an exhibition of mobile technology. That said, MWC 2012 saw 1,500 exhibiting companies in all â€“ clearly a figure not to be sneezed at.
The theme for congress this year was Redefining Mobile. It was left for us to decide exactly what Mobile was being redefined to or as. Some cynics â€“ and there were many â€“ were heard whispering: â€średefining mobile – as a utility!â€ť A bit harsh I feel. Perhaps MNOs are set for more industry norms when it comes to EBITDA margins and the heady days of 40% margins are gone forever, but most of them remain strong businesses generating lots of cash, if not lots of new ideas. Hmm, maybe that is a utility!
Up the hill looking down at the rest of congress, both geographically as well as metaphorically, is App Planet. Over 50,000 people visited the hall. It was the most fascinating place and a lot of fun too.Â One can see where a lot of future revenue will be generated but how the MNOs get into the value chain is less certain. (Unless they buy up some of these companies).
Google have their view too of course, looking at the mobile world as one large cookie jar. Eric Schmidt was confident that â€śthere will be an Android in every pocketâ€ť. (No, thatâ€™s not an Android in my pocket Eric, Iâ€™m just glad to see you).
And on that note, Iâ€™ll finish up now, but you can continue reading about my MWC experience and highlights in part 2…