Mobile devices have a particularly cogent need for cloud services. Not only are they limited in processing power and information capability, but there is also a security imperative to backup the data in anticipation of devices being lost or damaged (it is remarkable how many mobile phones literally go down the toilet – a Plaxo study claims almost 1 in 5 people damage their phones in this way). Being able to back up data in the cloud and use data centre processing power for applications such as speech recognition is powerfully attractive to mobile users. Not surprisingly, cloud services are drawing a lot of attention at Barcelona, with a number of companies offering solutions for mobile devices. There is serious competition to iCloud and Dropbox emerging and the applications are likely to evolve rapidly over the next year.
Of course, the key enablers for cloud services are broadband networks and the cloud will drive up expectations around network latency, throughput and reliability. This is clearly an opportunity that LTE addresses, but it requires spectrum. I participated in a discussion at the Ministerial Panel (a government and regulatory session held by the GSMA) which considered how governments should regulate spectrum in a way that will encourage network investment. There was a surprising degree of consensus around certain aspects that we at Telstra have strived for over many years: a level playing field, a spectrum auction process that encourages competition not only in the bidding but also in the use of the spectrum, technology agnostic spectral allocations and international harmonisation. I pointed out that while these aspects were important and necessary they were not sufficient, as the regulatory regime also needed to ensure that the spectrum was used efficiently and should not be hoarded, nor were excessive caps on a single player helpful in this regard.
On a different topic, I was surprised to see the GSMA running a “Connected Home” stand. It is not addressing, as you might think at a conference of this nature, mobile homes, but is recognising that wireless technologies play a significant role in connecting up the devices in our home. The most important aspect of this is the feverish activity of various players in the industry to offer the software to manage this complicated environment and make it easy for the user. It is a seemingly simple goal with a very complex answer.
Finally, one of the great opportunities of a conference such as Mobile World Congress is the ability to talk to other operators about problems of mutual interest. I have discussed mobile and cloud services, connected home and other topics with operators from New Zealand to the Middle East, across Europe and to America. At least in the provision of new services that benefit us all, humankind is pretty much united.
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