It's All About Data

David Murphy

As Mobile World Congress gets into full swing, Openwave CEO Ken Denman names the three issues that he believes will dominate this year's event

Openwave Ken Denman Today marks one of the busiest days in the mobile industrys calendar. Its the start of Mobile World Congress, which sets the tone for trends in the mobile industry for the next twelve months.
There has been much discussion already about the themes and topics that will hit the headlines this year. One that certainly wont escape attention is the dramatic rise in data traffic largely down to the growth of mobile devices and the increasing popularity of video streaming and the strain this is putting on mobile networks. Tied to this will be an argument around monetization: as bandwidth becomes the mobile worlds currency, who must foot the bill for mobile broadband?

Data gridlock
2009 saw tremendous growth in the development of applications for mobile devices. But demand for information is now growing so rapidly in developed markets that many operators are facing the possibility of data gridlock as traffic engulfs the networks. As mobile video consumption continues to rise and new devices such as the iPad become more widely available, consumers will continue to demand more and more from their mobile devices. However, many network providers wont have the physical infrastructure to keep pace.
If this issue is not addressed soon, consumers will suffer as services grind to a halt. People are beginning to realize that we need to find a long term solution to the problem and quickly. 
As a result, my nominations for the three top talking points at the show this year are:

The data tsunami
The data overload that has already begun to effect mobile operators will intensify in 2010. The proliferation of data-hungry mobile devices is accelerating the rate at which mobile traffic is increasing putting the 1EB (Exabyte) per month mark about four years away. For comparison's sake, it took almost eight years for fixed line traffic to achieve the same growth. In other words, operators are facing the prospect of seeing their traffic grow faster than the rate at which they can add capacity.

Video streaming
Streaming video on mobile devices will continue to grow in 2010, soon becoming the dominant form of data traffic. Conservative estimates indicate that video will comprise 75 per cent of all mobile network traffic within the next couple years. We also expect to see announcements around advances in mobile video technology and there will also be traction around mobile television.

Who pays?

There will be increased debate between mobile operators and content providers around how the broadband business model is not sustainable in wireless. The wired world has taught us all some bad habits that will not translate into the wireless world. Content provides have dug in their heels about paying the operator to host content on operator networks, but someone besides the mobile operator will need to help pick up the tab.

Its probably fair to say that everyone in the industry was aware that data consumption was going to increase, but no one could have predicted the scale. Whats clear now is that it has become too large a problem for operators to handle on their own. What is needed is the co-operation of other industry players to help reduce current congestion and future-proof network capability.
There is no one over-riding solution but we are likely to see a number of new ideas, tools and solutions emerge which will help tackle the problem and its likely these will begin to surface at Mobile World Congress 2010.