LTE, more tablets ,more apps. That pretty much sums up this year’s Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona. This bellwether event for the mobile industry is a good place to be in if you want to gauge the mood and get an insight into what’s in store. If the trends visible at this year’s event is anything to go by, 2011 is going to be a pivotal year in the history of mobile communications. LTE is already here, a bit earlier than expected, with many commercial deployments underway all over the world, including Etisalat in the UAE. Many operators in the region are already trialling the technology and making their networks LTE ready. However, I don’t expect any commercial roll outs to happen this year, as most regional operators are looking to maximise their 3G assets before moving to the next-generation. Besides, the eco-system around LTE in terms of devices is not available in the market yet. Spectrum issues could also throw a spanner in the works, delaying the deployment. But, what is for sure is that LTE is just a question of when, as it offers many compelling reasons for operators, and represents a complete paradigm shift – a huge shift in focus from voice to data. The portended data explosion is going to force many to re-evaluate their current business models, and come up with innovative marketing and billing strategies. With data tipped to overtake voice big time, many would be left with no choice but to move from the existing flat-fee structure to a volume-based billing model, not to mention other significant changes in the back-end as LTE is built completely around IP. Will that be the only change? I guess the most important change as move to the advanced mobile standard is something very fundamental – while network coverage makes the difference between winners and losers in the market now, tomorrow it is going to be all about who will provide more data at a lower cost. Are you ready for that?
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