What’s going to happen at MWC 2017?

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I’ve not attended MWC (Mobile World Congress) for quite a few years, and I’ll not be at MWC 2017. I reviewed back in 2015 some of the reasons in this weblog, MWC is Broken. For this year, you’ll likely see most of the usual faces, but for many of the vendors there will be fewer demos / space / employees in attendance. There’s a broad pushback on industry events as marketing budgets get squeezed and moves online, but more on that in another weblog. If you took pictures at last year’s MWC, compare them to this year and tweet. Let’s see if we can get some comparisons like the recent presidential inauguration 😉

I recommend you check out the Canonical stand in Hall P3 – 3K31 and Canonical’s many partners. At TADSummit we have our Dangerous Demo, you can read about what we did here, this is the dry run for part of what becomes their impressive line-up of demos at MWC. You’ll see for example open source base stations with app stores. You’ll see a line up of open source telecom software (e.g. Telestax) ready to deploy at scale, at a fraction of the cost of legacy vendor approaches. You’ll see an approach to NFV/SDN that solves the real-world pain-points telcos we’re facing in BOSS (Business and operational Support Systems) and getting VNFs (Virtual Network Functions) working securely at scale on any MANO with their partner DataArt. Canonical did not pay for this recommendation, they get this recommendation as they’re doing the right thing for the Telco industry.

On the theme of doing the right thing, you’re likely to see some wrong things being announced to great fanfare. After last year’s announcement from the GSMA / Google on RCS, and a year of general inaction on the topic by many telcos, you’re going to see the same announcement repeated with some poor saps, sorry telcos, signed up.

GSMA / Google have been pounding hard on telcos over the past year, and some have caved-in, believing the GSMA knows what’s best for them on service innovation. The GSMA has its strengths on the air interface and spectrum regulation. But on services, its track record is not good, remember WAC? Giving Google control over communication services is like inviting the fox into the chicken coop to manage the hens. Except this is a robo-fox that wants its iMessage competitor, upon that will drive its (not the Telcos’) A2P (Application to Person) strategy of making their messaging service like WeChat – there at every point of your daily contact with the world, from morning until night. Feel online adverts are creepy today given their knowledge of you? Just wait… A2P is where the money is, not P2P (Person to Person).

Now the GSMA does have work on A2P. But see my previous comments on the GSMA and its track record on services. Its the local market not ‘out of touch standard people’ that decide on these things. Google has an agenda. Now if your strategy as a Telco is to become a mobile ISP, then the tie-up makes sense, focus on your core. If you want to remain in the services business and grow new revenues, then you should think twice. The core of their argument is ‘you telcos can not work together, we’ll do it for you’. The RCS standards with all the IMS requirements certainly didn’t make is easy. As a first step you do not need to interop with everyone, like Korea did with VoLTE, focus on interop within your country. You do not need Google for that, you just need a neutral host were you have some recourse. Throughout my projects around the world a common factor is diversity leading to different solutions in different countries. Do what’s right for your market in A2P.

In this post-truth era, we’ve got to critically think about every message that’s blasted at us, as most are partial lies. Yes its hard, and it means you ignore most of what’s said. But think through what it means when Google runs the platform that will become their WeChat equivalent. There are alternatives, make sure you’ve investigated them, before you decide. Every country is different, you have to assess based on your specific situation, not your group’s or industry’s position. Critically assess the fanfare in the GSMA / Google announcement, not on whether RCS is the right choice, I’ve discussed what needed to be improved, that’s only a technology decision that has become a bit ‘religious’. Rather, is Google the right choice to run your communication services and potentially abrogating your position in A2P revenues?  There are alternatives…

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