MWC 2014: Don’t Call It a Telco Show!

Peter Jarich
Peter Jarich

Wednesday afternoon at this year’s Mobile World Congress, IBM CEO Virginia Rometty presented a keynote address.  It was a first for IBM and Mobile World Congress.  I was lucky enough to be a part of the GSMA’s video review, giving some predictions on what she might say and then grading her performance.  I wasn’t alone, and in the pre-keynote discussion, one of the other panelists said he’d hoped she would focus on service provider dynamics since MWC is a “telco show.”  My big hope, I chimed in, was that she’d talk about IBM’s Watson work (she did), but the notion of MWC as a “telco show” stuck with me.  More precisely, it struck me as fundamentally incorrect.

If MWC is truly about the “mobile world,” then it must stretch well beyond service providers.  It needs to be a telco show, and an enterprise show, and a device show.

And it has been.  The 2014 edition was a continuation of this diversification.  Wearables – something you’d expect to be more of a CES focus – were featured prominently.  The role of the mobile enterprise continued to grow in prominence.  Connected cars were easy to spot in any number of booths.  Make no mistake, carriers were at the center of the show’s biggest news: AT&T’s Domain 2.0 selections, the shuttering of Telefonica Digital, Facebook’s search for carrier partners.  Yet, they are increasingly positioned as just one part of the MWC story.

Ultimately, this is in their interest.  While you might never see it called out as a MWC theme, the (somewhat aspirational) movement of mobile carriers into the enterprise has been ramping over the years and this was reflected well at this year’s Mobile World Congress.  Enterprise coverage solutions, virtualization at the edge of the network, sponsored data: in addition to the well-worn themes of M2M and managed mobility, these all speak to a realization that the enterprise needs to be a part of telco thinking and service planning.  That, in turn, speaks to the need for MWC to be more than just a telco show… if only for the good of the telcos themselves.

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