Of all the ways that I’ve seen the mobile market in China explode in the last few years, witnessing the rapid rise of the annual conference now known as Mobile World Congress Shanghai has been one of the most exciting. A Syniverse team of over 15 leaders, including our CEO, Steve Gray, just returned from this year’s conference, and in this post I would like to share a few of our highlights.
Just in its fifth year, Mobile World Congress Shanghai, held by the GSMA and formerly called Mobile Asia Expo, has become the GSMA’s largest-ever mobile industry event in Asia, with more than 53,000 participants at this year’s show. The theme this year was “Mobile is Me,” and it explored how mobile is revolutionizing our lives through new personalized experiences, from connected cars and wearable technologies to the internet of things and smarter cities.
Syniverse had a large presence at the show, and one of our highlights was sponsoring the official GSMA member receptions, where we had the opportunity to host over 100 operators, technology companies and other mobile players that attended. We also had the chance to walk the exhibition floor, check out new product demonstrations and attend fascinating discussions on such hot topics such as 5G, automotive mobile technology, cybersecurity, digital commerce, gaming, and the internet of things (IoT), among others.
Below are some of our biggest takeaways from these events. I start with my observations and then turn it over to some of my colleagues. I hope you find our comments enlightening, and I invite you to comment at the end of this post if you have any thoughts you would like to share.
Narrowband IoT and Local Data Roaming Play Big Role in Mobile’s Future
For me, the internet of things stood out to me as a major theme at the show. I found out some fascinating updates about Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), a new standards-based IoT technology that was just approved in June and was developed to enable a wide range of new IoT devices and services. NB-IoT significantly improves the power consumption of devices, system capacity and spectrum efficiency. Supported by all major mobile equipment, chipset and module manufacturers, NB-IoT is compatible with 2G, 3G, and 4G mobile networks, and it also benefits from having the functionality to support the latest security and privacy mobile network features. With these capabilities, NB-IoT is poised to become one of the main standards for IoT, and Syniverse will follow the development of this technology closely as we continue to strengthen our IoT-related services.
Another hot topic at the show was International data roaming. A big focus was on international roaming SIM cards and virtual SIM cards, but there was also a number of other solutions that were on display that offered alternatives to traditional roaming. One of these is local data roaming, which enables operators to provide inbound roamers on their networks with internet services at local or near-local rates without subscribers having to change their existing mobile device or SIM card. In this way, subscribers can stay connected to the internet without losing their home number services, such as incoming and outgoing calls and text messages. Syniverse has been developing its own local data roaming services, and after seeing great promise for the demand for these alternative roaming services at Mobile World Congress Shanghai, we look forward to further optimizing our solutions.
I would now like to turn over this post to some of my colleagues who attended Mobile World Congress Shanghai to share their insights.
Consumer Companies Embrace IoT
By MK Chang, Vice President, Advanced Signal and Network Interoperability
If I had to comment on just one thing at Mobile World Congress Shanghai, it would be about IoT. This was one of the dominant themes at the show, and I could clearly see that the consumer giants in China are really waking up and embracing IoT in a big way.
In fact, during the show, a new GSMA report was released that finds that China is currently the world’s largest M2M market, with approximately 100 million cellular M2M connections, a figure expected to increase to 350 million by 2020. This points to profound implications for the growth of IoT in the next few years, and these were on full display on the exhibition floor.
One exhibitor, in fact, had a display that I think captured the aspirations for IoT so simply but so vividly, as you can see here.
This IoT strategy shows how consumer companies are strengthening their efforts to determine how they can automate all aspects of our lifestyles. I think it speaks volumes for what it intends IoT to be about, and I can’t wait to see what new IoT services will come to market in the next few years.
Roaming Continues to Rapidly Evolve
By Zidan Lian, Regional Vice President, Product Management
One of my biggest impressions was that competition remains fierce for new technologies and solutions that bypass standard roaming. For example, many people at the show discussed the use of soft SIM or virtual SIM solutions, which provide a local SIM, over the air, to travelers’ smartphones, and allow travelers to use their smartphones at local rates and avoid the roaming charges of the home operator.
With these soft SIM, virtual SIM and e-SIM solutions now coming to market, the roaming business is under tremendous pressure to reduce prices, and I think that eventually all roaming rates will become very close, if not the same, as the rates that subscribers would pay if they were using their smartphones at home. The notion that roaming is a premium service that operators will charge their subscribers for at a premium price will meet great challenges as local over-the-air SIM alternatives become more popular.
‘What’s Next!’ Is Question That Guides Next Generation of Mobile
By Mike Stewart, Regional Vice President, Commercial Operations
My most interesting takeaway came from checking out some of the newest technologies that demonstrate the far-reaching implications that mobile has on our lives now. The GSMA provided a glimpse of this with its Device City and Innovation City exhibits. There I observed how several companies in the entertainment arena are developing incredible virtual reality technologies that are focused on gaming and lifestyle today, but tomorrow could easily be extended to uses in the business world. As one example, I saw a refrigerator that can serve as a Wi-Fi hub at your home, and even show you what’s inside it through an app.
I think the most intriguing thing about how this technology is moving forward is the “what’s next!” anticipation. How will these technologies make my life better? When will I be able to travel anywhere in the world and truly have unfettered access to all my apps, games, home appliances, etc.? LTE technology is helping us get the underlying network in place, but in reality the applications, handsets and innovative ideas for how we interact or can interact will be the major breakthrough we can expect. And, by the way, “we” is now not only people, but our cars, refrigerators, shoes . . . you get the idea!