MWC Day 1 – joined up thinking

MWC Day 1 – joined up thinking
Dominic Smith reviews day 1 of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The Mobile World Congress is one of the highlights in the industry event calendar and sets much of the agenda for the year ahead, but I can’t remember a year quite like this for the level of activity on the exhibition floor on day 1. Expectations were pretty high on the basis of the volume of meeting requests and confirmed appointments we had before coming out to Barcelona, but I can’t recall another year like it for continuous meetings and demos so soon in the show.

The Cerillion stand is in Hall 2, and in previous years it has been quite normal for there to be a slow start as exhibition visitors spend much of the first day exploring the delights of Hall 8 and Hall 1 which are nearer to the main entrance. However from early in the day, there was a real buzz about our hall and we found ourselves bouncing from one appointment to the next with convergent charging, customer experience, M2M services and cloud all recurring lines of BSS/OSS discussion.

The big industry announcement this morning came in the shape of ‘joyn’ – the GSMA’s new consumer brand for Rich Communications Services (RCS) which has the backing of key operators including Orange, Telefonica and Vodafone, as well as many of the leading smartphone manufacturers. RCS is seen as a key way to compete with Over-The-Top (OTT) service providers through a suite of enriched voice and messaging services. However this appears to be following an all too familiar pattern.

At the moment, RCS seems to be a technically-led initiative focused on new specifications for interoperability, with an emphasis on quality of service, privacy and seamless access. But what incentive is there for a consumer to use these services instead of hugely successful OTT applications like WhatsApp? What customer problem will RCS solve? And how are these RCS services going to be charged for and billed?

I’ve heard nothing so far that attempts to answer these questions and explain what the joyn consumer proposition will be. Apparently these RCS services will ‘just work’ – which sounds to me rather like Skype’s positioning from a few years ago. Surely the industry can’t have introduced a new service capability without working out the pricing model? Or will it be left down to each individual operator to set their own pricing schemes?

Simplicity is the name of the game for OTT services and if operators don’t get the answers to these questions right, then they face a huge challenge in winning over the hearts and minds of the consumer.