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Mobile World in Barcelona last week really did encompass the whole telecoms world – you could in most cases do away with "mobile" and just view the event as a  global ITU-dimensioned telecoms get together. However, it now risks collapsing under its own weight measured by the extortionary floor space pricing, and the increased distance between the mobile operators’ stands, which risked drowning in a sea of vendors, IT service providers and accessory booths. Anecdotally, several major GSM operators are considering staying away next year and are looking around for a quieter, more focused venue.

The "mobile" Internet finally turned into "the Internet" at this event accompanied by EU Commissioner Viviane Reding’s thinly veiled threats to legislate if roaming data prices didn’t come down. The mobile carriers’ walled garden projects are coming down and operators showed user-friendly handsets such as Nokia’s N96 with access to Internet services that combine multimedia services – voice, data messaging, video, social networking, presence and location services – all rolled into a single product.

The big tent announcement was the Yahoo oneConnect launch marking the company’s expansion beyond online advertising and mobile search. Yahoo packed the press room at the Mobile World Congress with the demonstration of its upcoming oneConnect social network aggregator product. The live demos and corporate presentation slides were reminiscent of Apple’s slickness (it was of course also being ported to the iPhone), with an exciting theme of accessing all you ever want to know about your friends and colleagues directly on your mobile phone. Welcome to the opt-in world of global intimacy: review who is in your vicinity, scan all the multimedia-dialogues with your nearest and be assured that there will always be someone, somewhere just dying to chat with you. There were several other social network aggregators at the show, where especially Gypsii presented interesting revenue-sharing opportunities for both operators and handset manufacturers.

T-Mobile announced that it is replacing Google with Yahoo oneSearch as the exclusive search engine provider within the Web’n’walk landing page, thus laying the foundation for offering the oneConnect services when they reach Europe in Q3 2008. T-Mobile was the first European mobile operator to move away from the ‘walled garden’ mobile portal approach towards a more ‘open Internet’ service, which encouraged end users to navigate outside of T-Mobile’s branded content domain via a Google search engine-dominated landing page. But at this year’s Mobile World, Google was left to stew in a small, non-descript cubicle hidden up under the rafters in Hall 4, making no announcements and avoiding the press.

Another "low-show" was Motorola with its unimpressive handset launches at a time when the company desperately needs a whole line of hits. The company showed its Z6w which brings WiFi/UMA to the company’s slider form factor and may be a modest success at T-Mobile (although the window of opportunity for UMA is closing fast), but the other two handsets named W161 and W181 showed no differentiation in terms of style or function and will remain "me too" products. Chinese ZTE, rumored to be interested in picking up the floundering Motorola handset business, had a huge multi-storey stand with handsets for all markets and all pockets.

There were many alliance announcements at the show to address the new service-operator combinations, and this will inevitably create new channels to market where especially the multi-media, interactive, social networking services will spill over into the home’s communications and entertainment systems.


Bernt Ostergaard, Research Director, Telecom Services Europe at Current Analysis. Current Analysis provides tactical, competitive analysis of telecoms, networking, software and services markets.