East Does Meet West

Last week two important conferences were held on opposite sides of the globe. In London, the Financial Times held the FT World Telecoms Conference; in Hong Kong, the GSM Association hosted Mobile Asia Congress 2010.

CCS Insight attended both events — Shaun Collins spoke at the FT conference, while Ben Wood and I went to Hong Kong. Comparing notes with Shaun, it seems the message in both locations, from a telecom perspective, was the same.

To cope with the demands of wireless usage, mobile networks will have to increase capacity 500 times in the next 10 years. Some forecasters are predicting there will be 50 billion connected machines by 2020, creating a real “Internet of things”.

So what does the telecom industry need to make this happen? Obviously the list is long, but here are the main highlights: less governmental regulation, the release of spectrum at sensible prices, growth of LTE networks, greater cooperation between all players in the market and the introduction of embedded SIMs. In return, the industry’s making big promises: helping countries to grow their GDP, to reduce unemployment and to improve the lot of individuals in poorer nations.

But is this our industry, yet again, making promises it can’t keep? In the past I’ve been highly critical of such claims, yet now, as we’re seeing true convergence take place in the wireless world, I think we, as an industry, can, should and must deliver.

There were times when I was listening to presentations in Hong Kong — particularly the one chaired by Ben — that I became extremely hopeful we could indeed deliver on our industry promises. But then as I left the conference for meetings in Taiwan, I read that the bickering had already started, most notably over embedded SIMs.

At both conferences the message from all speakers was clear: we must work together, because no section of the industry can achieve this alone. And my own message is equally clear: stop posturing and start cooperating.

Industry bodies like the GSM Association will have a vital role to play in bringing harmony to the mobile world. Without their vision and influence, I suspect that this time next year we’ll still be talking about it, rather than achieving it.