CTIA Takeaways

I attended CTIA IT in San Francisco last week. Here are three takeaways as I listened to some of the keynotes, panels and walked around the exhibition floor:

  • 3G + Smartphones + Flat-rate Data Plans = Wireless Data Explosion. We are not there yet at the mass-level, and actual situations vary from country-to-country. In India, neither do we have 3G nor do we have the unlimited data plans. So, it is going to take time. The US is actually moving ahead well on this front now — from having been a laggard for many years. Of course, Japan and South Korea continue to be the leaders in this space.
  • To win in 3G, build 2G audiences. This applies to operators and service providers. 2G is here and now. Create services that build reach. So, when 3G comes, it is easier to migrate people to a richer set of services than starting afresh. This is also the reason why I believe that the Indian 3G auction will primarily only have bidders who have the 2G customer base. Building 3G greenfield networks and acquiring customers from scratch is non-trivial and very expensive.
  • Mobile data needs a new breed of companies. Like on the Internet where a new set of companies dominated, I believe that on the mobile in emerging markets, a new set of companies will emerge to dominate. The mobile operators of today will not be able to realise the full promise of the future. We need a new generation of Mobile Computing Operators. In developed markets, the Internet players have a good chance of winning because the mobile becomes just another channel. In emerging markets, without the deep legacy of the fixed Internet, the market is wide open.

One thought on “CTIA Takeaways

  1. Regarding your second point, you are bang on target. The way I see it, in the Indian context, it does not seem feasible for a ‘new’ operator who gets spectrum to launch a 3G network. The amount of spectrum (5 MHz) will not be sufficient. Therefore, new entrants might want to take the ‘buy-an exisiting-2G-operator’ route so that they get their hands on an existing network to which a 3G overlay can be added. The starting from scratch route was adopted by Hutchison when it launched the ‘3’ network in the UK a few years ago and they had to resort to all kinds of tricks/gimmicks to attract customers. However, one must also bear in mind that at that time 3G technology was not mature, handsets were expensive and didn’t work that well. Another option for a new entrant is to have a tie-up with an incumbent 2G operator for providing high-speed data services to the latter’s customers while letting its own customers use the 2G network in areas where there is no 3G coverage.