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.