Finally, as my feet recover from the ‘MWC syndrome’ (all you MWC goers will know what this is), I sat down to share my observations at this year’s Mobile World Congress. Hosted in March for a change, as compared to the usual chillier February, this year’s MWC was another spectacular, larger than ever, dazzling show – well done GSMA!
All through the show, I was keen on finding out what’s happening in the mobile or telecom industry. And obviously I wanted to see what the operators have brought to showcase at this global platform. Every time I managed to get a break from the duties of our stand in Hall 7, I went out looking for the operator stands. Day after day (and boy the 4 days are a long period for a trade show), I just saw vendors, vendors and more vendors, of all sorts. There were network manufacturers, device makers, semi-conductor producers, consulting firms, software companies (ours included), and even apparel and bag retailers (I know, baffling indeed!). But where were the operators?! It’s a no brainer that, one would expect (like in the previous years), the leaders of the industry, the operators to be the stars of the show. Instead, we saw the vendors stealing the show.
Some vendors (at least one), almost overtook an entire hall, some others pulled crowds through attractive mega stands, bands, flamenco dancers, and even virtual reality games (like AsiaInfo’s). But, there were only a handful of operators like Orange, Verizon, Zain, Etisalat, Telenor, Vimplecom and Ooredoo who could overcome the noise of the hundreds of vendors at the show. I wonder why that was?!
Are the operators finding MWC too expensive? Well it sure is, but if small and medium sized vendors can afford it, why not the operators! Or is it that the operators don’t have the confidence of showing innovation that will prove impressive against what the vendors have? Or is it a reflection of the transformation shaping up in the industry; operators losing lustre as well as the lead role; device manufacturers and others taking the lead (and revenue share)?
In a webinar yesterday, a leading analyst of the industry – Dario Talmesio from Ovum, resonated a similar observation. Well, when the host or star of the party takes a back seat, guests do observe!