This past September I attended Mobile Future Forward for the 5th time. Every year, Chetan Sharma puts on a great show that brings together some of the greatest leaders in the mobile communications business.
Since the beginning of Mobile Future Forward, 7 years ago, Chetan has been building up the fourth wave theory—the idea that mobile telecom revenue has moved from voice technology to messaging services to data connectivity, as each generation becomes commoditized.
Mobile Future Forward gave me an opportunity to see how some of the biggest players in the mobile ecosystem are adapting to digital transformation. Here’s what I learned at the conference.
5 Takeaways from Mobile Future Forward
There is a great balance between quality content and great networking opportunities at the Mobile Future Forward conference. Between the two, these are the 5 points that have stuck with me after the event:
1. Realizing the Impact of Digital Transformation
Telecom has been historically slow to adapt to change, but digital transformation trends are accelerating the need to evolve.
Only 3 of the top 10 companies from 2006 are still ranked today—Exxon, GE, and Microsoft. Digital disruptors like Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook have come to power, making it clear that digital transformation isn’t just a theory—it’s having profound affect on the GDP. If we don’t evolve as a mobile ecosystem, some of these industry leaders could be in trouble.
2. Connected Intelligence as a Driver of 4th Wave
The deeper theme surrounding the 4th wave theory this year was connected intelligence. Networks, thinking objects, data, context and trust are all coming together to make a “smarter” world. In the past, GPS wasn’t prevalent across mobile networks. Now, mobile devices are talking to the network more than ever, enabling new services in the process. Driving this new era of connected intelligence with mobile networks was an important topic at the conference this year.
3. The Biggest Operators Approach 4th Wave Differently
It was interesting to listen to Glenn Lurie (CEO of AT&T Mobility) and Neville Ray (CTO of T-Mobile) talk about how they are pursuing the same 4th wave goal. However, it was more interesting to hear how different their approaches are.
AT&T, through its DirectTV acquisition, aims to own content in the era of digital services, enabling universal access regardless of the device you’re using. T-Mobile, on the other hand, is pushing for data commoditization, partnering with companies like Netflix and Hulu to enable unfettered access to content across their network. The network, infrastructure, and quality of service goals are the same—the paths are very different.
4. 5G Networks Are Coming
The rate at which data is consumed today is forcing the need for a more advanced network. We’re still a couple of years away from 5G networks, but it’s clear the industry is alive with buzz about tomorrow’s advanced networks. Aside from just increased speed and reliability, 5G will drive new digital services such as network security and management over telecom networks.
5. Artificial Intelligence/Autonomous Vehicles
There’s a lot of discussion surrounding the future of autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence (AI)—but the consumer world doesn’t realize that mobile networks will be the foundation of these capabilities.
Whether you’re talking about Uber’s self-driving cars or drone delivery services, sensor connectivity will drive success. As a mobile ecosystem, we have to think about how we can improve sensor connectivity to enable the limitless possibilities of AI and autonomous vehicles safely and efficiently.
Sustainability and Revenue Go Hand-in-Hand
I was lucky enough to participate in a panel discussion during the Mobile Future Forward conference and talk about our sustainability focus. It was interesting to see the expectations people had towards sustainability. Leaders in the mobile ecosystem are looking to make money (especially in the context of the fourth wave theory theme).
When they hear sustainability, they immediately think of environmental protection, not money making. However, a discussion about environmental sustainability must be rooted in economic feasibility.
What the mobile ecosystem has to learn is that driving trade-in programs isn’t just good for the environment (fewer minerals extracted, less e-waste, less pollution), it’s a billion-dollar opportunity for operators, retailers, OEMs and everyone in the ecosystem. It's a proven mechanism—customers will be attracted to economic offers while helping the environment.
As a means of driving alternative revenue streams pertinent to the fourth wave theory, discussing the full-circle view of sustainability with industry leaders, showed great promise for digital transformation.
If you want to discuss any of these trends further, contact us today with any questions. In the meantime, download our White Paper, "Boost Your Customer's Mobile Trade-in Experience".