Mobile World Congress 2013

D/D #1: Mobile World Congress 2013

New Venues, New Operating Systems, Small Cells and the Old Guard

I attended Mobile World Congress last week and met with a whole cross-section of the industry from chips to mobile ads. Judging from the crowds and tone, the industry is in a good place. There is a lot of new technology coming into play, and while these will take a few years to reach commercialization it was encouraging to hear people talk about new plans and expectations.

OS Wars: New Entrants

This remains an Android and iOS world. Nonetheless, Mozilla’s Firefox OS made a big splash at the show. While we think its probability of success is still low, it is less low than before MWC. Mozilla has lined up 17 serious carriers and four serious handset OEMs, a good start. Jolla and Canonical’s Ubuntu are in very early days. But at least they showed up. Microsoft and Blackberry had very little presence at the show.

Basebands: Qualcomm, Mediatek and the rest

2013 is likely to see a repeat of 2012, with Qualcomm commanding a very large share of the LTE market. All other entrants still have launch dates “later this year”. The most impressive is likely to be Mediatek, who we think will be in serious commercial volume before anyone else. Broadcom, Marvell and Nvidia all seem to be in carrier certification labs. Most surprising is Intel’s Infineon unit, which seems to be far behind and slipping. The fact that an Asian chip vendor has advanced so far has implications beyond just the wireless world.

Small Cells: 3 Problems to Solve

A big topic in network infrastructure today is “small cells”, or putting lots of lower-powered base station into already covered areas. ‘Densifying’ the network like this is the next, best way to increase capacity, but the industry still has a lot of work to do. We think there are three big problems still outstanding – two technical, one political.

Components: The Apple Discount

Times have changed. A year ago, any company with significant Apple exposure enjoyed a premium multiple for its stock. Now, these same companies are struggling to overcome the discount that this exposure brings. On an absolute basis, having Apple business is still good, but there is a clear sense in the supply chain that the industry is out of balance. Something has to change, and that will probably be a rough period, but for most suppliers there is life beyond Apple.

Travelogue: A New Fira

On a lighter note, we look at some the changes that the new show venue had to offer. While most people went to the show with a sense of trepidation, the Fira Gran Via actually did pretty well. Transit generally worked, and the event needed all that extra space. This year’s show was healthy, with 72,000 attendees. We take that as a sign that the industry is in pretty good shape.D2D MWC 2013 PDF

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