According to the GSM Association, 49,000 people attended the annual Mobile World Congress (MWC) in cold wet Barcelona last week. The weather was not a metaphor for the event which has maintained its glitz even though it is no longer a showcase for all devices new. Sure there were plenty of cool handsets on view, but this indicates how the mobile sector has matured into something different – a theme we will pick-up in research to be published shortly.

But what MWC has really become is one great big networking event, and Forrester was there in the thick of it.  Personally met with senior executives from Alcatel-Lucent, Orange Business Services, Cisco, HP, Amdocs, Telefonica, Wipro, Tieto, Oracle, Comptel and Convergys; and had the opportunity to hear what Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) and Motorola had to say in my 2 days at the event. Other Forrester colleagues had equally full agendas, as is the way at MWC. As ever these interactions were as much about explaining our take on developments as hearing announcements (of which there were many).

From these meetings, podium presentations, and a deluge of press releases, four things stand out to me. They are:

  • Mobile is so much more today that chat and texts – it is as central to business life as it is to us all as consumers. This applies to the largest corporate and the smallest business;
  • Mobile is now part of the fusion of IT and telecoms into Information and Communications Technology (ICT). Companies today look to buy ICT solutions, not just IT and communications components. The number of IT firms present at MWC is proof of this;
  • Mobile today is truly global and remains a highly innovative sector. Mobile is opening up parts of the world where modern mass market communications have not been possible before. Many of the companies in the vanguard are from these regions – Bharti Airtel and Huawei illustrate the point – rather than traditional suppliers. Innovation continues to thrive as smartphones, mobile apps, and mobile ecosystems all illustrate;
  • The looming bandwidth supply problem. Both NSN and Huawei flagged up the potentially awkward problem that if demand continues to grow exponentially, then a lack of bandwidth could constrain the sector. NSN believe they have a solution to this, but it was interesting to note there are clouds on the horizon.

So for me MWC is a melting pot where the ICT industry comes together to network like crazy and share knowledge, and is fascinating as a result. 49,000 others seem to think so too – but what do you think.? Happy to discuss as ever.