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Think Big. Move Fast.

Despite the troubles in the economy, the mobile industry is as dynamic as it has ever been.  The changing landscape creates significant opportunities for entrepreneurs and should deliver exciting products and services to the consumer.

Here are our predictions for what’s to come in mobile in 2009:

1. The iPhone’s impact is not directly due to iPhone usage.

With all the buzz around the iPhone and its great stats, people might question this. However, I think 2009 will show that it’s not iPhone usage that will have the greatest impact on mobile but the wave of iPhone/appstore-like offerings being created by Apple’s competitors. Apple showed the device manfuacturers that sell the vast majority of the world’s phones how to rethink the phone from the ground up to make sense for data and apps and that will be the iPhone’s biggest impact on the industry in 2009.

A number of other large players like Google/HTC, RIM, Samsung, LG and Nokia are each coming to market with multiple offerings that have large high-res touch screens and in several important cases app stores that facilitate mobile content discovery and payments. The number of iPhone-like products by the end of 2009 should outnumber the iPhone. Despite the down economy and people watching their pocketbooks, expect the growth of these more expensive smart phones to be a real bright spot for the mobile industry. Choice and competition is a great thing for consumers.

2. 3G networks break.

Well, what else would you expect with all those iPhones and iPhone-like phones out there? These networks were designed for voice not for data and the stress placed on these networks with this new generation of phones will be significant. Areas that will continue to see innovation will include the access part of the network which will make use of intelligent smaller cells and which will leverage wifi where possible. The backhaul portion of the network will also be ripe for innovation. In a year where telecom spending is likely to go down, we would expect spending on key stress points like backhaul to continue to grow.

3. Mobile app/wap business models are put through the crucible.

There have been a number of mobile app/wap startups funded over the last few years and 2009 will be the crucible test for their business models. I can’t predict which business model will win but I can predict that the winners will be the companies that have the capability to rapidly evolve and test different business models in order to move down the learning curve as quickly as possible. Unlike in the web world, mobile startups will have to think creatively about their business models given the complex ecosystem of carriers and phone vendors and will also have to understand from day one how their business model maps to geographies outside of the US.

All this change will create a lot of opportunity for the right mobile startups.

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  • http://www.google.com ASG

    “3G networks break. Well, what else would you expect with all those iPhones and iPhone-like phones out there? These networks were designed for voice not for data and the stress placed on these networks with this new generation of phones will be significant.”

    Actually, I’m not so sure of this prediction. While the access network will certainly utilise wi-fi, as you mention, it will likely incorporate femtocells and other edge devices as well. It’s been widely reported that AT&T will initiate femtocell trials in Q4 2008/Q1 2009 which will surely mitigate some of the load on the air interface. Here’s a link, if helpful:

    http://www.unstrung.com/document.asp?doc_id=166991

    Also, the 3G networks will not break as such. AT&T will not allow the data consumption of iPhone users (primarily non-enterprise customers, at the moment) to overload the network to such a point as to possibly impact their enterprise customers. As a result, we are seeing the move toward more intelligent networks that leverage IMS and DPI, among other technologies.

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  • http://blog.lookery.com Scott Rafer

    @ASG differentiating between Wi-Fi||mobile integration and femto use is cosmetic BS that the mobile carriers want us to swallow. It’s the same thing, except every Wi-Fi access point on the planet works — not just the femtos from your walled garden carrier. T-Mobile US’s UMA integration of Wi-Fi is killer and has made my life a lot cheaper and more convenient.

  • http://www.google.com ASG

    @ Scott – I’m well aware of how femtocells work, thank you. My point wasn’t to draw a distinction on the access side between wi-fi and femtocells, but rather to highlight differences on the handset side.

    In certain markets, the operators are intentionally limiting the number of wi-fi capable handsets in order to maintain their 3G data revenues as they’re unable to charge for data traffic via wi-fi.

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