With around 40,000 attendees expected, this year's 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona is set to be the biggest in the show's history. Keynote speakers will include Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer, who will doubtless be pushing his company's strategy of attempting to secure a foothold in just about every area of the tech industry. Other notable heavyweights include Orange chief executive Sanjiv Ahuja, Nokia president Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, T-Mobile chief executive officer Rene Obermann and Peter Erskine, chairman and chief executive of O2.
But although the show may be growing in size and impact, it is difficult to identify one clear theme that will dominate the event. The various hardware makers, software vendors and operators in attendance are under increasing pressure to find the next big innovation that will inject back some of momentum the industry enjoyed at the turn of the millennium. Various technologies and themes are being touted as the next big revenue driver — such as mobile TV, convergence, HSDPA, music downloads — but it is not clear which, if any, will emerge as a "killer app" to rival voice.
According to Chris Lewis, enterprise practice leader for analysts Ovum, the endgame for those assessing the emerging range of technologies from a show such as 3GSM is to focus on how their communications networks can be simplified, while not being put off by the various competing standards and technologies.
"If you're a forward-looking IT manager then you should be looking at a single platform that is IP-based which allows you to carry whatever applications you want at the right quality of service, and with management control, and let's you extend that across multiple sites and even to your partners and clients," he explains.
ZDNet UK will be providing the latest coverage of the major announcements from 3GSM — via the 3GSM Toolkit.
When fixed and mobile converge
The concept of being able to have one handset that roams seamlessly from a mobile network to a fixed line network depending on whether it's being used in or out of an office or home is an attractive one. Although it seems such a natural evolution, the industry and consumers alike have been slow to move towards this one-stop-shop approach. Only recently, with the emergence of products such as BT's Fusion, has the idea begun to achieve mainstream acceptance. Pricing remains a serious hurdle with consumers unsure as to what they should be paying for such flexibility. Further confusion is added — as in the case of BT's Fusion product — when the fixed-line calls are being made over an IP-based broadband network which should be even cheaper than the traditional telephony network. Consumer group Which? claimed that Fusion cost too much, given that its fixed-line calls are made over a broadband connection.
Ovum's Lewis claims that the tensions at work around convergence boil down to the stand-off between the players in each camp. "A lot of this will be based around either retaining the minutes on the mobile network or dragging the minutes back onto the fixed network. If you're an IT manager, then pulling minutes back onto the fixed network through your own PBX will have enormous cost savings."
But according to Lewis, mobile operators aren't going to let the fixed providers have it all their own way and will try to encourage customers to make all their calls over the mobile network. "In order to do...
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