In a keynote at the Cambridge Wireless International Conference last week, Andrew Gilbert, president of Qualcomm's internet services, took the audience on a tour of some of the technologies and potential stumbling blocks ahead for the mobile industry.
One technology the chipmaker is backing is mobile TV, while others likely to make it big include banking, coupons and NFC for contactless payments.
Social networking for the youth market and mobile healthcare applications for an ageing population are also areas that are likely to translate well to the mobile space, Gilbert said.
"It's all about mobilising pre-existing applications and that's all about mobilising behaviour," he added.
Print media — under pressure from the rise of online content — could also find new feet in mobile.
Gilbert said: "There's a business model which is fundamentally under pressure just like the music model was and there's an opportunity there to re-energise that experience over wireless."
The "ubiquitous internet of things" is another area Gilbert identified as offering the mobile industry enormous potential. "There's a huge opportunity to connect [all manner of] devices," he said.
But none of this will be successful without the industry continuing to grow coverage, drive down cost and explore new business models. An example of the latter, in Gilbert's view, is the Amazon Kindle e-book reader.
"We need to be innovative about tariffing," he told delegates. "[With the Kindle] there's no SIM, there's no subscription, it doesn't work like that: you pay per book and that's what pays for the wireless connectivity. We're going to need to do more of that [kind of] innovation."
Looming capacity shortage is another issue that cannot be ignored, he said. "There are only so many more bits per hertz that we can wring out of spectral efficiency. So we need to solve the problem of capacity going forward." Femtocells could well have a major role to play in pushing out coverage, improving capacity and enabling operators to offer a broader range of services, Gilbert said.
He added: "The great thing about our industry is that we are excellent at producing great new wireless technologies. The bad thing is we like them so much we won't kill any of them. So you end up with all of these different technologies — GSM, WiMax, CDMA, HSPA+, LTE and so on and so forth — and none of them going away anytime soon… So the challenge is to incorporate all of those technologies. The winner will be the company that is able to bring all of these nodes and all of these [spectrum] bands together in a single low cost platform that's seamless to the user."
Another challenge the industry needs to get creative about is batteries and power. Gilbert showed off a slide of a prototype 'charging tray', which he said recognises and charges relevant devices that are placed on it.
He added that as the mobile industry changes, it is the mobile operators that "probably face one of the biggest challenges".
"I think some of them will be quite happy to just be an access point for all of these great creative services… others will develop a relationship with their consumers where they know so much about them that they're able to offer an entirely enhanced experience leveraging the trust that they have with the subscriber."