Eyes on Asia at Mobile World Congress 2012

Eyes on Asia at Mobile World Congress 2012

Summary: Asian vendors tout new devices and services at this year's mobile exhibition and tradeshow in Barcelona, while non-Asian provider reaffirms commitment to the region.

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At this year's Mobile World Congress (MWC), telecom vendors and service providers from Asia compete for attention unveiling new products and services, while an overseas provider shares how China has become an innovation hub for the company.

Huawei is one of several market players which have product announcements at the tradeshow. The Chinese networking giant on Monday unveiled two wireless broadband equipment, the ARU (Adaptive Radio Unit) and the AtomCell, which are part of its GigaSite network strategy. It said GigaSite was designed to "enable operators to improve network capacity and meet the challenges of growth in a mobile industry where traffic is now measured in gigabytes".

In a commentary, Daryl Schoolar, principal analyst at Ovum, noted the importance of Huawei's product launches this week despite similarities with what had already been previously announced by other vendors. "[Huawei's] products address real needs mobile operators have when it comes to maximizing network capacity and coverage, while at the same time trying to minimize the cost of running that network," he noted.

Besides revealing equipment for network operators, Huawei also announced consumer products including the Huawei MediaPad 10 FHD, which is a 10-inch quad core tablet, as well as the Huawei Ascend D quad, a quad-core smartphone.

At MWC, Chinese telecoms equipment and phone manufacturing company, ZTE, also revealed several new mobile handsets, including a quad-core smartphone and a Windows Phone device.

Earlier this year, ZTE predicted it would double its smartphone shipment in 2012. Last year, it announced plans to target the U.S. market with high-end smartphones.

Taiwanese phonemaker HTC also unveiled three smartphones from its new HTC One series, which runs Google Android 4.0 with its Android skin, Sense version 4.

Tony Cripps, principal analyst at Ovum, noted in his commentary that the devices were part of HTC's new strategy to establish greater brand coherence and a simpler value proposition after a "mildly disappointing 2011".

He added that HTC's initiative to streamline its branding and offer fewer, better-differentiated products came a reaction to both market forces and engineering necessity.

Cripps said: "The company lacks the resources to easily differentiate itself from rivals such as Sony, Samsung, and Apple, in terms of value-added services, so its decision to focus on perfecting core smartphone functionality around camera and music playback is an extremely pragmatic one.

"This approach also has huge benefits in terms of handset development, with the problem of managing multiple software builds across many devices--HTC currently maintains approximately 40 variations of Android--dramatically reduced," he added.

Besides equipment makers, Asian operators were also present at the telecom tradeshow. During a Monday media conference, South Korea's SK Telecom said it will be launching an RCS (Rich Communication Services) this year, making Korea only the second country in the world to commercialize the service.

Industry body GSMA explained that RCS allows mobile operators to provide enhanced messaging and voice services, as well as new services such as video calling. It also provides the ability to share documents and photos simultaneously during calls, "all from the phone's contact book, regardless of the network or device used". The industry body also announced the launch of "Joyn", a consumer brand for RCS.

In his commentary, Jeremy Green, principal analyst at Ovum, noted that RCS specification is currently at release 5.0, and includes support for "IP-based voice and video calling, geo-location services and cloud storage", he said.

China becoming innovation hub
Alcatel-Lucent said it will be reaffirming its commitment to the Asian region at this year's MWC. Its Asia-Pacific president, Rajeev Singh-Molares, said the telecommunications services provider will elaborate on why China is a key innovation hub for the company.

In an e-mail interview, he noted that several MNCs (multinational corporations) still perceive China as a cost-reduction center and a one-way street for innovation flow, with ideas coming in primarily from the west.

However, Singh-Molares noted that this idea was outdated and that the best innovation takes place when there is collaboration of innovation between the east and the west.

"China has opened up and will continue to open," he said, adding that the Alcatel-Lucent Shanghai Bell joint venture mirrors the development of China. The location started out initially as a distribution hub for Alcatel-Lucent, but has now become its innovation, purchasing, IT services and manufacturing hubs.

The joint venture is currently being modernized and will incorporate other functions from the company's regional team to ensure it will have broader impact for Alcatel-Lucent's global business, he added.

Topics: Networking, Apps, Hardware, Mobile OS, Mobility, Software

Liau Yun Qing

About Liau Yun Qing

The only journalist in the team without a Western name, Yun Qing hails from the mountainy Malaysian state, Sabah. She currently covers the hardware and networking beats, as well as everything else that falls into her lap, at ZDNet Asia. Her RSS feed includes tech news sites and most of the Cheezburger network. She is also a cheapskate masquerading as a group-buying addict.

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