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The Word from MWC

We ran our fourth consecutive survey at the Mobile World Congress this year. Here are the results.

I’m fresh back from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and since I posted an infographic before I went, I’d like to bookend the event with another.

hereFor the past four years, we’ve conducted a survey of MWC attendees. This year, we spoke to 300 people about the value and challenges in big data and mobile commerce and the drivers for the next generation mobile networks, i.e. LTE. You can read the press release that summarizes our findings , or just take it all in via the infographic below.

Three areas of our results stood out for me. First, we asked what people thought ‘the killer apps’ for mobile payments would be. I’ve always been very sceptical of mobile payment demos/presentations that feature the tired use case of forgetting your wallet at lunch and then using mobile to repay a friend who has subbed you the money. I’ve always thought the problem here isn’t the lack of cash, but the need to find friends who trust you for a £10 loan. (Are my friends particularly stingy?)

Our survey results are in agreement with that view, as person-to-person payments scored low, and mobile top-up was the clear leader. But why top-up? Well, back in our 2012 mobile commerce guide, Paul Leishman (then Manager, MobileMoney for the Unbanked program, GSM Association, now COO, Coda Payments) wrote:

"What is more interesting for mobile money practitioners everywhere is how this service became cash-flow positive. Indirect benefits unique to MNOs [mobile network operators]—including savings from airtime distribution, reduction in churn and increased share of wallet for voice and SMS—combined to account for 48 percent of MobileMoney’s gross profit to date.”

The second thing that caught my attention was the responses to our question about who was best placed to provide a mobile payments scheme. Banks and existing (online) payment schemes came in on top. Operators only managed (in total) less than a third of the vote—a surprising result given where the survey was taken. If you’re not familiar with MWC (or the GSMA), then imagine you are at a Yankees game, and ask the crowd ‘which country is the best at Baseball’ and the top answers are ‘Japan’ and ‘Cuba’—that’s a similar result.

BTW, before anyone writes in: All I know about baseball I learnt from Seinfeld, and my main takeaway was I want a bed under my desk at work.

Finally, big data. The numbers for the top concerns are slightly higher than those for potential value. So there is a yin and yang to the operator big data. There are some clearly identified benefits, including real time offers and consumer insight but there also are big challenges to overcome, with protecting consumer privacy being the foremost.

You can read the full survey results here, and my two posts on last year’s results here and here .