2011 has been an exhilarating year in the world of technology in general, but perhaps particularly so in the world of mobile. It's been a year during which incumbents have felt the ground under them shift, courtesy of a number of innovative challengers. Looking ahead, this year looks just as exciting. Here is an outline of my four predictions for 2012:
1) European Roaming Charges Will Fall Dramatically Thanks to increased pressure from Neelie Kroes (Vice President of the European Commission's Digital Agenda) chances are roaming, as we know, will take a big step towards extinction in 2012.
With the issue being adequately addressed as a part of the European Commission's Digital Agenda, consumers have already seen a number of measures come into effect that are applicable to all 27 EU member states and safeguard us from falling victim to nasty bill shocks.
Current regulations force all European operators to implement a monthly default cap for data roaming of €50. In addition, the per minute cost operators can charge for calls we make from abroad have been reduced to maximum of €0.35, and €0.11 for calls received. These regulations expire in June 2012, with new and improved rules set to be proposed and implemented in early July 2012.
The long-term goal is to make the difference between roaming charges and domestic charges close to zero by 2015, and in 2012, thanks to Neelie Kroes, the industry will be taking ambitious strides towards this goal.
2) Operators Will Partner With OTTs to Differentiate The shifting tide in the telecom landscape of competing IP-based services eating away at operators' text and voice revenues is significantly affecting incumbent operators. Truth be told, the incumbents are starting to resemble an everyday mobile ISP (Internet Service Provider), rather than the conventional operators, as we know them today.
Operators' value propositions to subscribers have become more and more commoditised in the past few years, with device exclusivity agreements being one of the only things that set them apart. Simply put, operators need to jump on the opportunity to provide value-add services, which differentiate them from their rivals, by partnering with OTT (Over-the-Top) services.
A number of companies have already taken steps in this area to differentiate themselves and stand out from the crowd. For example, Google partnered with Sprint, Spanish Telefónica acquired Jajah and Swedish TeliaSonera's exclusively cooperated with agreement with Spotify. These developments signal a clear shift in operator mindset.
3) Smartphone and Tablet Growth Will Be Effected By Financial Downturn Going into next year, the economic situation around the world can be described as precarious at best. If we combine factors such as generally high levels of government debt, low interest rates, high (and rising) unemployment rates, diminishing purchasing power amongst consumers, it's fair to say we're likely to see the telecoms industry experience its fair share of agony just like other verticals will.
Even though the telecom industry in general, and maybe mobile in particular, is relatively resistant to economic downturns and a lot less susceptible than others, it is not immune.
The said conditions will have an impact on smartphone sales, but will most adversely affect tablets. This is due to the fact that smartphones have reached the status of a "must-have" device in most markets, making it a lot more of a recession proof, justifiable purchase. The tablet, however, is still very much perceived as a "nice-to-have" type of device, rather than a must.
4) Windows 8 Will Power Nokia's Comeback 2012 will be the year when not only one but two technology veterans will see somewhat of a revival; Microsoft and Nokia.
Microsoft's next OS, Windows 8, is said to be compatible with devices running processors from both Intel and ARM. This means it'll be able run on both PCs as well as mobile devices. This will provide them with an eco-system of devices ranging from smartphones, tablets, laptops to desktops, something Apple's had for a while. With Nokia partnering with Microsoft and moving their current and future smartphone offerings to the WP7 platform, the once impervious company will be back battling against Android and iOS, which have been stealing market share from Nokia for some time.
Furthermore, it's not impossible to think Microsoft may eventually acquire Nokia to be fully in control and obtain the ability for a fully integrated Apple-esque smartphone product. They've proved it's a successful path to go down in their Xbox Live and Kinect products, and to be truly competitive, they are going to want to do the same in mobile.