I wonder when the 3GSM world congress is going to change its name. It must be getting to the point where most of the people attending would rather not be reminded about the small returns made on big 3G investments. I guess Arun Sarin and co will be all smiles in Barcelona. Expect the headline speakers to spend a lot of time talking about the great products they offer customers, thanks to mobile content, mobile television, mobile web 2.0, mobile music etc. Presumably everything needs to be mobile because people never spend time at home any more ;) But when a Chief Exec talks about a great product at an industry conference you know it is because he does not want to talk about the shareholder returns. Not that Vodafone and its peers are doing that badly at the moment – but the cash cows are still the boring old 2G services, still sold to customers who often do not have handsets ready for the sexy services that will be the main focus of attention at this year’s congress.
One oddity in this year’s 3GSM agenda is the announcement of the creation of five short films to be distributed exclusively by mobile, courtesy of Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival crew. I thought movie-makers wanted people to see their work on the big screen, not the smallest one possible. I guess Robert Redford will stop at nothing to promote independent film-makers, but surely making special short movies for mobile misses the point: the limitations in quality and screen size create a level playing field where anybody, including the average user, can create content that others can enjoy. Independent film makers may have problems getting distribution deals for cinemas, but if modern mobile technology will be a money-spinner it will be because it opens up new opportunities for user-generated content distributed on a viral basis. Providing a new but very limited output device that competes with the orthodox distribution models is unlikely to generate significant new revenues for mobile or film-makers.
The build up to the congress tends to encourage an unusual rash of press releases as vendors try to create some buzz. I still fail to understand why revenue assurance vendors sometimes try to market their products as specific to mobile or fixed-line. Anyone who understands the systems knows that the software used to analyse data for one must be essentially identical to that used for the other. However, here is a press release from cVidya, who claim to have linked revenue assurance with quality of service. The idea is to better predict which services really should not be charged because the QoS was not acceptable. That makes sense if you ask me. Also, the story is more evidence of one kind of convergence that will not be talked about at 3GSM: back-office convergence (aka cost cutting). Linking QoS monitoring to revenue assurance begs the question of whether to do both in real-time. In this case, the convergence of revenue assurance and service assurance has yet to hit but expect it to become a popular form of convergence in the next few years. If the average customer is like me, they will not want to pay for a Sundance indie short if the quality of service does not do it justice ;)