April was a busy month in the telecoms calendar, with numerous events covering all aspects of the sector, from apps to managed services and LTE.
Mobile apps have quickly come to occupy an important niche in the telecoms ecosystem, and this was clearly demonstrated by the number of delegates attracted to the Mobile Show, held in Dubai in April, which focused primarily on mobile apps and content. The event, which attracted apps developers from countries including the US, also demonstrated the level of interest specifically in apps in the Middle East.
With operators, end users and analysts often drawing attention to the lack of local content, many of the discussions at the event offered a reassuring take on this theme. From the creator of the hit mobile game Doodle Jump to Indian mobile games specialist Nazara, companies from around the world have proven their willingness to bring relevant content to the region.
Speakers including Martin Herdina, CEO of augmented reality specialist Wikitude, also offered a glimpse of the future of mobile apps – and the good news is that operators have a key role to play.
Indeed, far more than being a dumb-pipe, telecom operators sit on a weight of information about their customers, and this is something that they need to leverage in order to tap into the inherent value of new growth areas such as apps. Herdina pointed to T-Mobile in the US, which bundled a phone with Wikitude-based family-oriented augmented reality apps. The telco then targeted the device at families, with a special data package designed for this customer segment.
Apps consultant David Ashford also pointed to the importance for operators to offer specialised packages to various customer segments.
He also stressed the importance for telcos in the Middle East to improve the way they collect data about their customers, which could enable them to cater better for different segments.
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Of course, a new breed of mobile apps, designed for the latest tablets and smartphones, are often compulsive and extremely bandwidth hungry. And with demand for mobile data soaring, operators in the Middle East have a vested interest in improving network capacity and data management. These were both themes that emerged at EMC Corporation’s Telecommunications summit and the LTE Mena event, both of which were held in Dubai in April.
Pat Gelsinger, president and chief operating officer, EMC Information Infrastructure Products, offered an upbeat vision of how telcos stand to benefit from surging data. Indeed, by adopting data analytics tools and cloud enabling systems, telecom operators stand to benefit by being able to offer cloud services to enterprise clients and help their customers manage their data better across the board.
Many of the region’s telcos are at the forefront of the process to upgrade their networks to LTE, with several telcos in the Gulf having already launched networks. And this will also be vital in helping telcos to cope with, and profit from, surging demand for mobile broadband. This, combined with more intelligent use of customer information by operators, will allow telcos and apps developers to increasingly collaborate to unleash a new breed of mobile apps.
But as many speakers at the LTE Mena conference pointed out, there are some major challenges facing LTE in the region, and chief among these challenges is the fragmented LTE spectrum allocations in each country. Consumers in countries without the best spectrum allocations will suffer from a substandard LTE experience, while the fragmentation between countries will also cause problems when it comes to roaming. Thankfully there are signs that the various telecommunications regulators and ministries, in the Gulf at least, are discussing the issue and looking at ways to resolve it. It is in everyone’s interests that they succeed.