As we look through time at 2012, I think this will be a year in which we see further IP buildout (both networks [LTE] and applications). Almost 300 operators worldwide are investing in LTE technology and by the end of 2012, we should have well over 100 operators with deployed and launched LTE networks.
Additionally, next year, we should have some resolution about the proposed acquisition of T-Mobile USA by AT&T. In addition, 2012 should bring us more new and exciting handsets, including a long-awaited next generation iPhone platform (the iPhone 5?). Apple has a way of inducing hype and speculation. As in years past, it will grow to a roar before summer. Of course, Siri will continue to be improved, and we’ll undoubtedly see some significant competitors and alternatives. I would not rule out some exciting new device launches from many of the other OEMs as well, which will likely make news.
Services around messaging will continue to evolve with OTT/NUVO type players making an impact outside of North America. As would be expected, the U.S. presidential elections and process will have a big impact on mobile – as both a channel for the candidates and a catalyst for applications and ultimately, results. This can be viewed from a pure industry point of view as a strong endorsement of the mobile channel for customer engagement for both enterprises and brands. Mobile CRM by brands, around the world, through a variety of channels from SMS to applications is strong and will grow stronger by the end of 2012.
So, without further delay, here are my mobile industry predictions for 2012:
1. After significant industry and political wrangling, AT&T’s bid for T-Mobile will be not go forward. At the end of November, the FCC all but denied the acquisition and AT&T has withdrawn their application. I don’t expect any last minute negotiations, as I’m reading now that AT&T has started making set-aside provisions for the substantial charges payable to Deutsche Telekom since the deal will not go through.
2. The new Apple iPhone (iPhone 5) will support mobile purchases and NFC technology, creating a catalyst for jump-starting NFC-triggered point of sale (POS) purchases in developed markets. Apple will provide POS capabilities for merchants wishing to support this capability
3. Google/Android will accelerate their mobile payment/purchase/mCRM capabilities to more devices, operators and partner payment networks (e.g. Visa, American Express and others). However, overall, new mobile payment services will mainly be focused on emerging markets utilizing SMS and USSD.
4. OTT/NUVO service providers will make significant inroads in non-North American markets, which will begin to stabilize operator SMS traffic in markets where pure-OTT (non-SMS interoperable) players have hurt overall SMS traffic and revenues. Global SMS traffic will grow slightly, overall, but remain stable in developed markets, with emerging markets showing the greatest growth.
5. The top U.S. presidential election candidates will all use mobile engagement to their base and the general electorate as a major means of trying to win votes. Additionally, given the proliferation of smartphones and devices, there will be a wide variety of apps that will be able to track the campaigns and elections.
6. Don’t count out Research in Motion (RIM) yet; in 2012, they will launch several LTE-capable devices and continue to hold their own as they will still have significant markets and demographics where they will remain dominant.
7. Windows Mobile 7 will begin to make a resurgence in the second part of 2012, partially helped by Nokia devices and as well as their Skype acquisition. By the end of the year, it will surpass Samsung’s Bada moving into the top 4 smartphone platforms: Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile 7
8. Major, global brands will expand their mobile engagement of consumers via multiple mobile channels (e.g. mobile CRM) such as SMS, Mobile Web, push notifications, location and dedicated applications. Some of this will expand to include integrated mobile payments.
9. Amazon will not launch a mobile phone in 2012. Amazon looks to be quite savvy in their acceptance of mobile as a channel to reach their consumers and will continue to build on their amazing online library of multimedia content. Consequently, if they do launch a true mobile phone, it could cause issues with their large Android base of mobile users. Instead, look for them to support additional mobile platforms.
10. The operators fight back. Rich Communications Environments around RCS/RCSe will become more prevalent as alternatives to the myriad of OTT communications that are becoming prevalent in the marketplace today, further leveraging new LTE networks. These will be interoperable with legacy technologies for messaging (SMS/MMS) and voice, but add integrated, rich communications options for users of advanced smartphones.
So there you have it – my top 10 predictions for 2012. Personally, I am quite excited about the prospects for this industry next year. While I don’t expect any huge disruptive technology to take the industry by storm, I still think that some parts of the industry will move faster than we all predicted. Will it be LTE networks? Or perhaps, mobile payments or purchasing? Whatever it will be, you can be sure that consumers will certainly have many more new and innovative choices for mobile.
William Dudley is group director, Operator Services Product Management, at Sybase 365.