By William Dudley, group director of operator services products at Sybase 365, the mobile services division of SAP AG
The one thing that I'll say about this industry as it never fails to surprise. 2013 will be no exception.
Overall, we'll see much more emphasis on mobile operators trying to take back the subscriber, and that will be through superior network performance (read: significant LTE build-out), new services like RCS or further partnerships with OTT players.
Secondly, I think we might see some mitigation in pricing for mobile broadband. As it will become more central to everything we do on mobile networks, including voice, the pricing schemes that are in play today, are not sustainable for all-IP ecosystems.
Finally, the evolution to a more mobile-friendly, cashless society will continue its slow slog towards ubiquitous mobile payments.
Without further introduction, here are my top 10 predictions for 2013 (in no particular order):
The device wars (as some have called them) will continue to reshuffle. I still have some confidence that Windows Phone will overtake Bada and Symbian in 2013, becoming the fourth place mobile operating system behind Android, iOS and BlackBerry. BlackBerry 10 will help solidify its third place ranking in 2013, bringing new life to BlackBerry, as its innovative LTE models hit the streets.
We will see significant LTE build out by mobile operators around the world, thereby almost doubling the number of LTE networks by the end of 2013. There should have been approximately 160 to165 networks at the end of 2012. That means I am expecting greater than 200 commercial LTE networks by the end of 2013.
Of those more than 200 LTE networks, at the end of 2013, we will see over 50 networks supporting commercial LTE roaming with other networks. Roaming and global ubiquity is a key benefit for LTE; however, due to frequency fragmentation and new infrastructure needs, implementation of LTE roaming is not as easy as it was for 3G. Virtually all of these networks will utilise IPX and LTE Roaming hubs (e.g. Diameter hubs) to support roaming.
Based on these LTE networks, RCS roll out will continue across the world, with no fewer than 35 operators supporting RCS, by the end of the year. Many of these will support in-country interoperability. These will include RCS messaging (IM-like), voice, video and presence-based address books, supported on many devices, both via downloadable apps and OEM-provided RCS clients.
In the US, expect some consolidation of the wide open OTT/NUVO community, meaning mergers, acquisition, and a few even going out of business. There are already rumours about some OTT partnerships and mergers; however, in some markets outside the US, there is tremendous pushback from the operator community to start to fight back against OTT, using a variety of tactics from aggressive RCS launches to partnerships with OTTs, all to offer subscribers more choice and benefits, while protecting ARPU. As a corollary to this, expect to see more 'traditional landlines' supporting mobile messaging.
SMS traffic volumes will further stabilise in the US and developed markets. One reason for this is that Apple's iMessage has cannibalised SMS to an extent in many markets; however, iMessage does use SMS when the other party is not an iOS 5.x or greater device.
Consequently, since Apple's overall market share will stay around 15% to 17% and with more non-iOS devices hitting the market, which means a greater chance that the other party will be a non-iOS device, hence, SMS will be used. Metrics we can refer to will be the same amount of monthly traffic at the end of 2013, which we had at the beginning of the year (within 5% either way).
Mobile consumer engagement becomes more mainstream in 2013. This means that within the top 10 shopping apps, over half are direct-shopping engagement apps such as Groupon, ShopKick or Store-specific Apps. All of these now use both push notifications and mobile messaging to reach out to subscribers. A top ten retailer without one or more of these mobile capabilities won't exist anymore as consumers now expect mobile engagement.
I'll go out on a limb again and state that in 2013, we'll see more options for point-of-sale (PoS) payments through channels such as iOS Passbook, PayPal and a few more without NFC, although more devices with NFC will enter the market. One more out on a limb prediction; the next iPhone (6?) will have NFC support, leading to or becoming a catalyst for more consolidation (finally) in the PoS payment market, a good thing for consumers.
A new option to iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile will be introduced in 2013 that will steal headlines and pique interest from the top four. Will it be Jolla's Sailfish? Or something else new, like a browser-based mobile OS? There is a great deal of innovation in this industry and I think that some in the top four will not be the top four by the end of this decade.
By the end of 2013, a new mobile OS or platform, possibly supporting emulation modes for various OS's, will enter the market and grow rapidly in marketshare, attracting a number of OEM device makers.
Mobile content will continue to be richer as networks improve and more services move to IP-based. Consequently, mobile IP pricing will evolve again, building on the shared data plans that were introduced, with raised bandwidth limits, some lower fees and combined voice and data plans where voice is expected to be just another data service.
So there you have it; I think 2013 is poised to be another prosperous mobile year. There will be plenty of headlines, some certain surprises, along with new names and functionality that will become commonplace by the end of year.