Next week's 3GSM mobile technology showcase in Barcelona is likely to see handset makers, software makers and service providers focus on the benefits of converged, fixed mobile voice and data services for homes and small businesses, coupled with broadcast TV and other entertainment applications on mobile handsets.
Others will push mobile email, device management platforms and back-end systems to support these new data services and applications, which mobile operators hope will offset declining voice revenues. Some argue that the mobile industry should focus more on customer relationship management (CRM) and usability than new features, however.
A range of new dual-mode handsets able to connect to 3G, GSM and home Wi-Fi networks to route calls over broadband links will debut from Nokia and others. So far, BT is the only operator to offer such a service in the UK, called Fusion and using Motorola's V560 RAZR V3B handsets.
Corporate 3G/Wi-Fi solutions capable of spaning large offices are still being tested, though Colubris and NetCentrex say they will demonstrate a service that reliably hands calls from one Wi-Fi access point to another at the show.
Tony Sceales, CEO of telecommunications software specialist Celona, believes that the appearance of dual-mode handsets draws attention away from the reality that most mobile operators have yet to put in place the back-end billing and CRM systems that will be necessary to support converged services.
"The interesting challenge is how to get supporting business functions and systems behind [converged services], so that customers get one bill and a single interface presented and managed from single service agreement," he said, adding that usability concerns for multimedia entertainment services must also be addressed.
Meanwhile HP will be among the many vendors looking to tempt operators with hardware designed to cut their costs. At the show the company will launch its bh5700 blade server, based on its Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (AdvancedTCA).
Ted Wugofski, CTO of mobile application platform vendor Action Engine, said revenue generation would also be on the minds of operators. "Mobile search engines and advertising tools that offer operators new ways to drive revenues from data services are really hot topics," he said.
Whilst operators could explore ways to provide mobile content for free whilst raking in advertising revenues, it will be important to ensure that it is controlled advertising and not spam landing on users mobile screens, Wugofski stressed.
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