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Mobile World: Mobile CEOs hail dawn of new era

CEOs from Vodafone, RIM and Alcatel-Lucent struck an optimistic tone in a keynote session at the Mobile Congress, claiming the start of a new decade represents a tremendous opportunity if the industry embraces the principles of openness and innovation.

Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao said the operator had begun to see an emergence from last year’s recession ‚ even in its hardest-hit mature markets ‚ and said the next five years would represent a new era in mobile.

‚It’ll be like the first half of the 90s and what we did with GSM,‚ he said. He pointed to the rise of smartphones and new high-speed mobile networks as the catalyst. ‚Today smartphones capture a couple hours of our eyes per day.‚ He added that one in four of the handsets on Vodafone’s network were now ‚smart’ devices with its smartphones shipments rising by almost 40 percent year-on-year in its most recent quarter.

Colao added that competition, investment and openness were essential elements to avoid a return to a monopolistic marketplace that requires heavy regulation. He also said that tiered levels of service should be looked at as long as they were not discriminatory. ‚If one customer wants to pay for higher bandwidth they should be allowed to: we need the ability to deal up and down the value chain or our efficiency will be reduced.‚

Second on stage was Alcatel-Lucent CEO Ben Verwaayen, who urged delegates to think outside the confines of the industry and ‚re-educate’ the wider world about the role mobile can play in society. ‚We should be embedded in many more things and we need to change the perception of our industry,‚ he said. ‚We need to be seen as a force for good or else we just become a source of taxation.‚ Verwaayen also addressed the network capacity issue ‚ a big theme at Congress ‚ saying that the industry must begin to move away from the ‚all-you-can-eat’ pricing model that has allowed the huge growth in mobile data. ‚Consumers are happy at the moment but they need to be retrained. It will be a hard sell.‚

The capacity problem was a theme also taken up by Research In Motion’s founder and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis, who pitched his firm’s BlackBerry devices as well suited for networks struggling with data congestion. ‚We were making smartphones before anyone knew what smartphones were… Efficiency is in our DNA and our devices scale on networks better than any other smartphone.‚ Showing off the new BlackBerry browser, Lazaridis said that the devices were three times more efficient that competing smartphones on data network consumption. He claimed this meant operators can have ‚three paying BlackBerry customers compared to every one other.‚

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