Cambridge technology entrepreneur David Cleevely has warned wireless operators to start innovating or face a costly backlash.Although the wireless sector was oozing with innovation, precious little was coming from the operators, the Cambridge Wireless group chairman said.
They will be swamped by Over The Top web and digital media brands if they fail to heed the signals, Dr Cleevely cautioned ahead of a major wireless conference in Cambridge UK.
The Future of Wireless event being staged by Cambridge Wireless on June 26 and 27 will address crunch issues facing the industry.
Dr Cleevely said: “Operators must innovate now or they will lose out to new ‘Over The Top’ (OTT) web and digital media brands such as Facebook, Google, Skype and Twitter.
“There is already more innovation than ever in the wireless sector with new smartphones, apps and connected devices. However, operators themselves are rarely the source of this innovation or the main beneficiaries and now need to move quickly to harness the new wireless ecosystem if they are to compete and survive.”
Peter Whale, director of product management at Qualcomm and a Cambridge Wireless board member, said there was a challenge for the whole wireless industry to maintain the pace of research & development.
He said: “The wireless industry has created the most successful and ubiquitous platform in human history by enabling people, ideas and information to be connected together anytime, anywhere. We are now at a critical moment where all the industry players need to innovate further and faster and be creative with their business models.”
The conference will host some 300 senior wireless industry executives from across the world to focus on the ‘Reshaping of the Mobile Industry’. “As well as examining the way the industry is changing and the pressures this is placing on incumbent players, the conference will also look at the opportunities presented by change and the importance for organisations of all types, sizes and backgrounds to work together and drive the industry forward,” Whale added.
Keynote speakers include Olaf Swantee, CEO at Everything Everywhere, Joe Barrett, senior director of marketing, European Innovation Development at Qualcomm, Paul Taylor, engineering manager at Google, Matthew Postgate, Head of R & D at the BBC and Professor Christopher Lowe from the University of Cambridge.
Most new value in the wireless industry is being driven by consumer migration toward integrated content and low-cost or free mobile services delivered by OTT brands. A recent study by Ovum suggests that social messaging apps cost network operators around £8.6bn in lost SMS revenues in 2011 and while operators joined forces at Mobile World Congress to launch a new messaging service called Joyn, consumers are still expected to pay for something they can get for free.
More recently, Telefonica launched an app that allows smartphone users to make calls and send messages without using up their quota of call minutes or texts saying that they would, "rather keep the customer than lose them to other products and services".
David Cleevely said: “Network operators need to do a rethink. Mobile devices and the global wireless infrastructure may have revolutionised the lives of billions of people, but it is an increasingly tough business today being a handset manufacturer or network operator.
“At the conference we’ll be emphasising the continued need to focus on innovation – both in technology and business models - and on creating customer value.”
• The 2012 Future of Wireless International Conference at The Møller Centre and Churchill College Cambridge will also include exhibition zones along with hands-on workshops, facilitated brainstorms and plenary sessions. Next generation wireless start-ups will be showcasing their innovative ideas in the Start-Up Zone and the five winners from the Cambridge Wireless Discovering Start-Ups 2011 competition will pitch to the full conference at the Innovation Hothouse.