Carrier CEOs focus on partnerships

Mobile operators need to work with developers, wireline operators and others, executives said

Mobile operators highlighted cooperation with developers and other partners, while emphasizing things only they can do, in a keynote session on the opening day of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Vodafone Group CEO Vittorio Colao announced a partnership with Visa to develop a mobile wallet that uses NFC (near-field communications) to allow consumers to make purchases with their phones. It will become available first in the U.K., Portugal, Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey and is intended for use worldwide, Colao said.

Both Colao and Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T Mobility, called for standards and progress on RCS (rich communications services), especially video calling. De la Vega challenged the industry to make it just as easy to place a video call as a voice or data call. He said the industry should rally around the IR.94 standard to make this possible by the time of next year's Mobile World Congress.

Open standards and interoperability are what distinguish telecommunications carriers from the Internet companies that create "over-the-top" (OTT) services that are delivered on mobile operators' networks, said Franco Bernabe, chairman and CEO of Telecom Italia Group. Those Internet services often use proprietary standards and don't interoperate with other service providers, he said. "This hinders competition," Bernabe said.

Bernabe even accused OTT service providers of overloading mobile networks with the signaling produced by their applications. That can degrade the user's experience, he said.

China Mobile is opening up its mobile platform to developers, through programs in which it works with more than 2,000 universities, 30 million students and 3.7 million registered developers, China Mobile President Li Yue said. The carrier offers developers 30 percent of the revenue from applications they develop for its MM platform, he said.

The executives pointed to the growing need for data capacity to meet subscribers' demands. Colao of Vodafone also said his company wants to partner with wireline carriers on better wired networks to improve the capacity for mobile backhaul. Vodafone has offered to jointly invest in wired networks with Europe's largest wireline carriers and so far has not found one willing to cooperate, but will keep trying, he said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is

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