There are 1.5 billion 4G long-term evolution subscribers in the world. The world’s two biggest media sellers are mobile-dominated. More ecommerce will be transacted in 2017 on mobile devices than on desktop. The two biggest initial public offerings of 2017 will be subscriber- and advertising-funded companies that pretty much only exist on mobile devices (Snap and Spotify). To put it simply: if the internet has become the operating system for life, then mobile devices are its defining peripheral.
In 2018, the world will agree the 5G protocol. It will solve one of the remaining problems in the ecosystem: contention. It won’t make the internet go faster but it will allow more devices to perform to their potential in denser environments such as packed stadiums or living rooms where Minecraft and Call of Duty squabble over the stream. Potential confining factors include the price of bandwidth and data, and policy issues around the world in respect of net neutrality.
As for mobile advertising, the genie is out of the bottle and trampling everything in its path. It has forced a Faustian bargain between the owners and creators of original content and the platforms that "carry" it. The platforms, unlike most publishers, have first-party data rights and a network of signals – from search to location to social interactions – that can be activated in pursuit of monetisation. Money goes to money, but the platforms need to be oxygenated by content and may be approaching the point where the distribution of the spoils is inequitable. What do you talk about when there’s nothing to talk about?
Mobile World Congress 2017 will be one more step on the road to the weaponisation of mobility. Faster chips, better screens, more integrated augmented reality, less cumbersome virtual reality, optimised networks, pinpoint location and more. You don’t have to ask what the state of mobile is when mobile is the state.
Rob Norman is chief digital officer of Group M