Licensing and Monetization Trends – Impressions from Mobile World Congress 2017

The week of the 27th February saw over a 100,000 industry experts and leaders related to the mobile industry descend on Barcelona for Mobile World Congress. Innovations are taking shape at this massive event for the connected world and new IoT and Smart City solutions are starting to deliver value to enterprises and consumers. Here are some of the innovations and trends observed during a tiring and inspiring week, along with a review of the developments from the past couple of years that showed a distinct momentum in the following areas of connectivity and IoT:

2013—Lots of talk about IoT and capacity management; mobile network operators started thinking about how monetize the nebulous Internet of Things

2014—More connected strategies with Vodafone sharing their concept of Smart Cities with mini base stations in lampposts

2015—A transformational year; network equipment providers began to virtualize their network equipment products, to manage capacity based on licensing and to enable feature driven benefits rather than shipping new hardware

2016—Several leaps in maturity in the IoT and introduction of future technology focused on the automotive market with 10-20% of large exhibitors having connected car demos

Here are the main trends and developments we observed in 2017:

  • Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and Software Defined Networks (SDN) are now well established and enable new business models. Software and licensing are used to manage capacity on edge devices. This provides greater flexibility and more importantly a significantly better customer service.
  • Mergers and acquisitions in Test & Measurement. Infovista acquired the TEMs business line from Ascom and Keysight Technologies acquired Anite. The consolidation in this market is driving new innovations in testing and preparing for the 5G rollouts that will power IoT.

We ran a fun competition during the show over LinkedIn to get people to guess what the below was:

The correct answer was 100% correct, even down to identifying that the top right phone was running and validating the licenses, powered by Flexera: “The top right device is providing licensing and the other devices are carrying out the testing of network performance and parameters.”

  • Mobile Network Operators becoming more than a pipe. However they are moving in two different directions. Some, such as Vodafone, demonstrate their Virtual Radio Access Network (VRAN) which is a similar concept to the capabilities of NFV and SDN and will enable them to manage capacity across networks and across equipment vendors. Others, such as AT&T, are expanding their partner enablement platforms (like eCOMP for AT&T) and are already beginning to gain traction with other Network Operators
  • The rise of the ecosystem. The AT&T example as well as developments we see at companies like Jasper Cisco, PTC and the GSMA show that no one player can support the Internet of Things alone. However, there are of course risks with any platforms using open APIs and Open Source Software licenses such as GPL. License compliance and vulnerability risk will have to be managed closely in complex IoT ecosystems and long software supply chains. However there is plenty of reward as these platforms can open up new markets and new revenue models.

In summary the show is always interesting with lots of innovation but this year my biggest take away was that licensing and entitlement management in IoT is considered as being absolutely business critical, just like ERP or CRM systems.


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