Roaming has been in the news recently, but there is much more going on in the mobile industry than how much we pay to use services abroad. At MEF, we have been very good (or lucky, or both) in the accuracy of our predictions. So, what do the experts think is in store in 2022? Dario Betti, CEO of the Mobile Ecosystem Forum (MEF) takes a look
Folding phones are now back in fashion. These are not the clamshell devices of the 2000s: nowadays, screens are folding as well. The Samsung Fold 1 in September 2019 was the category opener, but in 2021 we saw the Microsoft Surface Duo 2, the Samsung Fold and Z Flip and the Huawei Mate X2.
Our prediction is that as component prices lower, other big device vendors will join the ‘fold’ to differentiate. Google and OnePlus are top of our prediction list, but even Apple could start innovating on their line-up. In 2022, we will see the first mass market foldable phones.
The other side of digital transformation is now not just a novel type of fraud, but the main type of fraud. In 2015, global fraud amounted to $3trn dollars. By 2025, the figure will be $10.5trn from fraud and cybercrime. The implication is that identity and access management to enterprise systems is becoming increasingly critical.
The security of their personal data and identity is now a major concern for consumers. The Mobile Ecosystem Forum surveys yearly the level of trust in the ecosystem. In 2021 data showed a clear gap between the level of expectations from consumers versus real experience. The gap for mobile apps and services keeping data secure (vs. the expectation) is 27 percentage point. This size of gap usually indicates a breaking point in the level of trust between users and a product. The gap for Privacy does worse but only marginally at 1 percentage point more. In short, the situation looks serious.
After scandals such as phishing or account take-overs, consumers are especially concerned about losing money via their mobile phone. According to the MEF survey, 49% of people say they are worried about being defrauded and losing money. Criminals accessing their personal data (i.e., identity) is also top at 49%, and access to their mobile (i.e., ability to authorise transactions) is second with 47%.
2022 will be (has to be) the year the industry ups its game on preventing and detecting fraud.
In 2021, Epic Games sued Apple for anti-trust violation. Epic largely lost, but it gained approval for developers to find alternative payment mechanisms outside of the smartphone platforms (such as Apple and Google). We are going to see more attempts to price and sell games outside of the app stores in 2022. The mobile game market is worth a lot of money (US$84 billion in 2020 according to MEF estimates); even a marginal move can create a big impact in the market.
While payment methods happily compete and present new solutions (e.g., the messaging platform Signal’s launch of micro payments) the real focus will be on the services developed around payment. Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) solutions are emerging as a strong value-add. This has not happened without controversy: charges and customer profiles have come to the attention of regulators lately. Expect more innovation in payments, but also more oversight.
If you expected a 5G revolution in 2021, you may have been disappointed. But the strong line-up of network coverage and handset devices is now driving a good rate of upgrades. Consumers are not flocking to buy new handsets for 5G services, but they are buying new devices and then finding the positives of more stable and faster connections. A good old evolution, not a revolution.
So much talk about the Metaverse, yet it is not here. It will start somewhere, but at first it will be a patchwork of competing and not interoperable solutions. Roblox, Epic’s Fortnite or Meta’s Oculus? Who will win the metaverse platform race? Well in 2022, it will be the older terms: augmented reality and virtual reality. The interest in the metaverse will generate more opportunities for the more mature and easy technologies such as AR and VR.
The death of the browser cookie and the subsequent revolution on advertising tracking has been postponed by Google’s announcement that the Chrome browser will still support tracking cookies until the second half of 2023. So, more of the same for 2022?
Not really. In 2022 big advertisers will move quickly towards new solutions – expect more focus on AI based solutions as well as a continuing growth of messaging formats for marketing. Messaging is still a small part of the advertising spend but its engagement, tracking and response KPI’s are making it more central in marketing strategies.
The split Mobile Operator
Operators are asking themselves some existential questions about their future. The investment in 5G and the coming of 6G/OpenRAN is now making addressing these questions timely if not urgent. Some operators are moving towards a more enterprise-centric model. Some are taking a fuller ‘wholesale’ role. A handful of them are taking a role in the digital economy making their bets on new consumer services. Expect more shifts in strategies in 2022, few can still afford to stay on the fence.
Creating solutions for enterprise customers is a key solution: in the late 2010s business revenues accounted for less than 20% of the total. Things are changing now with flat or smaller consumer ARPUs (average revenue per unit). For instance, more operators are now entering the CPasS (Communications Platforms as a Service) market with gusto, even if some could say, with a visible delay. Offering solution instead of connectivity is a big leap though, that will require considerable investment and change. The wholesale approach is now much more common (from network sharing to new edge solutions), the new evolution in technologies (Open RAN, Hyperscale Cloud, Edge) are well aligned to support new business models.
While this model is aligned with the strengths of many operators, it still requires large investment and cultural shift. The most arduous, yet potentially the most rewarding approach for mobile operators is to build/bundle new digital consumer services for their end users (consumer but also enterprise customers) running a digital service factory on top of the network functionality has long been a target for many operators. While positive results have so far been rare, we are seeing some notable successes.
Digital transformation – from fast to deep
We have seen the impact of the pandemic: it has energized the move towards mobile and personal solutions. However, the transformation is not yet finished.
Some enterprises have pivoted to digital transformation as an emergency mobilisation of their services: i.e., by making them remote. In the coming months we will see a more profound review of what mobility, and digital services can do, not just to customer experience, but to business models for many companies in 2022. Moving to a digital mindset is much more than making your employees and customers access services via the web or the mobile. The winning companies from this period will be able to re-think how they create and distribute value.
Dario Betti is CEO of MEF (Mobile Ecosystem Forum) a global trade body established in 2000 and headquartered in the UK with members across the world. As the voice of the mobile ecosystem, it focuses on cross-industry best practices, anti-fraud and monetisation. The Forum provides its members with global and cross-sector platforms for networking, collaboration and advancing industry solutions.