The striking thing about the GSMA confab, which kicks off today, is the presence of virtually none of the web heavyweights with mobile ambitions. Here’s what to look for (or avoid):
Handset OS wars: A current favourite, given new life by Nokia’s embrace of Microsoft, and extra spice from Elop’s insistence that RIM doesn’t exist. It will be handsets at 30 paces when Elop and RIM’s Jim Balsillie share a platform on Wednesday.
Mobile vs. the web: Another saga; Eric Schmidt played the baddie to perfection last year and is back again for more this year with a dedicated keynote session of his own. Respect! This year the other net-centirc speakers – Chambers, Otellini, Son and Bartz - have been bottled up into one session.
Mobile traffic loads: Vendors big and small are pitching ways of smoothing out groaning traffic levels on mobile networks. Alcatel-Lucent is promising to do away with the base station altogether.
New threats: Even for the continually-disrupted telcos, the latest challenges look especially stressful, with Apple plotting its own multi-SIM phone and Facebook and PlayStation also prepping handsets. None of those will be in Barcelona, nor will Google, Twitter or Skype; along with Apple (a perennial truant) these are the web firms that will most impact on mobile.
A quick glance at the MWC conference agenda will tell you what else is preying on the minds of operators: advertising (ie, how to make money out of it), social networking (ditto), mobile money (how not to get screwed by the banks), and innovation (how to get some).
Otherwise, a bog standard telecom industry conference, with delicious tapas not quite enough to make up for congested Wi-Fi and the steep hotel tariffs. At least the rip-off roaming rates will make the cellco guys feel at home.
Update: This post has been revised to reflect that Eric Schmidt was in fact a conference speaker (I missed that he was given his own late afternoon session!). His presentation contained nothing new, apart from announcing a video editor for the Honeycomb version of Android and unsuccessfully trying to show a demo of it, according to Ovum.