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2017

to provide consumers with clearer information on coverage, so customers can quickly and easily understand what kind of network experience they’ll have where.’ Vodafone UK’s CTO Jorge Fernandes also outlines its network strategy: ‘Our first and highest priority? Pushing ahead to complete ‘Project Beacon’ (the full upgrade of our network) by the end of the year. We want customers to continue to be confident in using our network wherever they go, to never experience call drops, and to have reliable data whenever they want to use it. The recent P3 results highlight that our hard work and massive investment over the past few years is paying off, but our aim for the programme is 98% coverage by the end of 2017. So our network footprint will continue to expand across rural areas whilst the use of innovative technology solutions, such as small cell technology or new spectrum, will increase coverage in urban area in order to meet customers’ increasing demand and a 5G future. We are well on the way.’ It’s not just Vodafone eyeing up the potential to add new spectrum either. When questioned about O2’s ability to compete at the auction, Telefonica UK CEO Mark Evans told Mobile: ‘Like every carrier we will turn up. and we will turn up at the upcoming spectrum auction, we’ll be well equipped and of course what we’ve said to the regulator is that if the regulator wants to ensure a four-player market – and they’ve made a very clear stated objective of that – then they need to set the rules for that auction and commence it with exactly that aim.’ While Three’s ‘Make the Air Fair’ campaign to get a 30% 4G spectrum cap will rumble on in 2017 until the auction, the operator is also expecting other methods of improving data consumption for customers, with Dixon predicting: ‘The industry will continue the trend of moving towards seamless connectivity and handover between cellular and WiFi networks. Customers just want a service that works wherever they are and allows them to connect to their friends and the wider world. WiFi is a complementary technology to cellular and seamless handoff between the two will become the norm.’ Ofcom also outlined their 2017 plans for working towards 100% geographic coverage, with CEO Sharon White telling the operators in a now-revealed letter: ‘We envisage a programme of work through to next summer to understand where the current investment programmes are likely to take us and identify the options for achieving varying levels of further coverage and quality of service. Along with the consideration of broader outdoor

coverage, I expect the work to focus on challenges such as indoor coverage, and coverage along transport corridors.’

Accessory trends led by devices The accessories market is looking towards handset trends in determining their own responses in 2017, with uncertainty caused by Brexit expected to have a knock-on effect. Dixons Carphone’s CFO Humphrey Singer predicts that manufacturers may increase prices in the first three months of 2017 as a response to currency fluctuations. However, case manufacturer Incipio’s EMEA MD Neil Edwards predicts that the impact of Brexit on consumer device purchasing habits could go either way, stating: ‘Accessories are dependent on hardware sales, and as we go into 2017 in the UK with the pound versus the dollar and nervousness about Brexit,

customers may aggressively purchase hardware before leaving or they may hold off and that would be naturally detrimental to accessories.’ Another trend led by device changes is the growth in wireless technologies according to audio accessory specialist Jabra, which is expecting the 3.5mm headphone jack to play a diminishing role in 2017. The company told Mobile: ‘If Samsung removed the jack as well, 75%+ of the mobile phones sold in the UK would have no 3.5mm jack any more. Wireless headsets allow people to buy only one device, which is what people want, rather than having to carry one headset in their laptop/tablet bag for work and another in their pocket for calls, music or exercise. The mobile industry and UC rollouts will accelerate with a higher demand for wireless and dual form factors (prosumer and office).’

Mobile – centre of the IOT universe Is IOT’s reign as the vaguest acronym in the industry, coming to an end? As consumer applications of IOT came on in leaps and

bounds in 2016, it was mobile that played the central role, a role many in the industry believe will continue. Head of Sony Mobile UK, Warren Saunders, offered: ‘The building blocks are also in place for a more convergent future, leveraging the advances in IoT and smart tech to enhance the overall mobile experience. However, we can’t escape noticing as an industry, across both operators and hardware/services companies we need to accept that we will have to do better in terms of delivering real, defined customer value if we are to take the next step change in mobile technology.’ For Plan.com’s co-founder Keith Curran, ‘IoT will continue to grow but predominantly in the Smart Home and retail space’. while Westcoast’s Darren Seward believes this will be ‘driven by wider adoption of voice assistants such as Alexa and Google Home’. The focus on connected tech continues over at Doro, where IOT may provide opportunities to combine their experience in mobile devices with their experience in connected care. UK MD Chris Millington explains: ‘IOT was the big thing at MWC three years ago, and I remember sitting there thinking: ‘it’s all a load of hot air really isn’t it?’ then all of a sudden Internet of Things is real. I think using IOT to predict trends and analyse them is going to have a big effect on wellbeing and providing families with the information to support their elder family members, it’s an area we’ll be looking to develop.’

The year of the camera? As OTT providers such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube refine their streaming and 360 video services, manufacturers expect this to influence the role of mobile devices. Conor Pierce, Samsung vice president of IT & Mobile, United Kingdom & Ireland explains: ‘The trend for capturing and sharing moments has also continued to surge in 2016, driven by continued improvements to social sharing platforms and greater collaboration between these platforms and the technology we use. We expect to see this trend for sharing grow still further as we head into 2017, with video playing an

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Mobile December 2016