MWC showed just how important mobile is in peoples’ lives. But not in a way that was planned. The big news from last week’s MWC was not all the big vendors pushing 5G, despite not having any use cases (which isn’t really news), it was how people instantly took to their mobiles when the weather got bad and travel plans were screwed up.
WhatsApp groups provided a continuous source of information, advice and the news in the remote hope of getting on a flight. Facetime also provided a way to see the family and stay sane. Airline apps were the primary method of getting travel information and trying to get booked on an alternative flight. Same with travel apps for booking hotels. For many of the people trying to get out of Barcelona, it was via mobile that they managed to get home.
One of the guys in the Openet group sent the following WhatsApp message, “Can you imagine trying to get home before smartphones. You’d call a call centre, but there would be no staff there, as they’d be all snowed in and unable to get to work. It would be total chaos.” Mind you, the same person was speaking from experience. In his attempt to get home to Dublin, he flew Barcelona to Paris. Got the train into central Paris to get the Eurostar to London. From there he got a train to the Welsh ferry port of Holyhead and was about to buy a ferry ticket to get to Dublin, when he found out that the bank had automatically cancelled his credit card. They suspected it was stolen due it being used in Spain, France, England and Wales in a day. Needless to say the bank’s call centre staff weren’t at work as they’d been snowed in. Wonder if there’s a case for mobile and fintech here?
This natural reliance on mobile and how people use mobile to get problems solved was the main story of last week. I, like many others, walked the halls of the Fira last week at MWC and looked at some of the messaging on the stands and shook my head. There’s a danger that, as an industry, we are growing weary of 5G before the ink on the standards document is even dry. All the big vendors are pushing 5G. They need the big infrastructure and systems upgrade cheque that each new G brings about. But mobile isn’t just about the next G. Operators have more immediate problems to solve. Looking at how people used their mobiles and their apps last week really hit home the importance of mobile. Operators need to think about how they are helping people live their lives and how to best communicate in as natural and simple a manner as possible. Mobile data use is second nature. If people want to solve a problem, they reach for their mobiles and use the apps – they don’t call a call centre, or go to a shop, or even make voice calls to their friends and colleagues. And that represents an opportunity to operators.
Now if someone could only come up with an app that would stop the thieving pickpockets that MWC attracts…………..