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2016 was an eventful year for technology innovation across the board. And whilst new models have come to the fore the global base of mobile users continues to grow, confirming mobile’s central role in how businesses innovate and monetise their services.

Everything has been fair game, from the collection and responsible use of user data through to new ways for consumers to perform everyday tasks like talking to their bank, ordering and buying a coffee or transferring money to a friend.

But how will the mobile ecosystem change in 2017? And what are the areas of the ecosystem that are ripe for disruption or collaboration?  We asked MEF members to provide us with their thoughts on the big trends for 2017…

Mobile Apps and Services

Daniel Kurgan, CEO, BICS

The Internet of Things will spark new services and revenue streams.

In 2017, we will witness more convergence across the telecoms space as service providers develop cross-platform propositions to support content services, and also look to diversify in order to target vertical markets.

The IoT will be a key driver of this transformation, as an increasing number of industries become reliant on mobile to provide the connectivity and infrastructure needed to support IoT implementations. IoT has become integral to the growth of smart homes, smart factories, automated production lines and the emergence of driverless cars.

We have already seen several deployments of global IoT solutions, but in 2017 these are likely to gain traction as more and more equipment manufacturers and enterprises look to embed global connectivity into their devices. Wholesalers will play a key role in bringing disparate players from other markets together, helping to drive collaboration that will support innovation in telecoms.


Claudia Dreier-Poepperl, CEO & Founder, Calldorado ApS

Only the fittest apps will survive 2017

Competition in the small-to-medium-size-app space will intensify in 2017, fuelling an increase in app takeovers and making developers turn to new forms of monetization to survive.

Alongside ultra-top apps like Whatsapp or Snapchat, millions of apps slug it out in a mature market where breaking even is an everyday struggle. As users get weary of in-app ads, or simply forget to use even excellent apps, established monetization methods aren’t delivering a return for these developers.

In 2017, those determined enough to make it will try out new alternatives. This could involve user data monetization, adding secondary app functionality to drive new revenue, or something entirely new. Others will choose to sell their apps.


Kjell Arvidsson, VP of Corporate and Business Development, CLX Communications

With analysts forecasting that there will be more than 1.5 billion Cellular enabled IoT devices by 2021, this will be the year that the power of cellular IoT connectivity makes a big impact on all kinds of connected, smart devices. This will happen at the SIM card level with the introduction of reprogrammable SIM cards.

Enterprises and manufacturers that wanted to include cellular connectivity within their products were previously challenged to find a global solution that gave them the control they needed to optimized coverage and costs depending on the location of the device. For example, automotive companies, that manufacture cars that self-diagnose engine problems and message the auto service-center, find it difficult to manage situations where their cars cross country borders due to the high costs of roaming. The reprogrammable SIM solves this problem, reduces the need to know where a device will be shipped to and eliminates the cost of changing physical SIM cards.

2017 will see the reprogrammable SIM connectivity model come to the IoT market, breaking open a new area of the ecosystem.


Sharad Thukral, CEO Middle East & Africa, Route Mobile

Mobile has grown remarkably fast. 5G will be a reality by the end of 2017, resulting in a variety of new capabilities.

The focus in 2017, I believe, will be on Artificial Intelligence (AI) coupled with mobile functionality & cloud computing, providing intelligent tools we don’t currently have at our disposal.

Driven by huge volumes of data and the need to make smarter business decisions, enterprises will look at AI to learn from their customers. The mobile ecosystem will grow exponentially across all levels – more devices, applications and services for consumers. MNOs are already responding with innovative business models and developments to their core technologies.

Technology trends like chatbots will transform the way businesses interact with audiences, allowing them to gain access to information about trends, patterns and behaviors to automate processes for greater efficiency.

Beyond 2017 enterprises will continue to undergo a digital transformation on a large scale. The integration of AI enabled chatbots will increase tremendously, enabled by the amalgamation of cloud, mobile, big data and AI itself. Brands will have more meaningful interactions with their consumers.


Gary Greenbaum, Co-Founder and CEO, Syntonic

Consumers in emerging markets rely heavily on mobile phones for socializing, entertainment, and learning. While the shift to mobile has provided flexibility in how content is consumed, over 2 billion prepaid subscribers are burdened with the high cost of data, which restricts their usage. These restrictions also limit business opportunities to acquire, engage, and monetize these consumers.

Mobile carriers and content providers recognize these barriers and are turning to content-oriented models, such as sponsored data which offers “zero-rated” content without impacting a subscriber’s mobile data plan. Sponsored data eliminates mobile access barriers and allows users to engage with content they may not have experienced when rationing data.

In 2017, Syntonic expects to see sponsored data transition from early adoption to mainstream deployment as content providers partner with mobile operators in Latin America, Africa, and Asia to expand sponsored data models, providing content access to a massive untapped mobile audience.


Mobile Messaging

Rob Malcolm, VP Marketing & Online Sales, CLX

2017 will be the year of Innovation and Consolidation in Mobile Messaging.

After a few years of relatively small changes in messaging technology, 2017 will be the year of innovation. New messaging technologies in both A2P and OTT will start to be taken seriously, and Enterprises and Service Providers alike will need to keep abreast with these fast moving and exciting developments to stay relevant.

The A2P SMS industry will continue to show strong growth, both in terms of volumes and revenue. Competition will remain high which will put pressure on smaller players. As a consequence 2017 will continue to see consolidation as smaller companies struggle to grow and seek alternative growth strategies.


Anurag Lal, CEO and President, Infinite Convergence Solutions

In 2016, new messaging platforms and services emerged, but their uses remained relatively stagnant as a communication channel. But chatbots will grow increasingly popular on these channels in 2017 and play a pivotal role in enhancing the capabilities of messaging platforms.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has noted that the future of communication isn’t just people to people, but “people-to-digital assistants, people-to-bots and even digital assistants-to-bots.” Mobile messaging services will serve as the catalyst, but chatbots will be the ones to enable this reality.

By introducing chatbots to messaging services, users will be able to use them as a personal assistant versus solely a way to communicate with friends, family or colleagues. Chatbots will thus become an integral part of these messaging services as they will assist users with booking travel to scheduling meetings or promptly delivering needed information in a timely manner.


Silvio Kutic, Founder & CEO, Infobip

With instant messaging apps making more noise, and adding larger enterprises to their commercial list, the developments in bot technology, and ever-expanding IoT, 2017 is set to see more activity in the communications ecosystem than ever before.

Instant messaging apps will muscle into the application-to-person (A2P) messaging space, continuing a trend we’ve seen throughout 2016.
Adding a ‘sexy’ messaging app to their communications suite appeals to many businesses. And yet, with so many channels, devices and preferences out there, it’s unlikely a single messaging app can solve the consumer communications puzzle businesses are facing.

Rather, to succeed in the A2P messaging space, messaging apps will need to become part of an integrated platform that supports omnichannel experience. With the explosion in omnichannel messaging, enterprises will move past thinking about the individual channel that delivers the message and will instead shift their focus to building consumer engagement, as they adopt a holistic understanding of consumer communications.


Andrea Giacomini, Managing Director, Mitto

There’s more than one-way to go about customer service… there’s two-way (SMS that is)

As we head into 2017 marketers will increasingly turn to SMS as a customer service tool. Building on the success of their promotional one-way SMS marketing efforts, marketers will be able to see additional value from their investment in the channel by using two-way messaging to hold a conversation with their customers.

Brands that enable their customers to make inquiries and ask questions through the channel will be able to develop more personal relationships with their customers which in turn will drive greater loyalty. Why? Because a conversation over two-way SMS not only alleviates many of the frustrations customers feel when dealing with automated voice-answering services but it’s also more native, more instantaneous and most importantly, makes the customer feel like they have a choice.


John Stuckey, Co-Founder & Managing Director, MobileDigital

In December 2016 we shared our business model to deliver encrypted  gift card, loyalty rewards, promotions and corporate communications using MMS to mobile legend Tomi Ahonen.

Tomi’s response:   “MMS should be a lucrative business for the carriers. They’d be nuts to end it .. this is a lucrative business out of which they can earn good money, without any new investment.”  Tomi  wrote,  your business  model “ is PERFECT for MMS” and went onto to say “ the carriers HAVE deployed the MMS gateways, they should consider NOT ABANDONING that investment but rather like the railroads when people shifted to airplanes the railways shifted their business model to corporates and cargo.  MMS like SMS has the ubiquity corporates need –  it is a carrier service and it  has visual impact.

Tomi has long held that OTT did not kill MMS, it just stole its growth.  MMS represents a huge opportunity for corporates to engage visually, and for the carriers to gain revenue for an under utilised asset.


Oisin Lunny, Senior Market Development Manager, OpenMarket

Text is the preferred channel of interaction between millennials and brands, so AI driven service bots are a natural extension of this ubiquitous global customer experience. After much initial buzz in 2016, bots will have many mainstream applications in 2017 across areas such as finance, tourism and customer care.

While consumers will continue to adopt service bots such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, the elephant in the connected room remains security. Effective biometric identity solutions could become a critical success factor.

Technical innovations will need to have a meaningful impact on people’s lives in order to succeed, for example new mobile-centric solutions for personal healthcare will flourish.

SMS will remain the most effective “hotline” to reach six billion people globally. E2P (enterprise to person) traffic will continue to grow as more global brands look at ways to improve the mobile user experience, without relying on email or standalone apps.


Mobile Payments

Trevor Goldberg, VP Business Development - MNOs, Bango

2017 will be the year when IoT emerges from the first enterprise adopters to the mainstream marketplace, delivering real and measurable benefits to all.

IoT is making inroads into everyday life through home automation and connected vehicles. IoT will expand what we think of as “mobile”, by incorporating every intelligent object into a transactional network. Analysts believe there are over 20 billion connected devices and most significantly the prediction is for a 5-fold increase over the next year or so. This will drive the need for a payment brokering platform, easily exposable to any connected device. When value is transferred between “things”, a charge is accrued and reconciled later, both activities managed through the payment platform. This will happen billions of time a day, fully automated from capture to settlement.

The fact that far more non-human devices are now connecting to data networks is a strong indication that this transformation is already underway. In 2017 we will make the first inroads into a global transactional system to support the full commercialization of the IoT revolution.


Charlotte Newby, Head of Corporate Communications, Dimoco

Digital content consumption is on the rise with digital content revenues expected to increase from just under $140 billion worldwide in 2015 to $180 billion in 2017. The primary driver is the consumer demand for digital content on multiple screens, including connected TVs and in-car entertainment options.

Gaming will continue to account for the largest share of carrier billing digital content consumption and will drive digital content consumption next year, with a mass expansion of VR content creation, now that there are a range of VR hardware sets and high-end devices are on the market.

Content producers that offer carrier billing as a payment method will win over consumers for the simplicity of the payment option.


Hiroyuki Sato, CEO, DOCOMO Digital

In 2017 we will see mobile operators start to build and invest in the technology that will enable them to clinch new opportunities in mobile payments. According to Ovum, there is $142bn worth of potential revenue that carriers can access if they make the right moves between now and 2020. With just three years to go, 2017 will see mobile operators ramping up activity and investing in technology solutions that enable a full mobile ecosystem to operate.

I expect to see the widespread emergence of mobile wallets and infrastructure that aims to unite operators and merchants, and break down the barriers that currently restrict wide adoption of mobile as a means to pay for services, applications and physical goods.


Ambar Sur, CEO and Founder, TerraPay

In the last few years, the cross-border payments industry is in the midst of a rapid transformation, marked by increasing competition from a swathe of digital entrants and dramatic technological shifts. If digital disruption has dominated Fintech discourse over the last few years, collaboration would be the “standout” theme for 2017.

In a highly regulated and complex cross-border payments market, neither digital entrants nor incumbents can innovate and scale on their own. Broadly, in 2017, collaboration efforts in the cross-border payment space would focus on improving the efficiency of the back-end infrastructure — payments processing, clearing and settlement.

As in other industries with strong network effects, cross-border payments are only useful to customers to the extent funds can reach other users quickly. With growing consumer demand and greater global and regional economic interactions, the importance of services aggregators, interconnecting players in a single payment scheme or multiple payments chain, would increase substantively. By increasing the density of interactions between industry actors, the aggregation model would improve economies of scale, lower cost and unlock newer opportunities for industry growth.


Mobile Privacy and Security

Tony Anscombe, Senior Security Evangelist, Avast

The Enslavement of IoT Devices – Beyond the PC

With the growth of the connected home and the first steps of smart cities, everything from cars to routers, lightbulbs to thermostats is under attack. We’ve already seen large botnets built from connected devices and used for mining crypto currencies, spamming, or DDoS attacks – growing as the number of vulnerable devices increases.

The routers used in our homes, and most businesses, to connect this plethora of devices to the internet are the most critical component here. The process of flashing firmware to keep pace with threats is inadequate and unsustainable. The router needs to evolve to be a smart router and the smart router ecosystem, combining physical hardware, cloud technology and services. In the near future, leading ISPs will make the shift to smart router platforms that incorporate the constantly updated, active security that is necessary to keep pace with threats.


Benjamin André, Co-Founder and CEO, Cozy Cloud

We see three important trends in 2017. First, we’ll continue to see ad blocking services be used by more users. Over time this will have an important impact on mobile apps’ business models.

Second, the upcoming GDPR will be an important topic for every company with European users and the mobile ecosystem won’t spare the reflexion. This privacy policy will accelerate the creation of the Personal Data Economy.

Last but not least, we see Progressive Web Apps becoming a thing this year. This will change the way many apps are made, especially apps that do not require heavy hardware ressources or constant access to database. It will help many companies reduce the cost of their developments because they will only need a website with a smart responsiveness instead of having to develop a website and an app.


David Poole, Business Development Director, MYPINPAD

2017 will see significant growth in the adoption of mobile payments. In Europe alone, the number of consumers using a mobile device for payments has tripled from 18% to 54% since 2015. As the popularity of online purchases continues to grow so has the associated fraud; there needs to be a consistent and convenient way for consumers to authenticate themselves for these transactions.

As such, one of the most innovative developments we can expect to see in the mobile world this year is the establishment of “PIN on mobile” and the growth of multi-factor /strong authentication; especially as ‘Strong Customer Authentication’ becomes a mandatory part of the Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2).

“PIN on mobile”, the secure entry of a cardholder PIN into a smartphone or tablet to identity the person, will become the authentication method of choice due to its security, convenience and familiarity.


Rafael Pellon, FAS Advogados

If 2016 was such a messy year full of surprises all over the globe, 2017 won’t lag behind in the tech space, with the rise of unseen technologies that will provoke reflections on how we actually work in a world that is on the brink of its current industrial revolution reaching even more traditional industries such as transportation.

We’ll need to discover ways to empower and rescue from oblivion all of the displaced technologies such as self-driving cars and trucks, markets without check-outs and all sorts of logistics done semi-automatically for us.

What to do with all the time we’ll have on our hands all of a sudden? Probably we’ll all be marveled using new VR and AR applications for entertainment, raising such technologies out of niche services in health and CAD. All of this, along with the need to counter-balance “peak phone” will bring us new tools to better enjoy our inseparable devices. That will probably lead to new applications and devices to further push our bodies into this unique mix of flesh and chips, with the infamous AirPods and smart watches quickly becoming dated as the beginning of the new era of homo cyborgs.

Only, of course, if we can solve the multiple issues with privacy and all of the data that by this time will be surrounding us and will need to be better managed. What interesting times to be living in!


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