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Every year we ask MEF’s Global Board to share their insights into what will be the big trends and changes for the mobile ecosystem in the year ahead. Watch the discussion in full below and here Dario Betti, MEF CEO, shares his highlights from the debate.

2021 will be a landmark year for the mobile and digital markets. It is better to be prepared, and there can surely be no better way to start the year off than with the annual predictions from the Global Board of the Mobile Ecosystem Forum! Watch the video to see 8 leaders in the mobile companies chart the trends of the next 12 months.

The board members sharing their predictions this year are:

  • Andrew Bud CBE FREng, founder, iProov, MEF Global Chair

  • Waheed Adam, Exec Chairperson, iTouch

  • Dawood Ghalainey, CEO, Cellusys

  • Rafa Pellon – Partner , Pellon de Lima Advogados

  • Anurag Aggarwal, Director Messaging Services, Tata Communications

  • Edwin Carvalho, Senior Carrier Services Director, Vonage

  • Stuart Neal, GM, Boku

  • Robert Gerstmann, Chief Evangelist & Co-Founder, Sinch

  • Jason Lunn, SVP Commercial, IMImobile

A Year of 2 halves: the good and the bad

Overall, get ready for 2021 to be distinguished first and foremost by a difficult economy. Waheed Adam says there will be less money in circulation due to the prolonged COVID-19 lockdown – companies need to be ready to face a difficult time of pressure on their margins. Look at efficiencies he says.

Andrew Bud suggests that the vaccines will bring a burst of recovery – fast and deep. Companies need to be equally able to manage the new pace of innovations.

Get ready to collaborate more to make things happen faster, and to grow into a multifunctional organisation. To learn, to meet to discuss, MEF will be here for you.

Mergers and Acquisitions on the rise

2020 saw some of the biggest mergers and acquisitions in the world of mobile services, with CPaaS players (Communication Platform as a Service) particularly active.

According to Robert Gerstmann, consolidation will continue in 2021 or even increase. The benefit of scale in the industry of communications is extensive, and there is more growth in the market – these economic imperatives will drive more mergers.

Anurag Aggarwal thinks that the acquisitions show not just the importance of scale, but the significance of local teams that understand market dynamics. These teams of qualified professionals bring a higher value to the market, not just bigger volumes, but by better understanding local enterprises and the way the market works

The Mobile Ecosystem is well placed – The pandemic has shown the possibilities of remote access

The MEF Business Confidence Index confirms what our board members think: industry sentiment is mostly positive.

Mobile services are actually well-positioned in the pandemic. Much digital transformation is powered by the smartphone economy: remote working, mobile commerce, personal digital services are clear examples. Just like in the economic crisis of 2009, mobile services will see a bigger uptake.

The key ingredient for Digital Transformation is identity

Stuart Neal reports that progress in digital identity is happening rapidly. This might have been a slow journey, but the need for digital identity is now a commercial imperative, not just a government project.

For Stuart “Multifactor Authentication will move from being the ‘Spotty Teenager’ to a ‘Grown adolescent’.” Significant discussions will take place, including how much certainty regarding identity is really necessary for some use case – a new understanding of identity might be essential.

Dawood Ghalaieny points out that digital identity has already been a success, with a clear and strong role for mobile operators. There might have been missteps and failures in the past, but some operators are showing a better approach to digital infrastructures.

SMS One Time Password Vs. Authorisation Methods –  Changes are coming

It was suggested that SMS will lose OTP traffic to other solutions. Robert Gerstmann agrees  but believes that it will be a slow process and there will be not one but many new methods to confirm financial transactions or access to sensitive data.

The industry should think hard, the change might not happen in 2021 but the SMS OTP market represents 30% of the overall CPaaS traffic.

Enterprise Automation: tactics for growth in CPaaS

The CPASS future is still showing strong growth, but it is not enough to repeat an existing recipe for growth.

Jason Lunn advises looking at automation for enterprise communication services. It is important to create more value, and higher efficiencies especially now when the communication channels are more complex, diverse, and fragmented.

Rich Services will become much more visible

A lot more time and use cases will involve new services methods – for Anurag Aggarwal: multimedia, but also conversational media will be growing strongly. Both Anurag and Jason agree that RCS will be one of the multimedia flavors, but not the only one: multiple rich media solutions will be running in parallel, some of which may still use SMS as a bearer as Waheed suggests.

Differentiating = Quality of Service = Security

“A lot more of focus will be spent on Quality of Service,” says Dawood Ghalaieny: the pressure on margins for the communication services is getting harder to keep up.

Players want to move away from undifferentiated traffic and offering new services and quality. The first and still foremost way to deliver QoS is security. Expect security to take an even more central role in mobile.

Video and IoT – the big trends have not finished

Some of the biggest trends are still in place despite the pandemic or the end of the year. It might not be news that heavy video traffic has grown significantly on mobile networks or that Mobile IoT is a growth area. Edwin Carvalho trusts that video and IoT will remain central to the overall mobile service development.

Regulation: Big Tech will see the end of self-regulation

For Rafael Pelon, 2021 will bring the end of the independence from government oversights from the companies dominating Silicon Valley.

After three decades of limited regulation, Big Tech will see heavy regulation in the EU, USA, LatAm, and even China. The overall impact will see governments and regulators stifling the ability of the large technology companies to innovate – as they will be now more focussed on lobbing and compliances.

A new era for smaller, nimbler innovators might be opening up.

Agreee? Disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comments below

Dario Betti