It's not often in this industry that you find yourself sitting in a conference keynote thinking ″hmmm, this is more bawdy than I expected.″ But – believe it or not – that is exactly what happened at the opening session of this year's Mobile World Congress.
Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao shared the results of the industry's latest ″what would you give up for a week rather than your smartphone″ survey, which showed that 70% would sacrifice alcohol, 63% chocolate, and 33% sex.
″I find it disappointing that people would give up a good session of... chocolate tasting,″ in order to keep their phone, Colao quipped, raising a giggle from the audience. As a result, ″the population growth is safe,″ he went on. ″And penetration and everything.″
It's been a number of years since the word ″penetration″ in a telecoms context made me smirk. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Vittorio.
Meanwhile, filth was also on the agenda for the next speaker.
″Think trash, think dirt – there's money in there,″ said Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T Mobility, sharing details of the U.S. telco's plan to monetise the ″Internet of things″.
One of AT&T's machine-to-machine (M2M) services sees it monitoring irrigation on U.S. farms. ″We can actually connect dirt, soil to the Internet,″ said de la Vega. ″I never thought that I would look at an open field and see revenue, but I do.″
De la Vega's comments came at the start of a Mobile World Congress in which trash talk featured heavily, largely between the mobile operator heavyweights and the regulatory bodies.
″We really need to stop this regulatory autopilot mentality,″ Colao told conference attendees, calling on regulators to stop imposing controls on roaming and termination rates and instead ″let the industry re-invest the money″.
Others were even more blunt in their approach. Benoit Scheen, head of Orange's European operations, accused national regulators of treating telcos like cash cows; Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Obermann claimed regulators are taking ″a fantastic amount of money out of this industry″; and Telefonica's Latin America chief Santiago Fernández Valbuena hit out at outdated methods