With the benefit of hindsight

Posted on by Guy Cookson

3GSM World Congress 2003 (Cannes, France)

3GSM World Congress 2003 (Cannes, France)

This post by Benedict Evans brought back many memories, of bygone devices, unexpected disruption, and of the GMS Congress in Cannes, which I attended a few times with Microsoft in the early 2000s:

This evening I’m flying towards Barcelona for this year’s MWC, the main annual mobile industry conference. I’ve been going since 2001, on and off, when it was in (cold, rainy) Cannes and a tenth of the size – last year there were 85,000 people.

2001 was a year after the European auctions of 3G spectrum, when mobile operators, right at the top of both an internet bubble and a mobile bubble, spent €110bn in a few months, and then spent years nursing the hangover. A large part of the reasoning for those prices was the promise of data services to be delivered over that spectrum. But it took until 2005 for the first 3G phones that weren’t bricks to arrive on the European market, and until 2007, of course, for data services deployed on that spectrum to start become interesting.

Today, one can date ‘mobile’ to before iPhone and after iPhone.  But the interesting thing, looking back, is that before the iPhone, it didn’t really feel like we were desperately in need of some catalytic event. As a professor at university once told me, ‘people in the ‘Middle Ages’ didn’t know they were living in the ‘Middle Ages’’. It felt like we were making steady progress. It wasn’t clear at all that we were waiting for a new class of device, with a new approach, that would transform the mobile internet from a segment of telco revenue into a near-universal experience that would become the main part of the internet itself.

Read the rest here. I love the reference to the yacht as a “floating Winnebago upholstered in beige vinyl.”

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