The global mobile sector is in need of more open platforms and competition and greater investment in 4G networks, industry leaders said yesterday.
"New monopolies are impacting customer experience," said Cesar Alierta, the executive chairman and chief executive of Telefonica during the first keynote speech of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona. "The internet is made up of only limited players, limiting the customer experience. This is not a level playing field."
Google has the largest mobile operating system (OS) with Android, competing with Apple's iOS, BlackBerry and Windows 8. Users are locked into these systems and are unable to take their applications from one platform to another.
"Customers want open, private, secure and transparent internet. They want to move applications from one device to another and be confident in the protected use of data," said Mr Alierta.
Firefox announced its own mobile OS at the MWC, based on HTML 5. It was praised as the first open operating system that works across all types of devices.
"We need to balance the relationship with OS owners with more competition, openness, highest willingness to invest with us," said Vittorio Colao, the chief executive of Vodafone.
Global mobile phone penetration stands at 90 per cent, but smartphones account for only 17 per cent of that. The number varies worldwide. In the GCC, smartphone penetration is generally much higher than North Africa.
But promoting greater smartphone usage requires better connectivity and networks. Last year mobile data grew 170 per cent in China, internet traffic doubled globally and use of mobile phones increased 42 per cent.
"Data traffic is growing exponentially and it is the main growth for growing mobile revenue," said Xi Guohua, the chairman of China Mobile. "Telecom operators need to think how they can swiftly transform from voice to data management."
This higher penetration rate however puts pressure on development, said Mr Guohua, who urged mobile operators to work together to explore more convenient mobile access.
"China Mobile is pushing for faster speed mobile network with wider and deeper coverage. The whole world is pushing harder for LTE [long-term evolution] development due to this great age in spectrum utilisation. It is getting much attention from operators in various countries," said Mr Guohua.
"We are living through a digital revolution and users are more empowered than ever and can get anything on their phones anywhere," said Mr Alierta.