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Mobile Managed Services in Vogue at 3GSM

The 2006 3GSM World Congress opens on February 13 in Barcelona. This year it will be attended by no fewer than 962 companies and an estimated 50,000 visitors.

What will the assembled multitudes be talking about? Many things, obviously. But according to Lance Wilson, ABI Research's director of mobile wireless research, an increasingly prominent topic of conversation will be managed services. "Managed services are becoming more important," he says, "and 3GSM is the biggest, most important mobile communications trade show in the world."

Why will managed services be in sharper focus at 3GSM than in previous years? Service providers are under pressure from several directions in 2006. Their emphasis has shifted from signing up new subscribers at the fastest possible rate, to ensuring that their costs are kept low and profit margins high. New technologies compound their task: the continuing rollout of 3G cellular systems, the beginnings of HSDPA implementation, and the implications of "NGN/IMS" � "next-generation network/IP Multimedia Subsystem" technologies.

A growing number of wireless operators are asking whether the operational demands of their networks are a distraction that reduces their ability to perform their "core" missions: rolling out services, combating churn and ensuring that they can attract high-paying subscribers.

Increasingly, they are coming to the conclusion that managed services are the answer. Letting an outside organization take over some or all aspects of network operation and maintenance is seen as a fruitful approach, especially given the flexibility of the solutions on offer that can range all the way from complete network management and content hosting, to a limited menu of just a few specialized functions.

"In practice, managed services vendors are primarily the major wireless infrastructure equipment vendors," says Wilson. "This is logical: they already have close relationships with the service operators; they have the very deep pockets needed to succeed in this field; and they've always offered some services relating to their own equipment installation and maintenance. Finally, they enjoy economies of scale, because they may offer the same service to many different operators."

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