Ten years ago, the newly merged Vodafone Airtouch was sealing its hostile takeover of German carrier Mannesmann, a move which CEO Chris Gent promised would create “the world’s leading mobile multimedia operator”. Virgin Mobile, the world’s first MVNO had just announced its launch, and the must-have handset was the Nokia 7110—attractive not so much for its rudimentary WAP capabilities as for the spring-release cover that enabled its owner to answer calls in a way that briefly emulated Neo from box office smash The Matrix
The year 2000 had been hailed by some as the ‘year of mobile data’ in what would soon prove to be a hopelessly optimistic assessment. That year’s GSM World Congress saw the first prototype GPRS network on display from Ericsson, including a much vaunted prototype handset. As onlookers applauded this achievement it is doubtful that they could have imagined the post-iPhone industry that would be gathering in Barcelona ten years hence.
In many ways, of course, it was a drastically different world from the one we know today. But a look back at a post World Congress report from the March 2000 issue of Mobile Communications International reveals that, while much of the technology has evolved, some core concerns remain unaltered.
As speakers and delegates contemplated services and business models based on WAP, they were asking: “What is the consumer ready to pay for? How can every organisation in the value chain realise their share of the money?” And in an observation of worries that proved decidedly well placed, telecoms.com noted: “Mobile internet services seemed to be at the forefront of many