MWC 2008 was also the fashionable place to announce strategic alliances. I always have some doubt on what they called “strategic alliances”. From past years we can learn they are inefficient, failed in most cases and introduce noise and confusion in the marketplace. The latest alliances concern the LTE technology (4G). Of course nobody wants appearing to be distanced by competition, and an alliance is seen as the way to get scale, be earlier in the market and pool R&D. It is presented as an offensive play, but is rather a defensive one. To be short, ALU and NEC announced a JV to develop the technology and be in the market in 2009. But also few days before, ALU said it had signed a strategic alliance with LG Electronics on the subject. Which one will be more strategic than the other? A potential merger between Motorola and Nortel' s infrastructure businesses could also be driven by 4G. Nortel ambitions to be back in next generation mobile infrastructure and Motorola cannot be outside. But alliances are short lived. Remember Siemens and NEC or ALU and Fujitsu alliances in 3G
On the operator side, the subject is hot too, but less conflicting. Vodafone, Verizon Wireless and China Mobile said they will support the LTE technology. Find Vodafone in that group is not a surprise, it is the natural evolution from GSM; it is more surprising to find China Mobile that has not yet deployed 3G, but want to weigh on the next generation. Verizon Wireless was in the CDMA camp, so it is really a surprise it joins the group. But the link between the three is also capitalistic: Vodafone owns 49% in Verizon Wireless and some 3%+ in China Mobile. Nevertheless, the three operators are heavyweights: China Mobile is the largest worldwide mobile operator, Vodafone is the second one and Verizon is the largest US operator. Their position could strongly influence the mobile industry. Furthermore, during the conference, Vodafone CEO sent clear messages on what operators need: a single 4G standard, with if necessary merging LTE and WiMAX. ATT would also be part of the group in the short term. What had not be feasible for 3G, has an opportunity to materialize for 4G. Good!