11:00 AM -- There was a lot of competition this year for the mobile categories in Light Reading's 2012 Leading Lights awards.
And, unlike last year when newborn Long Term Evolution (LTE) took the cake, it was hard to choose a clear-cut winner. (You can see the full list of finalists here; free registration required.)
The Leading Lights Awards and Light Reading Hall of Fame winners will be revealed Wednesday, Nov. 7, at the Manhattan Penthouse.
Here, in no particular order, are the six finalists for Best New Service or App (Mobile).
Telefónica Digital's TU Me
Through its digital group, Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) is one of the best, if not only, examples of a wireless operator embracing over-the-top technology to build compelling services. TU Me, its unified communications app, is one of its most innovative applications yet. The Skype competitor is free, available to anyone and is constantly updated based on user feedback. It's the kind of processes you'd expect from Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), not a telco, which makes it especially notable.
Users have been downloading the app in droves since it was first launched in early May. As of July, the app had already racked up 600,000 active users.
LinkedIn's iPad appLinkedIn Corp. is, by far, the preferred social network for professionals. While the desktop interface has needed several updates to be a navigable and easy-to-use, the iPad app is extremely robust and completely rethought. It was built from the ground up for the tablet size and multi-touch experience with real-time notifications, a calendar integrated with contacts' profiles and a social news aggregator that displays news your contacts have shared, as well as their job updates.
What makes LinkedIn's iPad app more impressive is that it was built using 95 percent HTML5 code, which means it will work on any mobile device. The developers built it in a way that doesn't sacrifice functionality for ubiquity, and that's rare to see in most mobile apps today.
Sprint's Single Source Enablement
Mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) are seeing resurgence in the U.S., and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) is responsible for many of the new startups on the scene. Its Single Source Enablement platform lets essentially anyone from an entrepreneur to a CLEC with only a wireline business become a wireless operator. Sprint has made it painless to get up and running. It takes care of all the systems, processes, customer care, online Web enablement and the warehousing and distribution of devices, so the MVNO can focus on building a customer base. Sprint is also letting its MVNOs bill however they'd like to, and they'll be able to use the LTE network as soon as even Sprint can.
Sprint has signed up more than 300 wholesale partners, including MVNOs like FreedomPop , which is offering a "freemium" mobile data service, Republic Wireless , featuring a Wi-Fi-first model, and Ting, pitching prepaid data buckets to share amongst devices. Even if all the MVNOs aren't ultimately successful, it's good business for Sprint to become the champion of wholesale.
Nokia Siemens Networks's Customer Experience Management (CEM) on Demand
Customer experience management is a hot topic in the race to retain customers and attract new ones, and Nokia Networks is helping operators do that through mining customer data and recommending actions to improve customers' experiences. By simplifying CEM down and tying its functionality into their back offices, NSN's CEM on Demand is helping operators remain relevant in competitive mobile markets like India.
Skyfire Labs's Horizon Browser extension platform
We’ve had our eye on Skyfire Inc. in the past for its ability to drive more data usage for wireless operators in a way that's network friendly. Now, with the company's Horizon Browser extension for Android, it is also putting operators back in the mobile browsing experience, letting them offer a personalized, customizable and socially charged browser with their brand in the center. For consumers, it's a browser that mimics the desktop experience they are used to, and it learns their behavior to make it more relevant the more they use it. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is a customer, and Verizon Wireless is an investor.
SK Telecom's LTE-Advanced
Last year, LTE was in the spotlight, but now a number of wireless operators are eyeing LTE-Advanced, the next iteration of 4G defined in release 10 of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) specs. It's more of a 2013 network reality, but SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM) is already moving ahead with plans for LTE-Advanced and currently has the most advanced implementation of it in the world. Whereas most carriers are looking at it for carrier aggregation, to bond together separate radio channels to get faster data speeds, SK Telecom is doing that and more. The Korean carrier is also working on enhanced inter-cell interference coordination (eICIC), to split airwaves between macro and pico cells, and coordinated multipoint (CoMP) technology that lets devices connect to multiple towers at the same time.