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MWC: Mobile Brass Tacks

BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress -- As ever with these massive mobile tradeshows, everyone is looking for the shock of the new here in Catalonia. Beyond the sleeker phones and faster networking technologies, however, European carriers and regulators still need to make wireless data cheaper and easier for subscribers to get and use.

This was highlighted for me at a couple of the large press conferences I have attended here. Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK)'s software chief Niklas Savander, taking questions from the floor, agreed that European data plans could stand to be cheaper. Later that day, European commissioner Viviane Reding kicked up a storm by saying that she would mandate price cuts in data roaming charges. (See Nokia: Is It Me You're Looking For? and Reding Guns for Data Roaming Cuts.) Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), meanwhile, is hoping that new spectrum will be opened up in the 900 MHz range to allow faster and better penetration of wireless broadband in Western Europe. This echoes some of the reasons why carriers in the U.S. are spending the big bucks on most of the available 700 MHz spectrum that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has put up for grabs. (See FCC Auctions Hit $19B.)

The good news? The operators expect that data plans will get cheaper and more spectrum will be opened up. The bad? There's no way yet to predict exactly when this will happen on a wide scale.

Nonethless, it is interesting that, beyond the technology and glitz here in Barcelona, there are still some very basic issues impeding the further takeup of wireless broadband that need to be tackled.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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