This year's Leading Lights Best New Product (Mobile) award submissions -- as with many of the other categories -- threw up plenty of good potential choices.
Part of the problem is that there are so many aspects of mobile evolution that need to be addressed as operators make the gradual -- or not so gradual -- shift to 4G.
From building networks smarter to making them more intelligent in operation, addressing WiFi offload and facing the challenges of mobile video -- these are all critical areas of development.
I tried to reflect this diversity in my finalists selection for this category. I hope you like my choices, and, as ever, feel free to suggest your own on the message board below.
Here are the finalists:
Affirmed Networks Inc. –- Affirmed Networks' Mobile Content Cloud Affirmed Networks Inc. is one of the best-funded startups in the mobile network virtualization space. The Acton, Ma.-based company grabbed $51 million in series C funding in June, making it the fourth largest startup in Massachusetts, according to the Boston Business Journal.
Affirmed nominated its Mobile Content Cloud offering as a 4G contender. It got a solid boost for this position in September as Transaction Network Services Inc. (NYSE: TNS) revealed it will use the product to power its LTE roaming multi-service hub, allowing operators to quickly enable 4G roaming.
The Quantum SON Suite is the first full product resulting from Cisco's acquisition of IntuCell in January. Ma Bell has deployed this technology across its network to help the network heal itself. This is one of the first major operator affirmations of mobile SON technology.
CommScope Inc. –- Andrew SiteRise Making antenna installation sexy... that's a pretty tall order, right? Well, the CommScope Andrew SiteRise might just be the unit to do just that.
The product is a pre-assembled tower-top antenna system intended to support the trend of quickly deploying remote radio units (RRUs) closer to the top of the cell-tower. Ooredoo (previously Qatar Telecom) has deployed the pre-fab antenna system in its mobile network.
Devicescape Inc. –- PopWiFi software Devicescape Software Inc. is the curator of a global network of 12 million WiFi hotspots operated by bars, restaurants and small stores around the world. Many operators are tapping this WiFi resource to provide offload options for their cellular options.
PopWiFi is Devicescape's answer to the question of how the businesses operating these hotspots can get more out of them. It eases customer connections to the network and enables stores to interact and promote with its customers via WiFi. Expect to see a lot more companies getting interested in these mobile proximity marketing systems and see more people slip between WiFi and 4G when shopping and sipping.
Guavus Inc. –- MobilityReflex Guavus Inc. is a rising star of the Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) sector. The startup's Mobility Reflex product is a big data tool to smooth 4G LTE deployments by pulling together relevant information from different parts of an operator's network.
Mavenir Systems Inc. –- Mavenir's Virtualized IMS Platform Mavenir Systems Inc. 's Virtualized IMS Platform is the network spine of forthcoming rich communication services (RCS), while making life simpler for operators with network functions virtualization (NFV) capabilities decoupled from the access network.
Mavenir says that "leading Tier 1" operators in Europe are now using this IMS product to deploy 4G voice services now.
Sprint Corp. – Bring Your Own Sprint Device (BYOSD) program from Sprint Emerging & Wholesale Solution Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) has frequently been active on mobile environmental issues. The BYOSD system is intended to make it easier for Sprint's many mobile virtual network operator (MVNOs) partners to reuse Sprint handsets, cutting down on waste and subsidy costs in one fell swoop.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates 135 million cell phones are discarded each year in the US alone. So, as operations like FreedomPop are showing recycling used handsets could be the way of the future.
Qwilt –- QB Series 200 Video Software Qwilt is getting cosy with mobile and cable operators that want to more smoothly deliver video over their networks. The company has put together an all-in-one system for classifying video types at the edge of the network as they are delivered. The system will locally cache popular videos.
Qwilt banked $16 million in series C funding in July. It has now raised $40 million in VC funding in total.
Zact –- Zact Zact may represent the future of mobile data plans. The service, which runs over Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s 3G and 4G network, allows users to tweak and customize their plans to suit the way they use their phones to save money.
For instance, users can tailor the Samsung Victory or Galaxy S III phones offered so that they favor data services, share minutes with others and enforce parental controls right off the handset. The service promises that users will never overpay and get a credit if they have unused minutes.
The Leading Lights winners and latest Hall of Fame inductees will be revealed at the Leading Lights awards dinner, which will be held at the The Out hotel in New York City on October 1.
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading