During the course of bringing together each MEX conference, we speak to literally hundreds of people from throughout the mobile industry to understand how the landscape is evolving. One of the key themes emerging from many of these conversations in recent months has been the concept of community.

Communities exist everywhere. In the workplace, among the neighbours in your street, online – anywhere there is shared affinity, there is the possibility for a community to emerge. Companies which can understand the complexity of their customers’ communities and provide tools which enable them to participate more effectively and with unique mobile capabilities will benefit from greater subscriber loyalty and pricing power.

This is an issue affecting players throughout the value chain. Network operators, in particular, are struggling to understand what role they should play. Does their customer base represent a community in itself? Can they create new communities within it? Should they act as a gateway to external communities controlled by other brands? How can they derive the maximum value from this opportunity?

Media companies face a similarly bewildering set of questions. Can existing communities be extended to the mobile environment? How much control do they need to exercise over the delivery channels to ensure the best user experience for their customers?

Our thinking at PMN always starts with the customer perspective. To this end, we’re inclined towards a view where the customer sits among several, often over-lapping ‘community spheres’, which represent their interests and affiliations. These could include a work sphere, a transient sphere defined by their location at a particular time, a sphere of social contacts and various spheres representing their brand relationships. The challenge faced by everyone in the mobile industry is how to enable the user to participate in all of these spheres or communities without impacting basic user experience requirements.

COMMUNITY CONVERGENCE runs from 11:00 – 12:30 on 31st May at the MEX conference. You can read the full agenda and register to attend here.

I’d like to introduce you to some of the speakers who’ll be taking part in this session.

The keynote comes from Frederick Ghahramani, Director and co-founder, AirG.

Frederick co-founded AirG in 2000 and has spent the past six years growing the company to a leadership position in the mobile entertainment space, with over 100 employees and sales in 33 countries. Frederick has spearheaded the company’s business development team in building relationships with over 85 leading mobile operators and media companies globally including Sprint Nextel, Orange, T-Mobile, Verizon, Cingular and MTV Asia. As a recipient of the Business Development Bank of Canada’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award for 2005, Frederick is a recognized entrepreneur with technical and business expertise in the wireless electronics, software, and ship brokering industries. He is also a passionate advocate for the mobile community and wireless social networking space.

Asked what he hopes to get out of his involvement in MEX, Fred said: “Drawing on AirG’s experience in the mobile communities space, we’d like to share our views on why we believe the user experience on mobile phones is the most important critical success factor for user adoption and how it will drive social networking on mobile phones to be a mass market phenomenon, as well as have an engaging discussion with the other companies present on what their views on user experience are, based on their experience in the mobile space and how they see the market evolving.”

He will be joined on the panel by several others, including:

Jane Vincent, Visiting Fellow, Digital World Research Centre, University of Surrey.

Jane studies the social practices of mobile phone users and in particular why it is that people are so emotionally attached to this small electronic computational device. A social scientist, she worked in the mobile communications industry since the early 1980’s commercialising three generations of mobile technology before leaving to join the University of Surrey’s Digital World Research Centre in 2001. Jane’s research for the UMTS Forum and Vodafone has been widely published. She regularly presents at academic and industry events such as the 3GSM World Congress, and she has been a final judge for the GSM Association Awards for the last three years. Her most recent publication is in ‘Thumb Culture – the meaning of mobile phones for society’ –

Gunnar Larsen, Director, EMEA, Real Networks

Gunnar runs Real Networks mobile games business in Europe and has extensive experience in the mobile applications and services business with Mobile Innovation and Purple Software. He explains his interest in this area: “The mobile industry still has a lot to learn and implement to make the user experience seamless and inviting. We all talk about the massive market opportunity, but MEX addresses the reasons why we aren’t there today and at the same time creates a forum where discussions can take place that attempt to solve these crucial issues.”

Also participating are Mike Beeston, Managing Director of user experience consultancy Fjord, Alexis Michaelides, Director and co-founder of urban music community and Dan Ake, CEO of the recently launched community MobileSignal.

For further reading, there are a couple of recent MEX articles which are worth browsing to understand more about how communities are emerging in mobile: ‘Community convergence‘ and ‘Virtual sociology goes mobile in the real world‘.

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    Putting people first

    Thumb Culture: The Meaning of Mobile Phones for Society (Book)

    Peter Glotz, Stefan Bertschi, Chris Locke (eds.), Thumb Culture: The Meaning of Mobile Phones for Society, Bielefeld: transcript Verlag, 2005, 296 pp., pb., 27,80 €, ISBN: 3-89942-403-4.
    Synopsis: Mobile communication has an increasing impact on p…

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