This year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC), in Barcelona, was the largest and most action packed yet. The annual gathering for the mobile industry, organised by the GSMA (Global System Mobile Association), saw a staggering 94,000+ attendees at Fira Gran Via.
Each year MWC continues to expand into new and emerging mobile industry segments, and this time we saw content and information from a variety of industries such as 5G and NFV; app development; connected living and IoT; media, entertainment and broadcast; retail, digital, commerce and marketing; and security, identity and big data.
While, the keynote agenda was like a list of who’s who in business; from key players in telecommunications, such as AT&T, BT, Ericsson, Cisco and Vodafone, to tech giants like Facebook, Buzzfeed, and Paypal – and companies as varied as Mastercard, WPP and Mercedes.
However, among the highlights were the following topics that dominated not just the keynote sessions – but the panel discussions, lunches and everyone’s conversations.
The race to 5G
This was by far and away the biggest theme of the week – nearly every company had a 5G story to tell – but talk mainly seemed focused on the push to deploy 5G by late 2017, well in advance of the previously projected date of 2020.
5G standards have not yet been written but Nokia stated it’s the first to run 5G on a commercially available base station, which is a significant claim. Last month the company collaborated with Verizon on a 5G field trial conducted in a residential environment, replacing the wired broadband access to buildings with wireless.
While, Verizon announced that it expects to have some commercial 5G devices in consumers’ hands by late 2017 and it’s working with several Asian operators through a newly formed 5G Open Trial Specification Alliance. The goal of the Alliance is to share 5G trial information among the operators, help speed along standards development and achieve economies of scale for 5G equipment and devices.
It would seem like all parties need to come together and agree on a standard quickly, otherwise there’s the danger of fragmentation. And with the exciting new ‘use cases’ it seems 5G can deliver – like IoT, smart cities and autonomous cars – there could be some very compelling services to offset operators’ falling revenues.
Ad-blocking: the debate is on
Tensions were high at a panel discussion about ad-blocking between advertisers, tech companies and ad blockers, including Google, Shine, Nestlé, AOL and Yahoo.
The conversation was around why consumers use mobile ad blockers and what marketers can do to improve the quality of online ads. But they were two distinct sides in this debate. Companies like Google, AOL and Yahoo power millions of digital ads publishers rely on to make money, while mobile ad blocker Shine is working with carriers to remove ads altogether.
Unlike other ad-blockers, Shine doesn’t “whitelist” specific publishers – its technology blocks all smartphone ads. Roi Carthy, CMO of Shine, commented, “Every individual using a mobile handset, smartphone or desktop is being abused by ad-tech—that’s not selective, that is 100 per cent,”
He continued, “We’re talking about military-grade tracking, targeting and profiling. Consumers do not have the ability to protect themselves. “
Benjamin Faes, managing director of media and platforms at Google, said, “I’m very uncomfortable by the idea that an operator or an ad-blocking company can decide on my behalf that I’m not seeing any ads,”
He added, “More and more, publishers just can’t afford to give that content for free without the fair trade of ad-business content.”
Along with 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT) was very much the star of the show.
The idea that everything is connected to help make life easier and more efficient is definitely not a new one. But at MWC the shift was from IoT being simply about consumer gadgets to about how all industries can benefit.
For instance, smart homes and connected cars were very much centre stage at the congress. In the keynote from Mark Fields, Ford CEO, he stated that Ford is looking to transition from being “An automotive company to an auto and mobility company”.
And there were examples of IoT for business: cities like Los Angeles and San Antonio are deploying connected street lighting to reduce energy waste and costs, and make streets safer.
For more key topics and announcements from the week take a look at MWC’s highlights.