Mobile World Congress 2015: 5 trends you need to know about and their implications for Australia

During the Mobile a World Congress in Barcelona last month I highlighted in two linkedin posts the main themes from the events, exhibits and speakers I attended. A month on, I thought I would cover off the 5 major trends outlined at the event and their implications for Australia.

1. 5G is still just a concept

Possibly the most talked about topic of the conference was 5G, what can be expected and when. The reason for the excitement is that many players in the mobile ecosystem are looking to better network coverage, bandwidth, spectrum utilization, lower latency and power use to support increasingly larger numbers of devices and connected objects. Whatever 5G becomes the hope is it will address these challenges and create new business opportunities for traditional TMT companies and emerging players developing internet of things/M2M offerings.

In Australia, 4G was rolled out in 2011 and the trend has been that a G is added every year. Given that Australia is 4 years in to 4G it could be sometime before 5G is deployed. That said, at MWC Telstra announced plans to partner with Ericsson to develop 5G which could be commercial by 2020.

2. The concept of a ‘connected life’ is very (very) real…and coming to your life soon

Companies manufacturing devices are now going well beyond smartphones and mobile connectivity. Many of the seminars at the MWC highlighted products of different form factors, particularly wearables, with mobile lifestyle at their core. On display were Ford’s smart bike, Will I Am’s connected fashion bracelets, smart furniture and smart toothbrushes which were just some examples of non-technology type brands moving into mobile technology. At the Innovation City pavilion connectivity of all types were on display including connected cars, connected infrastructure and devices that connect in and out of home.


In Australia, many of these technologies will begin to appear in households, businesses and public spaces in the next few years – connected homes and cars in particular. And they will be connected by intelligent connectivity like Thread or other software defined network solutions. As a result there will be significant opportunities in the Australian market for data analytics, analysis and artificial intelligence to create meaningful linkages.


3. Smart cities are of major interest to vendors but will require joint action from both public and private sectors


Sustainable citywide connectivity was the topic of discussion at a number of MWC booths – connected roads, transport, water supply, sewerage, energy, waste management, lighting and public safety solutions were all on display. For many exhibitors, the smart city conversation focuses on scalability and the interoperability of IoT solutions across metropolitan systems. The question is, can cities afford these solutions? There was quite a bit of discussion about requirements for connected cities’ core infrastructure with new technology offerings and the associated cost/benefit.


As has been pointed out in the Australian media – Australian cities are in no hurry to become smart and the smart waste/water solutions exhibited at MWC and other IOT conferences are at sot probably at the bottom of the list. Adelaide (Australia’s 5th largest city) intends to establish an innovation hub with support from CISCO focusing on smart transport, education and utility solutions. One of the key success factors in this deal is that there is no added financial outlay for the government. Like many things related to the IOT things including solutions across the value chain, partnerships are core to their success.


4. Security and privacy are gaining prominence quickly…and there is no turning back


With IoT a major trend, there was a noticeable uptick in security and privacy vendors at MWC. The key message being that as more items are connected and more of our information is in a virtual worl there is a greater need for security and privacy measures. Despite this very real risk and the pain it could cause there is too much value in the virtual world to turn back.

One example on show was the Silent Circle Blackphone 2 smartphone and Blackphone+ tablet. Both run PrivatOS 1.1, an Android O/S that allows IT administrators to manage, lock and wipe devices. The Blackphone 2 also comes with the “Silent Suite,” which encrypts VoIP video and voice calls, along with encrypted messaging and an encrypted address book. These products are examples of the world we are moving toward where security and privacy are an added feature, a necessity and to some extent a luxury good.


Data retention laws passed in Australia last week which will force telecommunications providers to keep phone and internet records for two years effectively standardising data retention across the industry. In parallel Telstra is offering customers new access to their metadata for a fee. These are changes to privacy laws which aim to make data retention consistent. What these companies and government do with the data is still not discussed but at the very least a level of transparency surfaced. Australia will need to further beef up security and privacy laws when things like driverless cars become commonplace.

 

5. Social media companies are bringing internet to the rest of the world which may disrupt industries in new ways


Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote at MWC focused specifically on Internet.org and the partnerships Facebook, Google and other the social media behemoths are entering in with telecom carriers – or potentially become carriers themselves. The full market impact is still to be realized, but if these deals begin to gel, there could potentially be a huge, disruptive transition in the way telecommunications services are managed and offered.


Living in Sydney or Melbourne it would be hard not to have noticed a bus shelter or TV advertisement for Facebook’s Internet.org. Why advertise Internet.org in a country that has a reported internet penetration rate of 94%? I believe the other 6% need access to the internet but this is limited to the most remote areas of Australia. The other view of this is that Facebook is garnering support for its plans to be the internet provider for the ‘rest of the world’, the 68% that have no internet. They will need support not just because of this massive undertaking but because the opposition they may face as an advertising company providing internet access.

 

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