Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2017 in Barcelona starts this Sunday. This annual event now attracts over 100,000 attendees and includes keynotes, panel discussions, displays and meetups from many of the most influential players in mobile technology and the mobile ecosystem. Over the course of the last 10 years, the landscape of players at MWC has morphed from being heavily device/handset focused to including software and service providers that play a role in the mobile ecosystem.
For the last two years I have covered the major announcements and talking points from the MWC. In 2015, the major talking points were net neutrality, wearables, IOT and 5G. In 2016, was all about virtual reality, tapering-off in device innovation and vehicles. In this post I look at what we might be able to expect at MWC 2017 and provide some tips for first timers.
There are always a few major device announcements at MWC. Last year, LG stole the show with their G5 device which included modular hardware (e.g. removable batteries). The excitement for this was not matched by sales in the G5 so this year we are likely to see a ‘tamer’ G6 as a redemption.
Samsung has always used the MWC to announce its latest smartphone, however we are not going to see an S8 smartphone launch in Barcelona. Rather, Samsung is tipped to launch its Galaxy Tab S3 which is a premium tablet product. In a turbulent year for Samsung, launching a Tablet against a backdrop of falling Tablet sales globally is a gutsy move (predicted to be ~165 million units globally in 2017).
Huawei is expected to launch a new smartphone and smartwatch. After being relatively unknown in the Australia 3 years ago, they are bringing impressive hardware to the market at competitive price points. The P10 smartphone and smartwatch 2 are expected to be talking points of the conference.
For the nostalgic, Blackberry is back courtesy of Chinese manufacturer TCL who will be launch the DTEK60. TCL licensed the BlackBerry name after pursuing the Acatel brand name in price sensitive markets. It will be interesting to see if broad appeal of Blackberry still applies despite a number of high-profile failures. Nokia is also making a comeback with its revamped 3310. This may be a sentimental gift for those who remember when two out of every five mobile phones was a Nokia or an upgrade for those still using the phone on 2G (which is being mothballed in many markets).
Expect more discussion on 5G from the tech providers and the carriers. Verizon has just announced 5G trials in 11 US markets a week before the conference. There are a number of other trials expected for later in the year in Asia, Australia and some European countries. Despite these trials, 5G has not yet been codified as a standard. Many of the 5G trials and the commercial rollout of LTE Advanced and LTE Pro are an evolution to 5G, piecing together the elements required (MIMO, Beamforming, Licence Assisted Access, High levels of aggregation and QAM). MWC attendees should be looking to compare vendor roadmaps vs. carrier roadmaps, compare trial approaches of vendors and carriers and discuss the the implications for fixed line services.
Now a perennial topic of the conference. This year a lot of the IOT discussion at the conference is expected to focus on devices using LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Networks) particularly in industrial IOT. In addition, computing on the edge of these devices will be a topic for discussion with increasing concerns for device security and reliance on connectivity for processing power. MWC attendees should be interested in new use cases for IOT, trials of IOT systems and platforms globally and the state of consumer IOT.
Tips for first timers…
There is so much to see at MWC (and Barcelona) in a short amount of time.
- Sunday is announcement day (for some device manufacturers) but the real show starts Monday – pace yourself!
- Reed Hastings of Netflix is replacing Mark Zuckerberg for the Monday keynote. Expect him to talk about the future of content, data analytics and media distributions
- Prior to Reed, sessions on autonomous vehicles and chatbots and virtual assistants in the main auditorium look interesting with speaks from car manufacturers, to software start ups providing their perspectives
- Get out to see the exhibits from the vendors – Ericsson, Huawei, IBM, Samsung, AT&T and Android have all had interesting displays in previous years
- A companion event ‘4 Years from Now’ (4YFN) is held at Fira Montjuïc which showcases start ups (mostly SaaS) from around Europe and has talks from companies that are core to the mobile ecosystem (e.g. Facebook) and those that ar emerging. Chat to the founders, find something new.