MWC 2017 – Articles, Opinions, Podcasts

Mobile World Congress (MWC) is over for another year. More than 108,000 people attended the show in Barcelona, which is an increase from last year of 6%. 2,300 companies were on display and there were 11 keynote sessions over the 4 days with topics ranging from 5G, IOT, Network virtualisation and OTT (Content, SaaS). But what were the key take aways from industry analysts and attendees?

The State of the mobile industry – Techcrunch

The MWC (attendees, keynotes, announcements) always provides an interesting insight into the state of the mobile ecosystem. At its origin, MWC was dominated by mobile infrastructure providers, carriers and handset manufacturers. Today, there are content providers, other OTT players, SaaS companies, browsers, car manufacturers, sports and fitness companies. The mobile ecosystem has expanded.

Techcrunch gives their overview of the the trends from MWC in this article. Interestingly, they pick up on the fact that the industry seems to have moved on from the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 episode (even if you may have heard an announcement on the flight over) with only LG stressing the importance of their battery safety in their keynote for the G6. Along with exploding batteries, excitement has died down for smartwatches. CES in January had few smartwatch announcements (e.g. Garmin Fenix 5) and at MWC Huawei was the only major company announcing a new device. Smartwatch category sales are down – perhaps we are reaching (or have reached) peak smartwatch?

MWC according to Android – Android Central

MWC is predominantly an Android affair. Apple and other OS players have a comparatively small presence and in the last 5 years Samsung (the largest Android device manufacturer) has chosen the event to launch its flagship smartphone. This year however, Samsung chose not to launch their latest S8 smartphone at the congress which prompted the questions – has Samsung outgrown the MWC?

For Android Central, the pick of the phones was the LG G6 which may start to rival the S8 as an alternative though it will ultimately be difficult to compete with Samsung’s budget and existing mind share with consumers. The P10 from Huawei, another often-talked about device at MWC is impressively spec’d, but for Android Central, misses some key features (e.g. smudge resistant screen).

Macro trends at the MWC

There are a number of articles that cover off the major trends in keynotes, announcements and the many panel sessions held through out. This post by Jaime Rodriquez Ramos (Monitor Deloitte Spain) and CNET’s ‘Final Wrapper’ article cover the major trends at MWC. Here are a few…

Retro making a comeback – Nokia, Motorola and Blackberry all had MWC presence with new devices this year.

Assistants, Chatbots and Robots – Last year at MWC VR was the hit…this year everyone had their own assistant from Baidu to Telefonica. The assistant is more than an interface it is about creating industry/customer ontology.

5G – hype or reality? – Lots of demos and discussion but the industry hasn’t come to an agreement on what 5G will actually look like. What many agree on is that it has disruptive potential to the last mile of fixed broadband access (see AT&T and Verizon trials) also that we will see mass roll out of 5G in 2019 (sooner than previously expected).

Startups leading gadget innovation (4YFN) – While the big companies fight for better batteries, screens and cameras at the main event, the side event ‘4 years from now (4YFN)’ showcased a number of interesting startups. A few notables – Hu:toma a bot marketplace company, Soracom a IoT platform, Skyguru an in-flight IOT service and a super light ultra thin phone made from composite materials by Carbonworks.

Take aways for telecommunications carriers

There are 3 major (traditional) mobile ecosystem players at MWC – Device manufacturers, telecommunication carriers and network infrastructure providers. This post by Kate Huggins (Monitor Deloitte Australia) highlights a number of the trends affecting carriers from MWC. Firstly, there are increasingly more categories which are ‘connectivity hungry’ including vehicles, drones and AR/VR which were all on display at MWC. Carriers will be required to meet the needs of these categories but as Kate points out – at what network cost. There was a lot of talk about the benefits of 5G at MWC but there was also concern from some corners about the return on capital from this network upgrade. Secondly, innovation in the physical infrastructure of networks may help to reduce the capital cost of networks (e.g. MIMO, HPUE) as well as the way networks are managed (e.g. network virtualisation). Thirdly, carriers need to start to prepare for a hyper-connected, hyper mobile future where consumers have virtual SIMs allowing the ability to switch between connectivity solutions seamlessly based on their context…

The question is whether the operators enable this or Google does.

Other sources

There are a host of other sources that provide insight into the goings-on and take-aways from MWC. I enjoyed this Techpinions podcast and This Week in Tech’s take on the event.

Until next year!

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