- Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2018 was held in Barcelona, Spain, from Feb 26-Mar 1, under the theme #BetterFuture
- 5G will not just reshape smartphones, but all our devices.
- Digital assistants were once again a focal point with a range of proof-to-concept demonstrations for new forms of visual interaction.
- IoT is expected to reshape the landscape of telecoms industry into a “smart service provider.”
This year more than 2,400 companies revealed cutting-edge products and services with more than 107,000 attendees across 205 countries and territories. Here were the top attractions, as reviewed by the London-based consulting firm Ovum.
5G: a step closer to launch
5G took the expected steps required to become a commercial reality, with service providers and vendors nudging the technology toward market-readiness later in the year. The industry has succeeded in building on the landmark decision to accelerate development of parts of the 5G standard, which was announced at MWC 2017.
As a result of that move and subsequent work, the first 5G networks will be switched on in 2018, laying the foundation for gradual subscriber uptake in 2019. Ovum’s latest data forecasts 284.7 million 5G handsets to be sold in 2022, which is three times more than previously expected.
Some notable service provider 5G developments at this year’s MWC include Zain Group and Ericsson’s MoU for 5G tests in the Middle East; Deutsche Telekom’s planned 5G tests at 73GHz with Huawei and T-Mobile USA’s deals with Nokia and Ericsson for 5G infrastructure at 600MHz and 28GHz. Each of these steps helps lay the foundation for 5G to be launched in line with commercial realities in those markets.
Meanwhile, work among chipset and device manufacturers means that very early launches, like those in the US, Switzerland, South Korea, and China, will see subscriber sign-ups starting in 2019. The industry is set to make 5G a commercial reality at next year’s MWC.
Ovum also pointed out that 5G is not just about networks, but also smartphones and other devices. Huawei has unveiled its Balong 5G platform for dedicated mobile broadband devices, while Intel has announced a partnership with Spreadtrum to produce a 5G smartphone platform by 2H19. Qualcomm revealed Snapdragon 5G Module Solutions aimed at simplifying the process of bringing 5G to smartphones in 2019.Ovum predicts over 280 million sales of 5G smartphones in 2022, making up 12% of all handset sales and causing 5G adoption at faster rate than for 4G. This will be primarily driven by the existing large base of smartphone users demanding faster and more reliable data services.
The solutions announced by Huawei, Intel, and Qualcomm will apply to more than just smartphones: laptops, tablets, VR headsets, and many other types of device will also benefit from aggressive moves to get 5G on smartphones – provided of course that operators offer attractive data plans for these additional devices.
A major theme at MWC has been automation– whether that’s in the glamour fields of robotics and AI, or the less hyped ones of expert systems, service assurance, and the back office generally. AI is most widely deployed in customer management activities. Most prominent examples of AI application are digital assistant for customer management but AI is applied in every aspect of telecom’s life. Machine learning takes a new focus on revenue stimulation, not just cost-cutting.
Telefonica, for example, boasts of processing 80% of its trouble tickets with some degree of automation. There is more and more enthusiasm around the enabling technologies for this. Amazon Web Services has mastered. Telcos, however, tend to pride themselves on what they think is a uniquely intimate relationship with customers.
AI in consumer service is still simmering with a few new ingredients thrown in. Device manufacturer promised more and better AI capabilities. But digital assistants were once again a focal point with a range of proof-to-concept for new forms of visual interaction.
Service providers showcased their strong credentials but aim to get better, which means to become fast, lean, smart and personal. Telco operators narrow scope on verticals, NB-IoT and LTE-M get real.
Vodafone and Samsung play to their strengths in smart home partnership. Vodafone and Samsung’s smart home partnership shows how companies can join forces to leverage their core strengths into new digital services. Vodafone will still need to work hard to show it can bring new value to its customers, the move is important as it brings its consumer IoT strategy into the home, having launched mobile-focused V by Vodafone consumer IoT services in late 2017. And for Samsung the partnership will extend its smart home services into Vodafone’s retail outlets, while adding essential parts to its smart home strategy – most importantly, connectivity.
The services will be branded V-Home by Vodafone, will be powered by Samsung’s SmartThings Wi-Fi hub, and will be launched in Spain and Germany in the second quarter this year, marking the European debut of Samsung’s smart home controller. For the German market, the launch will bring strong competition to Deutsche Telekom’s smart home ambitions.