MWC 2018 wrap-up: How mobile is reshaping the world

Andreas Bubenzer-Paim
Posted by Andreas Bubenzer-Paim
Technology Banking

Mobile World Congress (MWC) is one of the largest technology conferences and also one of the most international ones, with representation of small- to large-sized companies from Europe, Asia, and North and South America. This year, I attended MWC in Barcelona. It was a great opportunity to learn about the latest trends in the mobile tech industry and everything that’s connected to it.

Circle of cell phones being used by young people.We live in a world that has shifted significant weight from fixed-line to mobile connectivity. (The percentage of people owning a fixed-line home phone has shrunk significantly.) And, like in the case of India or many African countries, entire regions jumped from old infrastructures directly to mobile technology and everything that comes with it, avoiding the time and cost of putting in place “old school” cable infrastructure. The advent of 5G is going to make wired connections even more obsolete. Let’s learn more about how mobile is reshaping the world – and maybe how our clients do business.

5G dominates

5G (the much faster successor technology to today’s 4G/LTE) was, not surprisingly, one of the key topics at MWC 2018. And it’s going to go commercial soon:

  • China Mobile is already field-testing 5G with five different providers in five different Chinese cities (e.g., with ZTE in Guangzhou).
  • Ericsson already tested 5G at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. The United States, Japan, and several other counties are striving to be leaders in 5G.
High-quality live streaming of entertainment content, car-to-car communication for self-driving cars, and the massively interconnected Internet of Things were major themes. For example, NBC streamed the Winter Olympics live in virtual reality (VR). With the present technology, you would have been able to watch this VR content on your smartphone via fast Wi-Fi. New chip technology may soon allow you to watch such VR content live in HD quality on the go, via 5G. You’ll be able to get great angles and front-row seats for experiencing live events during your work commute!

“Network slicing” is a technological capability coming with 5G. It allows the flexible allocation of different portions of a 5G network for different use cases such as automated driving/mapping versus infotainment versus emergency response services. (e.g., when there’s an accident, the network capacity in that particular area can be reduced for infotainment and the freed up capacity reallocated to the use by emergency responders, allowing them to communicate quickly and efficiently and coordinate an effective emergency response.)

“Beam forming” is another new 5G technology. Instead of continuously blasting out a massive signal in all directions, cell towers in the future can use beam forming, sending out weak signals to identify cell phones and, once identified, send a stronger, targeted beam to that specific cell phone. This allows each cell phone tower antenna to provide higher signal quality to more phones than with today’s technology.

China’s burgeoning tech industry 

You couldn’t miss China’s significant presence at MWC.

With over 1.3 billion in population, China’s middle class keeps growing, and technology is critically needed to help hundreds of millions of people transition to a new, wealthier lifestyle. Any tech product developed for that market immediately has a very large base of potential users (i.e., they can test products in a huge domestic market and then start shipping internationally). Their product quality has definitely improved significantly over the last several years.

Alibaba, for example, has been operating fully digital grocery stores in China for over 13 months. When it comes to mobile e-commerce, China has remarkable technology that is handling all kinds of payments and e-commerce directly via messaging apps.

To be clear, I’d still consider the United States the #1 tech country, with Silicon Valley being the clear leader in technology innovation globally. But we can’t rest on our laurels. We need to keep innovating as the rest of the world certainly isn’t asleep.

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