Every year mobile vendors, operators and enthusiasts meet at the Mobile World Congress to showcase their latest innovations, announcements and technologies.
This year was no exceptions as the event gathered more than 2,300 participating companies and 3,500 international press members. Overall, it welcomed more than 108,000 attendees from 208 countries.
Before the show, expectations were set high with hope for numerous new smartphone announcements like the launch of a potential Microsoft Surface phone, Google Pixel 2 or Samsung Galaxy S8 to name a few. However, it’s a 15 years old mobile phone that stole the show as Nokia revived the famous 3310.
This year’s MWC showcased how mobile is the force behind every emerging innovation. As a result, we also expected plenty of announcements on the 5G scene to prepare for the roll-out of a new network generation versatile enough to create a hyper-connected world – with connected cars, smart cities and IoT devices.
The GSMA – the organising company – kicked-off the show by announcing new estimates for 5G adoption, stating predictions of 1.1bn global 5G connections by 2025, just 5 years after 5G standards are expected to enter the consumer market.
In addition to the show, the GSMA also released a report outlining the mobile industry’s collective vision and expectations for the 5G era. This report outlined five key objectives to make 5G a reality:
- Provide boundless connectivity for all to ensure 5G networks will integrate and co-exist with 4G networks
- Deliver future networks innovatively and with optimal economics
- Accelerate the digital transformation of industry verticals
- Transform the mobile broadband experience to make it better and faster
- Driving growth in new use cases for massive IoT and critical communications services
However, this report also highlighted the need for stakeholders involved in 5G (telecoms companies and governments) to cooperate in order to make this happen. Since the turn of the new year, plenty of new 5G partnerships have been announced and governments set up objectives and guidelines on the roll-out of 5G networks. Yet the main feedback we gathered on 5G from the 2017 MWC left us with a sense of disappointment and here’s why.
This year’s MWC showcased an incredible amount of new connected devices and products such as connected cars, remote surgery robots, virtual reality headsets (VR) and more. However, just like the GSMA report highlights, there is a worrying lack of substance behind all these new technologies.
With a rollout of new 5G networks being potentially 3 years away, seeing so many new connected devices without the backbone network available to support them yet gives us an underwhelming feeling of superficiality, a lack of in-depth reasoning.
Having so many mobile vendors exhibiting what the future of mobile technology will look like without a substantial business model, or a network deployment plan required to support these technological advancements is clearly a concern.
Many industry experts believe that the industry has got ahead of itself and that this year’s MWC was completely disconnected from reality.
Overall, MWC 2017 left us none the wiser as to the business case, technology, deployment model or timescale for 5G. Instead, it left us with a fragmented and confused vision clearly highlighting the failing results of the race to 5G.
Before achieving a consumer-ready 5G, mobile network providers, device manufacturers and equipment makers need to all adhere to the same 5G standards in order to answer real user requirements for a better-connected world.
In the end, it seems the GSMA report represented one of the more rational output as it pointed out that new business models are needed, new network deployment approaches are required and that the investment required to make 5G a reality is huge.
At the moment, the mobile industry seems to be going through an identity crisis with a clear lack of standardisation over 5G – having everyone running in different directions without a clear path to success.
As Professor William Webb stated: “Perhaps MWC mainly served to cast more light on the cracks of the façade”. 1