Reflections on Mobile World Congress 2018

Last updated: 14 October 2019

The dust has settled on Mobile World Congress for another year, with a hundred thousand visitors now safely back in their hometowns. This week they will be busy with following-up with all of the people they met. Now is a good chance to reflect on the show and think about what the big announcements could mean for our industry.

China pushing innovation

For many years, Chinese companies have been developing their devices and infrastructure. Up until now, they have mostly been known in the West for the critical acclaim both Xiaomi and OnePlus have received for their high-spec handsets.

In Barcelona, it was impossible to escape the idea that the investment made by Chinese companies is showing more than just promise especially when it comes to network infrastructure. At the Global Mobile Awards organized by the GSMA, Huawei won eight awards. These included Best Mobile Innovation for Smart Cities, Best Mobile Innovation for Emerging Markets, Best Mobile Infrastructure Award and both the Breakthrough awards for Mobile Technology and Best Network Software.

On the handset side, Chinese firm Vivo wowed the world’s press with the Vivo APEX, a full-screen, near bezel free phone with a pop-up camera and a fingerprint reader on the screen itself. Commentators were excited that a new challenger had appeared to take on the market leaders. One of these, Samsung, announced its latest flagship which wowed visitors for its industrial design, software features and camera.

5G is getting closer

As anyone who has been following the space knows, late last year, the first standards were agreed by the 3GPP. This is paving the way for further innovation in the space, as networks and chip makers now know the parameters to work to. At Mobile World Congress there was a lot of talk of 5G. And while there is expectation that 5G handsets will be on show next year, the real excitement comes in the enterprise. On-demand connectivity for thousands of devices and sensors connected to a network could revolutionize productivity across many industries.

The real question buzzing around was who is going to be the first to deploy a fully-formed 5G network ? Will it only be feasible in cities? Should governments build a single network and run it like a utility? Will networks form alliances to deliver it? And will first-mover advantage still apply?

The IoT is getting smarter

With the GSMA predicting there will be 25 billion connected devices by 2025, there is going to be a need to distribute the computing load. Edge computing is one of this year’s buzzwords and at MWC companies demoed the huge efficiencies that can be gained by only sharing pertinent data to the cloud. This in theory will make IoT deployments more viable, not only in terms of traffic management, but for security too. Being able to secure the vast amount of data being transported by the IoT, will be an essential component of building trust.

Smart Cities continued to be a central theme due to on-going global urbanization. The promise is close to being realized with advances being made to make wireless connectivity ubiquitous and secure, while new models are being designed to monetize services. We cover this in detail on our dedicated Smart Cities page but the central premise is that we trust:

  • that connected devices are authentic and secure, and protected from being hijacked by malevolent hackers.
  • that devices can only interact with other authentic devices and applications, thanks to strong remote access control, and,
  • that we trust the integrity of today’s non-stop data as it’s stored, transferred, and received

Trusted Digital Identities are going to matter a lot more

Thinking about all of themes together, it is clear that securing and authenticating identities is going to be of paramount importance. Many companies are in the midst of digital transformation initiatives, and it is therefore the right time to be thinking about how customers and employees identities are managed. Telcos, banks, OEMs, car makers, professional services and governments all need to control access. One of the services we demonstrated at MWC, Trusted Digital IDs helps industries and government deploy Trusted Digital Identity strategies and accelerate their digital transformation. If you’re interested, we go into more depth in this blog post on the 5 forces driving Trusted Digital Identity.

Finally, MWC wouldn’t be MWC without all of the kooky gadgets that make little sense. Connectivity through light instead of radio was certainly something that turned heads. For now though, the curtain has fallen on another year, and the industry is pressing ahead with bringing their announcements to market.

Do let us know if you have any thoughts on MWC 2018 either in the comments section or on Twitter @GemaltoMobile.

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