MWC Barcelona 2021 – Highlights from the biggest mobile trade show

Last updated: 08 August 2022

One of the most important dates any mobile enthusiast will have marked on their calendar is the annual occurrence of MWC Barcelona (Mobile World Congress). This is where many of the year’s most exciting upcoming releases of handsets are often announced – alongside tablets, wearables, and other innovative technology.

While last year’s event sadly had to be cancelled due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the GSMA opted to go ahead with the event this year – running it at a reduced capacity and as a hybrid show. Instead, only around 30,000 physical attendees were present in Barcelona this year compared to the usual 110,000. One of those people present was our very own Executive Vice President Digital Identity & Security, Philippe Vallée, who took part in a number of panel discussions at the event. You can read his thoughts on this year’s show here.

Yet, despite the fact that many of the announcements from the top telecommunications companies were received virtually, the spirit of the show did not falter this year and there were still plenty of exciting launches and news to come from the event. While it’s always difficult to choose favourites, below we’ve put together a roundup of what trends arose from this year’s event. So even if you were unable to attend you can still be in the loop.

5G and the changing role of connectivity

It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention. The rise and spread of the coronavirus pandemic proved this to be the case for the expansion of network connectivity. As many of us moved to working from home and were forced to digitise more of our tasks, we relied upon our networks to keep up with this dramatic shift. As a result, the pandemic has accelerated the digitalisation in industries like finance, education, and health, in ways we wouldn’t have expected until many more years down the line.

Unsurprisingly, this has not gone unnoticed by mobile network operators and leading industry figures, many of whom were outspoken about the need to push improved connectivity as a way of rebuilding economies post-pandemic.

Indeed, at this year’s MWC more than 180 operators worldwide united behind the global deployment of a 5G business segment, the 5G mmWave, a crucial technology needed to meet the rising demand for data and expand 5G into new service opportunities. Some of these include Ultra HD video, security, precise remote guidance, telemedicine, smart factories, and smart ports – all representing vertical that will be critical in the post pandemic world.

The development of the public cloud

One of the biggest stories to come out of MWC 2021 was the renewed focus and latest developments in telecommunications cloud systems, a subject that is not normally featured so prominently at this event.

Yet with the costs associated with large data centres running their legacy applications getting much higher, embracing the move to the public cloud is something many telecommunications companies are looking at more and more.

So why has it taken them until now to think about it?  While the advantages of the public cloud for MNOs are multi-fold – allowing them to reduce their own physical infrastructure and increase their computing and storage capacity at scale – traditionally, concerns about security have made companies wary. That, however, is changing and as such many telecommunications providers are expressing interest in migrating their operations.

Today, many public cloud providers offer security and privacy tools to their customers as built-in capabilities. This includes protections like, identity access management, permissions and security credentials, and disaster recovery. In addition, telecommunications providers now have the option to mask, anonymise, and encrypt any data stored or transferred on the public cloud – in line with regulation like GDPR.

The next generation tech of 2021 revealed from afar

Finally, no post on MWC would be complete without some mention of the latest gadgets and interfaces on display this year. While there were fewer product launches than in previous years, it was the first time many companies announced new technologies virtually. It will be interesting to see if this is the case again next year.

Samsung, for example, revealed its new unified platform, via video conference. Built jointly with Google, who were also not physically attending the event, this platform will be featured on a forthcoming Galaxy Watch. This new platform is set to bring both performance enhancements and a more seamless experience between the Watch and Android smartphones.

Qualcomm too was not physically present at this year’s show, yet the company was still able to unveil its latest processor the Snapdragon 888+. This new hardware that is set to appear in the forthcoming Honor Magic 3, with Asus, Vivo, Xiaomi and Motorola all confirming plans to use it. This processor offers a lift over the current Snapdragon 888 with a new AI engine and boosted modem.

We will have to watch this space to see if mobile manufacturers feel these launches were successful enough to warrant them not to attend in person again next year, and if the pandemic has fundamentally changed the way these trade shows operate.

Did you catch any other trends from MWC 2021 that you think we missed? Share your thoughts in the comments section below, or you can tweet us @ThalesDigiSec.

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