Last week I attended the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona as a guest of Huawei. MWC is a massive conference and exhibition, and provided a wonderful opportunity to take the pulse of the mobility industry from several perspectives: consumer, enterprise, carrier, infrastructure provider, app/services developer, and more.
My focus was on peering into the future of our mobility-enabled world from a business perspective, but the reality is that many consumer innovations eventually make their way into the enterprise. (I.e., the #consumerization of IT.)
Key #MWC16 Takeaways
When asked to summarize my key takeaways from the event, I did so thusly.
You’ll see these themes surface throughout the detailed sections that follow
Virtual reality, augmented reality and immersive video really took center stage at #MWC16. These are great examples of technologies that we’ll see initially in the consumer space, e.g. gaming, but will eventually become ubiquitous in the business context as well. Think Minority Report style user interfaces, navigating multi-dimensional data sets with our hands, etc.
In order to get there we'll need greater bandwidth and lower latency
connectivity, which is driving much of the innovation at the infrastructure
level, for example the work Huawei and others are doing around 4.5G, 5G and
We're quickly approaching a world where all the things are connected. There were sooo many devices on display at MWC, and every single one of them was online, either via it’s own connection or or another device. The implications of this are far-reaching and Ford CEO Mark Fields is an example of someone who really gets how this level of connectivity can transform an entire industry (more below). Also, sheep:
Digital transformation has emerged as the nice way to say “get with the program, or else!” Operator transformation is digital transformation applied to telecom carriers. Both of these were central themes at MWC.
Connected devices are generating massive amounts of data, i.e. so-called ‘digital exhaust.’ Carriers are trying to monetize the additional bandwidth requirements this data creates, and infrastructure providers are trying to monetize the new capabilities the carriers need to support new types of connectivity. But the real winners will be folks that own this data, i.e. app providers, content providers, services providers. Now, carriers and infrastructure providers also have the ability to generate and capture value-added data (network metrics, for example) and build innovative services on top of them. This will be their challenge going forward.
Internet of Things
The #IoT growth opportunity in a nutshell.
Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) is a technology being developed to offer low power, wide area connectivity for devices of all types. It’s playing catch up a bit as there are existing proprietary offerings able to meet these needs, but NB-IoT will be a standard backed buy the GSMA. NB-IoT benefits carriers by getting them into the game, and equipment providers like Huawei have been among the drivers of the standard. Coverage, cost and battery live are big advantages over using existing 2G & 3G networks.
At the NB-IoT Summit at MWC, operators (including Telecom Italia, China Mobile
and Etisalat) and vendors (incl. Huawei, Ericsson, Intel, Nokia, u-Blox and
Qualcomm) and customers (Veolia, Fiorentini, Oviphone, Fangle, Chattahoochee
Riverkeeper) presented their experiences adopting the technology.
Video is a massive driver of bandwidth consumption on today’s mobile networks,
and this trend is expected to accelerate. Ovum’s Mark Newman kicked off the
“Video Everywhere” summit at MWC with some great perspectives on the role of
video. Speakers from YouTube and Warner Brothers also presented from the
content provider perspective. The content providers (including Facebook in
another session) all seemed to be pitching their interest in doing
distribution deals with the telcos, which really makes me question where we’ll
be from a net neutrality perspective in five years, both in the US and
From content perspective 4k vid won't be standing offer b4 2020. Dynamic range an important req. @OvumTelecoms pic.twitter.com/C9V1r8d0qi— Sam Charrington (@samcharrington) February 21, 2016
Network Innovation: 4.5G & 5G
Huawei has an interesting perspective on 5G. The industry seems to be in
agreement that 5G won’t be a reality until 2020. So what’s the carrier to do
until then, to offer the increased levels of connectivity and bandwidth that
customers demand? Huawei’s offer: 4.5G. Faster connectivity (1 gig or dual HD
streams) and greater connectivity (NB-IoT), attainable via minor upgrades to
existing carrier equipment. Here is co-CEO Guo Ping presenting the road to
I was blown away by the Ford CEO’s proclamation that the company no longer
considers itself an automobile company, but rather a mobility company.
How they get there. TBH, I thought the presentation was a bit light on the
details in some areas; clearly they’re still trying to figure some of this
stuff out. But the shift in thinking will be critical for them.
In order to meet the needs presented by IOT, video, big data, etc., carriers
need to transform themselves to be more agile. According to Huawei co-CEO Guo
Ping, cloud, SDN/SDx, DevOps all play a role here.
I missed Zuck’s VR-focused keynote at the Samsung event, but caught the
interview he did the next day.
Huawei @ MWC
An MWC highlight for me was a chat my group had with Huawei CTO Sanqi Li. The
conversation was broad and spanned tech, strategy, culture.
The company had a massive booth area at the conference. Unlike anything I’d
ever seen before. You needed to be a guest or customer of theirs to access it.
There was a “secret garden” in the back (outside) that had food vendors,
including some ethnic Chinese specialties with cooks flown in from China.
Huawei also really knows how to throw a party!
All-in-all I had an amazing time at
#MWC16 and learned a
lot. Huge thanks to the team at Huawei!!!
(Disclosure: Huawei paid for my trip and is a client.)