Reflections on MWC: Operator strategies, smart cities, and phone nostalgia

The Mobile World Congress, situated in the beautiful city of Barcelona, is one of the most anticipated events in the year. This year it was the largest ever MWC, with 108,000 attendees, from 208 countries and a record breaking 3000 exhibitors across the enormous Fira Gran Via exhibition centre.

The Internet of Things (IoT) was yet again a core trend at the MWC and I found myself in and amongst it all with lots of conversations around connectivity in IoT. However, what I found most interesting from some of the major networks and manufacturers, was that they were actually doing something a bit different. We had the usual suspects, like Samsung and LG launching some incredible phones, with brand new capabilities, but what really caught the show were two ‘play backs from way back’ if you like.

Nokia has brought back the Nokia 3310, which has definitely been upgraded and it looks fantastic. It’s what most people would call a phone’s phone, where making calls and texts is the key features, but they kept the Snake game on there, which I thought was quite clever from a marketing perspective.

The other brand that I thought stood out for me was BlackBerry. In recent times there has been a certain apprehension regarding BlackBerry and their future, however I thought they definitely made a positive move with the launch of their new Blackberry KEYone phone. It has something unique, which is a great keypad. It is also Android based. I believe this will give people choice and a level of nostalgia in terms of having access to a physical keypad when making a phone selection. Who would have thought I would be saying that! 

The key trends that grabbed my attention from an IoT perspective, is that we have so many opportunities for our partners, not necessarily UK only, but further afield into Europe as well. It was clear by the types of technology we saw.

Three key technologies that most people are aware of that stood out were:

  • Narrowband IoT or NB-IoT, which will accelerate the growth in this market. It is, along with the improved pricing of sensors, that will truly make the IoT the dominant market in years to come. Many of the major networks were showcasing their capabilities within this area and Pangea is pleased to say we are just as excited, and ready, to start working with partners on these opportunities.
  • Another area I enjoyed was the talk about eSIM. The eSIM (embedded software SIM) specification which was announced at GSMA last year was displayed in a few companies products and we look forward to this being available on the UK mobile networks as there are large benefits to both resellers and end users to being able to switch to different providers on the fly, without the need for the physical plastic SIM - leading to ease of migration especially in large M2M style deployments.

  • The talk about Low Radio and Cellular was also heavily contested. While the MNO’s were going the NB-IoT/LTE-M path as above, there was a continued presence of companies using SigFox or LoRA as the connectivity medium. As the market will soon have two streams for IoT in parallel, from the MNO’s or the Sigfox and LoRA camp, which will prevail, is a common questions. I believe it’s a question of what will provide the best option for the customer and the solution to be successful. Therefore, looking at both options as a way to deliver an IoT solution within our Ecosystem.

Mobile network operators such as Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom and Telefonica all had stands showcasing IoT products using NB-IoT or LTE-M extensions to their cellular network infrastructure. It was interesting to see these competing technologies in action with live devices and contrast the pros and cons between each.

Finally, one of the biggest highlights for me was the Cisco Jasper stand. They always have some interesting things going on, especially as we have such a close relationship with them. We managed to talk to them and some of their customers about the connected scooters, connected vending machines, and an entire smart city roll out plan.

All in all, I would highly recommend the event not only for the high quality vendors and technology, but also for the overall show both on and off the pitch. There is never a boring night out in Barcelona when at the MWC. A big thank you to Mark Smith from the GSMA for his organisation along with this team.

Picture credit: TelecomsTech

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