Mobile World Congress 2018 was the biggest one yet. With more than 2,400 companies exhibiting the best they had to offer across 120,000 square metres for more than 110,000 visitors, the event remained the place for the mobile industry to see and be seen. This year showed that mobile had gotten its mojo back with some truly exciting products, services and announcements that showed that technologies like 5G, machine learning, augmented / virtual reality and Rich Communications Services had come of age.
Here are some of our highlights from the show:
The banana phone is back!
HMD Global's relaunch of the Nokia banana phone - christened the 8110 - won hearts across the world. While evoking memories of the 1990s - not to forget THAT scene in the iconic movie 'The Matrix', it is more modern in look and feel, coming out in both banana-yellow (we see what you did there) and more conventional black. What we found most interesting, though, is that while it is an extremely capable 4G phone that can run a streamlined number of apps, it is essentially a feature-phone with the emphasis squarely on simplified communications with voice and SMS messages. Besides the fact that many people like things simple, voice call and the SMS message will have an important role to play in P2P as well as A2P communications for a while yet.
I want one!
GSMA bigs up Mobile Identity with the Mobile Connect platform
It was interesting to watch the GSMA throw its weight behind mobile identity, as major operators from Asia too joined the bandwagon. The Mobile Connect platform enables operators to create and manage a universal digital identity for each subscriber. This can be accessed through a single login and used for a range of apps and services. The GSMA said that there has been a major increase in the number of people using the platform, with China Mobile offering it to 76 million users in China with 44 million subscribers in South Korea.
Across the globe, mobile operators are fulfilling an important role in the digital identity space, giving users control over their own data and enabling consumers, businesses and governments to interact and access online services in a convenient, private and trusted environment.
Bringing 5G to Life
After a couple of years of 'it's coming', 5G seemed far more concrete at MWC 2018. The event was awash with field trials, deployment timetables, proofs of concept and use cases in every imaginable field. Smart cities, traffic management, logistics, healthcare, it was all there. Ajit Pai of the FCC announced 24 and 28 GHz band spectrum auctions, and the strides made by North-East Asian markets like Japan and South Korea made for impressive watching. Industry experts all agreed that while a lot more needs to be done in terms of cost, roaming, scalability, the simplification of services and devices, and security: the common thread is that collaboration is absolutely key.
Cooperation and a win-win ecosystem will drive the future prospects for mobile IoT.
Mobile for good
It was heart-warming to see a real commitment to UN sustainable goals right across the show - in keynotes, in the halls and at company stands too. While the race to the top and the drive to deliver shareholder growth and profits was as strong as ever, the industry as a whole has recognised the power of mobile to change people's lives for the better. Companies spoke with passion and commitment about information and infrastructural services that are changing people's lives for the better, such as mobile money services that allow the unbanked to access funds. Collaborative initiatives such as the Telecom Infra Project reported on their work with partners like Facebook to narrow the global connectivity gap, especially in regions such as Africa and Latin America.
We see a different world ahead, but it's going to take progress through technology.
Artificial intelligence and natural speech
AI was one of the hottest themes at the show and this year saw AI scenarios emerge very prominently from the concepts that have been discussed for a few years now. The industry as a whole agreed that operators and the oceans of data at their disposal had a central role to play in enabling AI use cases such as transportation. And while we're discussing AI use cases - everyone was talking about the development of extremely intuitive, natural speech-based voice-enabled services to retain customer loyalty following the trails blazed by Siri, Alexa, OK Google and others. Experts agreed that voice-based interaction was extremely complex - people are imprecise and jumpy when they speak, unlike a keyboard-mouse interaction which is extremely precise, accurate and structured. But the rewards in terms of share of heart, loyalty and relationships make it imperative for the sector to invest the time and resources needed to perfect it.
Operator-led RCS services
After years impact of OTT services on network traffic and subscriber loyalty, this year saw operator-led rich communication services come to the forefront. The GSMA RCS initiative received significant traction and saw operators developing their own rich digital platforms for subscribers - and enterprises - to use, often in partnership with sector experts. Initiatives like our RCS partnership with Vodafone offer enterprises around the world a chance to upgrade their B2C communications, build customer engagement, increase app downloads and enhance the overall customer experience beyond the common business-to-consumer SMS campaign, are a welcome development. Another initiative we saw was operators collaborating with OTTs on the content, technical and billing front. Enterprises looking to roll out omnichannel experiences can now engage with their consumers in a more interactive, rewarding way.
With RCS, the communication is branded, the interaction is instant, and the visual impact helps customers make choices in an optimal way.
LTE on the actual MOON!
How cool is that?