MWC 2016: Video, Virtual Reality, & the Future of 5G

What a week! Now that most of us are back in the office or on our way home from sunny Barcelona, I thought I’d share some of my top takeaways from this year’s MWC.

MWC

I’m always amazed by the sheer breadth of products, technologies and solutions on display at Mobile World Congress. If you were lucky enough to visit the more exclusive areas such as Huawei or Ericsson’s lounges, you would have seen their entire product line was on show for your perusal! Here are the top trends I saw in 2016…

VIRTUAL REALITY

Stealing the show this year was without a doubt virtual reality. Immersive experiences were everywhere. I saw several applications demonstrated throughout the show, some exploring its applications in education or healthcare but most focused on the entertainment angle.

Samsung had a constant queue by their booth of visitors wanting a ride on their VR rollercoaster, and I tried out a short demo on network security in the Innovation City run by AT&T. Whilst it was a fun addition to the show it seems many any struggling with understanding the exact business models behind it. How much will people really pay for it? Will gaming be the killer application? How can the cost of content and technology be reduced to make it more available to consumers?

VIDEO

We know that there’s a general trend in the market of telcos moving into the video and entertainment space. Whether it is through pay TV or OTT models, telcos understand the value of content and are all keen to have a piece of the quad-play pie. Solutions were on show to help telcos deliver video to customers and ensure the best experience possible for viewers.

Video was an even bigger theme this year, with keynote Zuckerberg clarifying that “video is the next wave of communications”. According to a recent report by Telecoms.com, 75% of operators are looking at video to drive LTE revenue, and 4K video is always touted as the top use case for FTTH. As it drives the majority of data usage and traffic on our networks today, it’s not surprising it gets so much attention from those at MWC.

FUTURE OF 5G

Nearly in every hall was a mention of 5G in some context. The messaging was that 5G represents the connectivity that underpins the future of IoT, smart cities, virtual reality and everything in-between. Even though 5G will not be standardized until late 2018, and commercial services based on the standard not until 2020, it was by far the word on everyone’s lips.

Verizon was quoted saying its 5G trials, in association with its 5G Technology Forum partners Ericsson, Intel, Nokia, Samsung, and Qualcomm are delivering speeds of “multiple gigabits per second” and latency “in the millisecond range”. And with chip manufacturers like Intel and Qualcomm making it clear that they are working hard on their 5G offerings, it seems that the industry will be ready to hit the 2020 goal.

CONNECTING THE UNCONNECTED

And last but not least, probably the thing which stood out the most for me was the applause Zuckerberg received when he challenged the industry for focusing on connecting things rather than people. Surely there is more money to be made from connecting the millions of people left behind with simple connectivity, than pushing forwards 5G for IoT applications he questioned? I’m not sure if that kind of analysis exists, but I do agree that this is definitely something to be bought to the forefront of industry discussions, to avoid widening the digital divide even further.

“It’s kind of crazy that we’re sitting here in 2016 and four billion people in the world still don’t have access to the internet,” he said. “One of the things I’ve heard at MWC so far this year that I think has been a little disappointing is the idea that 4G was about giving people a good experience and 5G was about connecting things.”

“We should definitely increase bandwidth, but it would be possible for this industry to continue growing and making a lot of money while doubling down on faster connections for rich people.

“I hope that we don’t do that and we actually finish the job of making sure everyone in the world gets internet access.”

Zuckerburg

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