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MARCH 1, 2019 //     

MWC 2019 roundup: 5G, foldable smartphones and more

By Sarah Johns

This week, over 100,000 mobile communications professionals descended upon Barcelona’s Fira Gran Via for one of the biggest trade shows in the world, Mobile World Congress. We take a look at the key takeaways from the 32
nd year of this epic annual event.

Technology buzzwords galore

As anticipated, topics including AI, cybersecurity and IoT were hot on the agenda. Talks included a session on how we can democratise AI and avoid algorithmic bias, how to secure a connected digital society and how we can maintain consumer trust in a digital economy. Indeed, with GSMA noting that 81% of consumers have some concern about the safety of their personal information, there were also talks around the use of consumer data in the mobile industry. There was also a full programme on IoT and even a dedicated Internet of Things Zone which invited attendees to try out new products and discover how IoT is changing business.

However, there were two indisputable stars of the 2019 show, foldable smartphones, and the connectivity buzzword on everybody’s lips (and Twitter feeds), 5G.

Foldable phones excite

Mobile phone providers already face fierce competition for sales, and last year, the global smartphone market experienced its first annual decline ever – a fall of 3 percent (Source: IDC) So, there is more pressure than ever before to secure consumer interest, drive sales and grow market share. This is prompting manufacturers to pull out all the stops when it comes to new mobile design and innovation. It’s no surprise then that we’ve seen so many manufacturers reveal their first foldable phones at this year’s show. These flexible phones are a great example of out-of-the-box thinking and breaking away from tradition. It’s exciting to see the industry as a whole attempt to literally break the mould of what a smartphone should look like.

5G took centre stage

It wasn’t just folding phones that were on display. MWC continues to be huge for companies involved in the back end of service delivery and legislation around communication networks, and the work they do this year will be pivotal to the future of 5G connectivity.

There is a lot to be done to conclude the testing and rolling out of 5G infrastructure and decisions to make around how we can properly regulate the use of 5G. At MWC, we witnessed several important discussions on the challenges we are facing around 5G deployment, particularly from a regulation perspective. For example, Gilles Bregant, CEO of the French administrative body and National Frequency Agency ANFR and Ricardo Tavares of consultancy TechPolis Inc had their say on how we can align 5G technology and policy.

Overall, MWC was a great success. From innovation in mobile phones to creative approaches to 5G deployment, there’s no feeling quite like witnessing how technology is changing the world literally in front of your eyes. Still, there is no doubt industry players have an uphill battle to climb when it comes to the myriad of challenges they face, including responding to changing consumer demands for innovative new tech, keeping data safe and rolling out 5G connectivity.

The industry urgently needs to break out of its siloed mindset and take a more holistic approach to meet the challenges it faces, working for common goals instead of corporate and national self-interest. By adopting such an approach, improving global connectivity and inspiring the next generation of mobile industry leaders will be achieved faster than you can say ‘foldable phone’.

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