MWC 2019 wrap up

MWC 2019 – Intelligent Connectivity

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Intelligent Connectivity was the theme of this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (#MWC19), but really it was about the industry demonstrating it was delivering on the promise of 5G. So how did it do?

Our co-founder, Scott Stonham was there and shares his top 5 takeaways.

Folding 5G phones

You’d be hard pressed to miss the announcements about the range of new devices with foldable screens, but there were a number of other 5G devices on display, some with release dates as early as March, others with less tangible timings.

It goes without saying that with any new generation of mobile network, there has to be a wave of new devices, and this was it. Nearly all of the major device manufacturers showed us their hands at the event, with several prototypes and many pre-commercial devices.

To summarise, the devices on display were:

Huawei’s Mate X, with a foldable screen. (image)
LG’s V50 ThinQ, which is a 5G variant of the existing V40.
Samsung’s Galaxy S10 and Fold 5G.
Xiaomi’s Mi Mix 3 is a 5G variant of their existing Mi Mix 3 the launched in October 2018
ZTE’s Axon 10 Pro 5G. (video)
Alcatel 7 5G, a variant of their non-5G Alcatel 7.
Sony’s 5G prototype was using a nearby 5G millimetre wave base station to show streaming over 5G.
OnePlus had a 5G prototype that was being used on the Qualcomm stand to demonstrate cloud gaming. (video)
Oppo also had a 5G prototype on the Qualcomm stand, using gaming content from Shadow for a demo.

See the gallery below for images and videos of the devices from the show.

Use case 1 / Automotive

Much has changed in both telecoms and the MWC since I first started attending in 2003, but one of the most notable industries to turn out in force is automotive. Participation from automotive has been growing since William Clay Ford, Jr., Executive Chairman of the Ford Motor Company gave his keynote speech in 2012.

Compared with last year there was less emphasis on autonomous vehicles and the focus shifting more to connected vehicles. BMW’s concept video showed this to the extreme, with the driver using gestures in the cabin to point to a restaurant, get information about the menu and book a table – all just by pointing and talking.

With that said, automotive remains a strong use case for future telecoms markets, with Vodafone saying their fastest growing area in terms of the number of connections is connected cars.

Use case 2 / Medical

Since this graphic started circulating, articulating the three major usage scenarios of 5G as faster speeds, the ability to accommodate a much higher number of connections per cell and significantly improved reliability and latency the race has been on to apply these to real-world use cases.

Remote robotic surgery has been the darling of these conversations, requiring both very high speeds, critical reliability and ultra low delay (latency). During the show we were honoured to witness the world’s first live remote mentored surgery. I’ve never been in a keynote with so much anticipation and buzz, my live commentary on the pre-keynote is in the gallery below.

The demo was impressive and a precursor to the future of remote robotic surgery. You can view the recording of the livestream keynote here.

Beyond remote surgery, there were many other use cases in the medical domain, from blood donation apps to emergency vehicle dispatch, aerial support for incidents and search and rescue, and many of the use cases bringing together AI, 5G and IoT to make sense of the burgeoning datasets coming from wearable (IoT) devices.

Use case 3 / Gaming

Another use case that requires both massive speeds and very low latencies is gaming. BT’s boss of their consumer division, Marc Allera, commented on the huge opportunity that 5G and edge-computing can create for cloud based gaming. In the same panel, OnePlus’ CEO, Pete Lau, also commented on the same opportunity, talking about their gaming demo on the Qualcomm booth. A video of this demo is in the gallery below

Other companies talking about the potential of 5G and edge-computing for the gaming industry included Oppo and Huawei, amongst others.

The future of 5G & fishing

It was clear that 2019 was the year the telecom industry saw 5G mature from hype to pragmatic reality. Much of the hypothetical wish list of what 5G could be was replaced with real-world examples of what it can be today.

Consumer focused services and devices still retained top billing as one might expect for a traditionally consumer-centric industry, but the message was clear – commoditisation is happening, and the telecom industry must, and will, evolve further into more industrial, enterprise domains.

To achieve this, there will have to be big changes in the industry as it grapples with new markets, new customers, and new business models. Fundamentally, I think we will see changes in how telecom operators report their corporate progress, continuing to move away from subscriber and connection numbers, augmenting ARPU figures with new revenue sources.

And what about fishing? Well, this has to be the most novel 5G use case I have seen to date. Open-sea fisheries in Norway want to use 5G from floating basestations to transmit live, Ultra-HD under-water images of fish to monitor for health. See the image in the gallery below.

For more content from the show visit and follow our LinkedIn page.


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Scott Stonham
Scott Stonham

Scott is Chief Technology & Innovation Officer at InnovationScouts.tech. He has been at the forefront of many technologies we take for granted today, including mobile internet and smartphone navigation. Today he helps clients navigate innovative emerging technologies and is available for speaking opportunities.

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