Mobile World Congress 2015 - What's the Next Big Thing?

Next Generation Communications Blog

Mobile World Congress 2015 - What's the Next Big Thing?

By: Peter Bernstein, Senior Editor

In doing preparations for what many have called “the circus” aka the annual Mobile World Congress (MWC)—which is arguably now the most important industry trade event as the world goes mobile and which takes place in Barcelona March 2-5—the excitement is already palpable.  From all of the new cool devices of all shapes and sizes to interesting advances on things like antenna technology, Network Functions Virtualization, carrier aggregation, etc., the eye candy alone is almost overwhelming in terms of imagining the possibilities.  However, MWC always is tantalizing because not only does it answer what we will see in terms of capabilities in the near-term, but also because of the questions it raises about the longer term.

In this regard I was struck by a recent blog by Michael Peeters, CTO, Alcatel-Lucent Wireless, entitled I think appropriately, The Circus is in Town. Peeters’ main point is summed up nicely where he says in characterizing his view on what’s the next big thing that will be the buzz of the show that, “ thing is certain: its story will be about removing place and time constraints we took for granted.”

While I agree with where we are and where we are going to a certain extent in terms of removing place and time constraints, I happen to believe that the next big thing will be around what it has been and should be, i.e., utility.  After all, as we move into always on/all ways connected broadband-enabled world, if all of the things Peeters points to about the Internet of Things (IoT), drones, wearables, more immersive customer experiences and the like are not both easy-to-use, trustworthy and useful, their monetization potential will not be maximized.  And, let’s face it, the bottom line is the bottom line which is all about utility.  This means utility as pervasively accessible and hopefully affordable and safe, as well as the perceived value we are willing to pay for personally and professionally that enables service providers to continue to accelerate the speed at which the future comes at us.


Talk of the town

If you think about MWC are more of a town meeting of all the stakeholders, along with being a good thing in the context of being a circus, which it is, Peeters’ observations about what will be discussed in terms of the short-term are spot on.  In fact, his list of things that will be highlighted and discussed is worth review if you are lucky enough to go to Barcelona or not.  They include his forecasts concerning what the show buzz will be about:

Applicability: LTE in new markets such as Public Safety. The ongoing deployment of VoLTE and potential further improvements. What needs to be added or changed to the existing technology?

Capacity: carrier aggregation in licensed bands, be it FDD or TDD, but also the combination of, and the tension between licensed and unlicensed spectrum and technologies. Do you go for LTE-U or Wifi-LTE aggregation?

Performance: specific deployment scenarios such as small cells for indoor and especially enterprise needs. Virtualization of the RAN. How and when do they make sense?

And, because the industry loves to discuss what comes next, despite 4G now finally being rolled out around the world, although “mature” might be a stretch given how far we have to go, 5G will be top of mind and interactions. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great thing.  Who doesn’t like talking about the future?  However, with things like VoLTE, Voice-over-Wi-Fi, Hotspot 2.0, IoT and M2M, really all in their nascent stages, my hope is that the industry is not getting ahead of itself. Indeed, the use cases that will emerge as to what is valuable as the mobile world moves toward being all IP and broadband are in most instances yet to be written.

This is a great thing as well.  It is a so because it will be us figuring out the utility of new high-performance wireless networks and how to extract value from them and all of the new devices, business models (mobile payments for example) and competitive options that will determine what will be successful along with the who, what, when, why and how. 

So as Peeters implies, by all means enjoy the show.  Be entertained and enthralled. Like the circus, MWC is dazzling and if for no other reason can and should be appreciated for that alone.  Indeed, take him up on the invitation to stop by the Alcatel-Lucent booth (Hall 3 – Booth 3K10) to learn more about the realities and possibilities.

In many ways we stand on the bottom of the on-ramp of the possibilities of the combination of pervasive computing and ubiquitous communications. The coming ability of networks to deliver more immersive experiences and better insights into how we can be more productive at work and enjoy more of the things that delight us in our personal lives makes this a unique time and a great time to be part of the buzz. 

However, it is important to not lose sight amidst the technology of not just what it does but what it can and should deliver.  In my mind the deliverables are utility and trust.  It is my hope that at a high level these are the two things that are buzzing at MWC as they are what the industry should and can deliver as to what comes next. 

Peeters has it right about the inexorable march of the industry toward providing us with the broadband infrastructure and agility the future is mandating in terms of breaking down the barriers of time and place, however, what this means in terms of deliverables creates fascinating open questions and opportunities and that is why the show is so engaging on so many levels.  This may not a “new story,” but it certainly is an all important one.          

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