Sanjeev Kumar
Sanjeev Kumar 13 April 2016

MWC 2016 round up: Mobile is everything and digital is everywhere

In a word: Mobile World Congress 2016 The premier telecom industry showcase has been wrapped up for another year. With Barcelona still (relatively) fresh in our minds, I take the opportunity to reflect upon the moments of truth, disillusionment and self-realisation.

Internet of Things, digital economy, digital transformation , Big data analytics, mobile security, virtual reality, smart homes, autonomous cars, intelligent drones, wearable gadgets, enterprise mobility, 5G networks, app monetisation – these words simply summarise the Mobile World Congress 2016 edition.

Is there a new ‘business as usual’?

ABSOLUTELY. It was no surprise that digitalisation was the single most overarching theme of MWC 2016. And few trends that managed to cut through the noise and linger-on in our minds long after the curtains came down.

IoT: Beyond a buzzword

IoT emerged to be the most discussed theme. Almost every other stand included the IoT theme in one form or the other ranging from autonomous cars to programmed toothbrushes. Lots of demonstrations of real-world use cases were at display from telcos, technology giants, and consulting firms. Narrow-band IoT gained momentum with SK telecom showcasing the same and Intel supported IoTivity with demonstration of some real-world scenarios. M2M as a terminology was conspicuous by its absence and IoT seems to have taken over in true sense.

IoT business model: Modelling the future

IoT definitely was the limelight of the show; however, many organisations are still ambiguous about their approach to IoT. The IoT frenzy was so palpable that every participant appeared to be riding on the buzzword even without a direct play in the IoT world. However, we seem to have passed the stage of scepticism and experimentation and the time to validate the commercial viability of IoT use-cases across industries has drawn-in upon us. IoT is on track to disrupt conventional business models. This software-driven, connected world will need the right analytical solutions to effectively protect and remotely manage the multitude of IoT devices while maximising the value derived from the data and services in the ecosystem.

Digital disruption: Device ecosystem gets ready

MWC 2016 had lesser focus on the smartphone as a form factor than expected. Instead the device manufacturers seems to be busy building a constellation of personal devices, which ranged from smart home, smart watch, and smart appliances along with a spectrum of Wearables. As the volume of devices in need for connectivity is going through the roof, there is a new connectivity model emerging in the form of e-SIMs. OEMs as well as Telcos are collaborating to ensure the digital ecosystem flourishes further by providing seamless connectivity to new set of devices giving consumers the option to switch provider and plan without having to request a brand new SIM card.

Digitalisation: Plan for customer-centricity and business agility

Telcos need to compete on the basis of offering superior customer experience as growth through customer acquisition is almost over. The only viable strategy left for Telcos to survive is by selling more to existing and holding on to them. In addition, connectivity is becoming less and less about handsets, more about things like cars and gadgets and toothbrush.

Consumers’ accelerated adoption of connected-home services and devices will challenge the capabilities of any single provider, driving digital service providers to establish an ecosystem of partners. When everything gets connected, it is not enough to “get it.” It’s about execution which includes tackling some major bottlenecks that includes validating relevant use cases, testing scalability, and ensuring privacy.

Virtual reality: …is not virtual any more

Put on virtual reality goggles and take a journey through a new world of mobility! There were some seriously long queues for experiencing – VR handsets, 360 degree videos, virtual games, portable augmented reality, full video tracking etc.

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, turned up on stage at the Samsung Galaxy Unpacked event to pledge his support for the Samsung Gear VR. Excited by the prospect of 3600 video and the chance for more people to watch it, especially on Facebook, the company has created a new “Social VR team” at Facebook that will focus entirely on exploring the future of social interaction in VR.

Handset launches – Is the game of phones slowing down

Unlike the previous years, this year at MWC, there were very few handset launches that managed to get the attention they are used to getting. MWC crowd flocked into the VR show, freebies, loud music and free food at OEM booths rather than to the new handset launches. The few handset launches that created some news during MWC 2016 are when Samsung announced their latest line of Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge and Sony showed off a new set of Xperia phones. Among the Chinese manufacturers, Xiaomi, Oppo and ZTE made a splash with high-power, low-cost handsets. Virtual reality gears were the most discussed handset accessory.

Apart from the above mentioned megatrends below are few micro-trends that made an impression at MWC 2016:

5G: Focus shifts from speed to latency

5G was the dark horse of MWC 2016. Apart from the numerous demos and jargon-filled press releases about 5G, there were also some impressive demos and a palpable excitement in the air for what’s to come next. It also seemed that most talked about use cases of 5G were focused on lower latency, higher coverage rather than higher speed. It seemed download speed more than 4G is not fancied at this point in time.

Apps: Rise of the Planet of Apps

This year’s Mobile World Congress presented an array of increasingly intelligent apps that utilize the connected home prospect and big data, which will impact smart-device makers. Challenges include creating apps that connect ecosystems and deliver significant value beyond being a remote control. This year MWC also witnessed a much bigger presence of Ad tech companies and bigger battles between network ad blocker with advertising industry is likely to continue in the near future.

Mobile service value add: Rich content messaging takes big strides

It is not just handsets which got a revamp at MWC. Everything that goes inside it is in for a transformation too. Google, for example, heralded the arrival of a brand-new standard for text messages called rich communication services that would unite the entire Android ecosystem under one free, universal service, as iMessage does for iPhones. Phone cameras may be getting a boost as well, with Oppo’s funky new stabilized image sensors.

To sum it up

The three words which came up most prominently amidst the myriad of themes in MWC, from the signage in the exhibitor halls, to video ads, to brochures and even T-shirts, gifts, handbags and caps are Digital, Connected, and Virtual world. The message that came out loud and clear – there is a significant potential for Big Data Analytics to emerge as the central nervous system in the hyper-connected digital World.

We had a great time at MWC 2016 – and we can’t wait for MWC 2017. See you there!

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