Mobile World Congress, the Davos of wireless technology, is happening next week in Barcelona, and it’s going to be a particularly important year, as the mobile landscape readies itself for a couple of fairly major shifts.
Here’s our quick look ahead to next week in sunny Spain and the four main points we expect from the MWC show.
5G, or at least previews of it
There’s been a big school of 5G press releases floating into our inboxes here in tech media just ahead of MWC (i.e., “Verizon plans 5G wireless trial service in 11 cities this year”), and it’s no real surprise – next-generation mobile networks are going to do a lot more than just boost speeds. They’ll also connect large numbers of devices – not just phones and tablets and laptops – to each other.
Sure, finalized 5G specs from 3GPP are still years away, but companies like Ericsson, Intel, GE, Mimosa Networks, and many others have announcements around MWC focused on testing, equipment previews and more this year. Sessions at the show include a panel discussion featuring new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai dubbed “Building the 5G Economy” and another titled “5G Beyond the Hype: Value and Building Blocks.”
Internet of Things
We touched on this above already, but IoT’s arguably the single biggest-deal technological area at this year’s MWC. Connected homes, connected cars, industrial IoT and untold pitches for various parts of the infrastructure around all of it will be present in Barcelona.
“Smart living will perhaps be the biggest overall consumer theme at MWC this year,” said UK-based analysis firm Ovum. “The concept captures an array of devices and services that will increasingly augment customers’ daily lives – from energy metering to health monitoring, smart cars, fridges and washing machines.”
New devices, of course
It’s not just going to be high-level stuff about 5G and IoT, of course – there will still be plenty of gadgetry on hand. Samsung’s likely not going to release a new flagship at MWC this year, though might at least give a clue about when the anticipated Galaxy S8 smartphone will be announced. Separately, LG is almost certainly going to come out with the G6, HTC could release a new flagship, though it probably won’t be called the HTC 11, and Huawei’s probably aboard the flagship bandwagon as well (renders of its new P10 flagship have leaked). So Android phone will grab the spotlight, while Apple as usual will not make itself heard at the event.
Not actually a ton of wearables
Oh, there will definitely be some of them – HTC and Sony, among others, could roll out a smartwatch or two – but the hour of the wearable as hottest new form factor in the gadget world is probably over at this point. There’s relatively little buzz around potential smartwatches, though separate from MWC, Apple Watch Series 3 rumors are heating up. Still, since smartwatches are more or less what we’re talking about when we talk about wearables, it seems safe to say that they won’t be the splashiest of topics at this MWC.