MWC 2018: What to Watch for in Gadgets and Deals
Foto: Dražen Tomić - Tomich Prductions
According to Bloomberg, more than 100,000 people are set to see the latest smartphones, AI intelligence devices and autonomous drones exhibited by 2,300 companies at this years Mobile World Congress that begins tomorrow in Barcelona.
The event is also the industry’s largest networking opportunity for executives, bankers, analysts and the like to talk shop and potential deals. Some 5,500 CEOs, among them Deutsche Telekom’s Tim Hoettges and Vodafone’s Vittorio Colao, will jostle for airtime discussing the major trends shaping the industry such as cybersecurity, the arrival of ultrafast fifth-generation mobile networks and blockchain.
MWC has long been a venue for companies to show off their latest mobile devices and vie for consumer attention. This year, Samsung is back to unveil its latest flagship phone, widely expected to be the Galaxy S9. Sony created buzz when it posted a video on Twitter last Sunday for what looks like it could be a new Xperia device with curves, and gadget blogs such as Wired have speculated whether foldable phones will make their debut this year.
HMD Global is expected to present more Nokia-branded phones after making headlines with a reboot of the iconic Nokia 3310 in 2017. There’s more than just phones: There will be dozens of smartwatches, tablets, and drones debuted at MWC, as device makers push wearables.
After a lull through most of 2017, deals chatter is abuzz again. Vodafone’s move for Liberty Global’s cable assets in continental Europe will be a key talking point, along with what Liberty’s John Malone might do with any proceeds from that sale. Scandinavia has also been busy, with Danish phone carrier TDC being bought by a group of pension funds after announcing a now-defunct deal with Sweden’s Modern Times Group. And Telenor, the Nordic region’s biggest carrier, has received interest for its businesses in central and eastern Europe.
The wireless industry’s bet is that emerging technologies such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and blockchain can help create new products and fresh revenue streams as traditional sales wane. There’s hope that AI can help make networks more efficient by more accurately predicting demand, and cut service costs by replacing human workers with chatbots.
Telefonica has already used blockchain technology to sell loans in Germany, and is exploring how the technology can be deployed for more corporate processes. VR devices have been around at MWC for a few years now, but they largely continue to occupy the enthusiast video-gamer niche. The ambition for device-makers is that as the products become more powerful, smaller and lighter, VR use cases will mushroom, luring a greater part of the population to actually buy them.
Recent conferences have been awash with talk and pledges around 5G, the next-generation wireless network technology that promises speeds 10 times faster and lower lag times in transferring data. This will allow for the rise of driverless cars on highways and potentially even surgeries in far-flung, remote places by a doctor in an urban hospital.
5G also offers new opportunities for the Internet of Things market. The likes of BT, Vodafone and Telefonica are trying to sell products and services to companies by helping them digitize their processes and hook factories up to the internet so they work more efficiently. They’re betting on this corporate market mainly because they know they’ve already lost major growth opportunities linked to consumers to the web giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google.
Deutsche Telekom’s Hoettges has said he sees the average person owning six devices hooked to the internet by 2020 and millions of electronic SIM cards making it into cars, factories and machines across Germany. MWC will see companies from a new ecosystem to service this emerging business area showcasing their latest IoT and related technology think cybersecurity firms pitching how to best safeguard your machines once they’re online.