03 Mar 2017

Mobile World Congress 2017, MWC17 – trends, news, releases

Editor Ian Poole looks at Mobile World Congress 2017 and what happened there: the main themes, major news and the technology trends.

Held in Barcelona, Spain, Mobile World Congress is the major event for the cellular telecommunications industry and in 2017 it was held between 27 February until 2 March 2017.

Each year GSMA Mobile World Congress provides a conference with industry leaders providing keynotes as well as many others providing information about the latest technologies and trends.

In addition to this it provides the opportunity to visit the huge exhibition and also to network amongst the thousands of other visitors and exhibitors that attend each year.

Others also use this opportunity to discuss and make business deals, making this one of the most valuable occasions for the year in the mobile telecommunications industry.

Set against the backdrop of the Barcelona city with its impressive buildings, architecture and culture, GSMA Mobile World Congress 2016 provided the most complete overview of what is happening and what is going to happen in the coming months in the cellular industry.

Event figures

The 2018 Mobile World Congress was seen as a major success. This year GSMA reported that the number of people attending Mobile World Congress was more than 108 000 people.

The attendees came from 208 countries and territories were present, and the event was covered by approximately 3,500 members of the international press and media. More than 2,300 companies participated in the 2017 exhibition, which spanned nine halls and eleven outdoor spaces at Fira Gran Via and Fira Montjuïc.

The event covered mobile related topics for everything from from connected cars, virtual reality, new handsets and ingenious app ideas, to 3D printing, privacy protection and backend solutions were on display.

Major themes

With so many exhibitors, stands, keynotes and general talk around Mobile World Congress there was a huge amount of news and opinions from the different companies.

Companies were looking at a variety of different topics – some looking at the 5G New Radio, 5G NR, whilst others were interested in the new phones, or the Internet of Things, and still others looking at aspects like the networks. There were very many different aspects to the show.



5G development

Naturally one of the key points of interest was that of 5G. There was a lot more reality to 5G this year. – after all development is a year on and the real standardisation work is starting. Although no decisions have yet been made about the actual format for the radio interface, work has moved on a year and with the meetings at 3GPP under way to start the specification of the interface.

Whilst many had thought that the target for the launch of 5G would be 2020, with some early pre-commercial services running in 2019 to cover the winter Olympics in South Korea, news hit the beginning of MWC17 to say a group of companies were collaborating to try to bring forward the launch date.

Whilst this may be driven by commercial aspirations, it must be hoped that it will not adversely impact the orderly standardisation process. Some are already saying that 5G could be a huge white elephant as it will not meet the requirements placed upon it. Pulling the date forwards may mean that the standard will not be optimum and will be rushed to meet a false deadline rather than having time to properly consider the real needs and technical option.

Nevertheless, there appeared to be less hype about 5G and more reality. Many demonstrations were on show – mmwave, high speed links and massive MIMO demonstrations.

One of the issues with developing 5G is that companies need to keep up with al the latest innovations and they need to work with others to achieve this.



A large number of collaborative agreements were announced just before and during Mobile World Congress 2017, MWC17.

Mobile launches

As expected Mobile World Congress saw a number of phone launches. Most of the big manufacturers produced new handsets. Huawei, ZTE and the others were all there showing their new product. Samsung, with their disastrous Note7 earlier in the year played safe and took time to fully test their new offering.

Phones including the Huawei P10, Lenovo Moto G5, LG launching its G6, TCL launching the Blackberry KeyOne, and several others were all launched.

In terms of major launches by the phone manufacturers was the news that the Nokia name is now back. HMD Global, the company now offering phones under the Nokia brand name announced a new generation of Nokia smartphones as well as the return of the classic Nokia 3310. It was the return of the classic 3310 that caught people’s imagination. It has been brought up to date by the use of some new technology, but basically remains the original robust 3310 phone that is able to offer hugely long battery life, although obviously t is not able to offer the facilities of a smartphone!

IoT and M2M communications

There was a huge amount of interest in the Internet of Things, IoT. NBIoT was obviously well represented and there was a lot of talk about how it would become a reality. Other technologies like LoRa were also being advertised.

In one interview the company stated that they were aiming to address the consumer market first as this is much faster moving. Having established themselves in the consumer area, they would have the technology and coverage established to address the much slower moving industrial market which they estimated would not be ready for another two years at least.

Another issue facing many developers of IoT products, that surfaced at MWC17 was that of the proliferation of standards. One area that this impacts developers is with the test equipment they use. Often they need different pieces of equipment for different standards. This can be an issue and has been addressed as we see in the video below.



It is necessary for companies developing products for the Internet of Things to be able to keep the costs down. This can be effectively done by using a flexible configurable test system.

Networks, small cells & backhaul

Apart from the radio access network and the phones, there was also a lot of interest in the networks themselves.

New cell developments were in evidence, with companies looking at more effective ways of running networks. Cellmining was one company that developed their self organising network, SON software by additionally taking the call data records to enable them to plot the user experience data overlaid on a map. In this way using existing data, they are able to provide operators with the data they need to improve their networks.

There was also a lot of talk about intelligent networks. Now that most operators have at least in part migrated to NFV / SDN, they are able to use the flexibility of the networks to adapt to the current needs. Applying some additional intelligence enables the network to anticipate hotspots and provide additional capacity. It allows the network resources to operate in the most efficient manner allowing costs to be reduced at the same time as improving performance.

Summary

Mobile World Congress 2017 was the busiest ever. With over 108 000 visitors, Mobile World Congress is one of the largest exhibitions and conferences for any topic on the globe. This year the general opinion from exhibitors was that it was very successful, they had seen more customers and new contacts than ever before and their stands had been very busy.

Now the task of planning MWC18 starts. With a vibrant city like Barcelona, the backdrop is ideal and it has the infrastructure to cope with the enormous influx of visitors.

Mobile World Congress 2018 is set for 26 February to 1 March 2018 . . . see you there!

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About the author

Ian Poole is the editor of Radio-Electronics.com. Having studied at University College London to gain his degree he went on to undertake a career in electronic development working for companies including Racal. He became the hardware development manager at Racal Instruments where he was in charge of the hardware development activities within the company. Later moving in to freelance work as a consultant he also developed Radio-Electronics.com to become one of the leading publications for professional electronics engineers. He is also a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology and is the author of over 20 books.

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