MWC 2014: 5G gets rolling, LTE put in focus and Lenovo rises

fierce michael carroll

Michael Carroll

Have you recovered from the Mobile World Congress yet?

Even if you weren't one of the 85,000 people who attended the annual trade show in Barcelona in person, if you work in this industry the build-up to, and fallout from, the event is unavoidable.

For me, one of the standout elements of the show was a rousing speech by Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission's Digital Agenda, on the importance of 5G mobile technology as a way of tackling youth unemployment, which she said stands at up to 70 per cent in some regions of Europe.

Kroes appealed to the telecoms industry to pull together on defining and developing 5G in a presentation at the launch of the 5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership (5GPPP). She also said a healthy telecoms sector is needed to support growth across a variety of industries, including energy, automotive, and microelectronics.

"I need your help in communicating to the outside world why we are talking about these issues," Kroes said adding that the future of Europe's children is at stake. Either "there is a future or there isn't…We have to act," Kroes said.

Ericsson, Nokia Solutions and Networks, Alcatel-Lucent, and Orange were on board the partnership programme at its launch, and Huawei has since also signed up.

The subject of 5G was also tackled by the Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Alliance. However, like the 5GPPP partners, the group struggled to identify what the technology will actually be, or do. All parties said though that it is important the industry works together to define the technology, with the NGMN Alliance pledging to have a draft of a white paper outlining technical features by the summer, with a final white paper due by year-end.

Two key operator announcements made during show week were a collaboration between Deutsche Telekom and Qualcomm on LTE Direct trials in Germany, and Telefónica's announcement that it will drop its Digital division, which has gained plaudits for launching innovative over the top (OTT), M2M, and augmented reality projects since being created in late 2011.

On the devices side, connected watches generated more buzz than smartphone launches. Samsung unveiled its Gear Fit unit, and Sony's stand--in particular--was dominated by watches and connected TVs.

The Japanese vendor, however, still found time to launch the Xperia Z2 smartphone and Xperia Z2 tablet at the trade show. Other smartphones launched at MWC include the Samsung Galaxy S5, and Nokia's Android-compatible X range, though both had been hotly anticipated before the show.

Some industry watchers noted the X phones points to a future where Nokia's handset business will be left to run relatively autonomously after Microsoft completes its acquisition of the division.

Chinese vendor Lenovo launched its S-Series smartphones at the trade show. Despite being technically very competitive, a look at the devices left the impression that the company still has some work to do in terms of design.

Lenovo's acquisition of Motorola Mobility from Google could provide some traction in the design stakes--the U.S. company does, after all, count the iconic StarTac and Razr devices in its history books.

So, hankies and headache pills at the ready--we'll see you at next year's show from March 2-5.--Michael