MWC 2015: 5G, IoT and Chinese vendors take the floor

It's all over bar the dismantling of the exhibition stands, and as the mobile technology world wearily wends its way home from Barcelona, it's time to take a look back on some of the standout themes and events at this week's Mobile World Congress.

First, some stats: If you thought it seemed busier at MWC this year you were right. The official figures from the GSMA indicate that there were over 93,000 attendees from 200 countries. That compares with 85,000 attendees in 2014. For some, it was too busy--particularly in logistical terms. Getting to and from the event was something of a daily ordeal for thousands of attendees, and the taxi queues were not for the faint hearted. Indeed, the infrastructure for the event leaves a lot to be desired, although as many pointed out, it would be difficult for any city to cope with a sudden influx of over 90,000 people. However, if the number of attendees continues to grow and the situation remains the same, this event will become increasingly difficult for many to navigate.

At the same time, there are few places where you can meet everyone you want to see under the same roof, as a number of people told me. There are not too many occasions when top executives from leading operators, vendors and other mobile technology companies--not to mention the big internet players--convene for some open discussions on technology developments, regulation and standards.

In terms of major themes, as expected 5G was broadly discussed throughout the week by vendors and operators alike, with some key developments. For example, the Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Alliance presented its finalised 5G White Paper, which set out the consolidated operator requirements intended to support the standardisation and subsequent availability of 5G for 2020 and beyond. Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia Networks demonstrated technology that forms the basis of their 5G roadmaps, and some leading operators such as Deutsche Telekom also spoke about how developments including network functions virtualisation (NFV) and software defined networks (SDN) are making 5G possible.

The 5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership (5GPPP) also released its vision document detailing the key drivers of the progression to 5G, the design principles of the next generation technology, 5G's disruptive capabilities, key technological components, spectrum considerations, and a timeline towards commercialisation of the technology.

5G was not the only network evolution under discussion, of course: Orange CEO Stephane Richard noted that operators should also make sure they get the best out of their LTE and LTE Advanced networks, while the deployment of LTE in unlicensed spectrum--known variously as LTE-U or licensed-assisted access (LAA)--got a good airing, particularly in relation to discussions on how LTE-U could co-exist with Wi-Fi.

The Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications were the highlights of the GSMA's Innovation City, where companies were able to demonstrate connected devices and applications. The IoT was a theme that ran throughout the event, with discussions also increasingly focusing on how it will be realised. For example, ETSI told me about its involvement in the oneM2M alliance formed in 2012 that is attempting to standardise on an M2M service layer that would run on top of the multiple and disparate connectivity options, platforms and technologies that lie beneath.

Net neutrality was of course a much-discussed theme, particularly following FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's keynote to discuss the recent decision to implement tougher rules in the U.S. Telecoms operators were also very vocal on the role of the big internet players and regulation, calling for internet players to be treated in the same way as network operators. As for the internet players themselves, Facebook reiterated its ambitions for Internet.org, which seeks to provide free online content in developing markets, while Google spoke of its various projects to help connect the world, using balloons under Project Loon and drones under Project Titan.

More alarmingly for the telecoms players, Google also outlined plans to launch a U.S. MVNO, although it sought to reassure the market by emphasising that it had no intention of becoming a network operator at scale.

Elsewhere, the Chinese vendors were out in force: my colleague at FierceWireless:Europe, Michael Carroll, noted that the stands in Hall 7 clearly demonstrated the smartphone ambitions of companies from Huawei and beyond, while Xiaomi was also extremely visible at the show, with Hugo Barra, the company's vice president of international operations, making an onstage appearance at the event.

There is so much more to mention, and no doubt you will have come away with your own thoughts and impressions. If you are keen for more, the next MWC takes place from 22-25 February 2016, at Fira Gran Via in Barcelona, Spain.--Anne

Suggested Articles

Wireless operators can provide 5G services with spectrum bands both above and below 6 GHz—but that doesn't mean that all countries will let them.

Here are the stories we’re tracking today.

The 5G Mobile Network Architecture research project will implement two 5G use cases in real-world test beds.