Regulatory issues typically don't dominate the headlines at Mobile World Congress. But this year will likely be the exception as all the industry will be closely monitoring the FCC's vote tomorrow on the controversial topic of net neutrality. The vote will occur just days ahead of the 2015 Mobile World Congress, which begins Monday in Barcelona, Spain.
Of course, at the center of the net neutrality debate is Tom Wheeler, chairman of the FCC, who was recently named a keynote speaker at the Barcelona confab. He will speak at the show on Tuesday, March 3, at 6 p.m. According to Michael O'Hara, the GSMA's chief marketing officer, Wheeler is planning to use this global event to explain the ruling and provide some clarity to this hot-button issue.
And though net neutrality may seem like a U.S.-centric topic, O'Hara said that is not the case. "We have regulators at this event from all around the world," he said. "I think everyone is looking at the U.S. and Europe on regulation."
But net neutrality won't be the only topic that Mobile World Congress attendees will be discussing. Expect to hear lots of discussion about 5G and what this next generation of wireless technology will encompass. The Next Generation Mobile Network alliance will be revealing the details of their 5G white paper at a press conference on Tuesday, March 3. Look for the European Commission to talk about their 5G white paper that day as well. And if you want to be part of a more interactive discussion about 5G, check out my FierceWireless luncheon panel at 5G on Tuesday, March 3 at 12:30 p.m. I'll lead a Q&A session with top experts from SK Telecom, AT&T, Verizon, Intel and Qualcomm. For more details and to register, click here.
Aside from 5G and net neutrality, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will return to the Mobile World Congress stage as well. You may recall that last year Zuckerberg used his keynote address at the event to push for his Internet.org coalition, which is geared toward encouraging wireless carriers in emerging markets to offer a free tier of Internet service to subscribers, with the goal of getting them to eventually pay for additional access. This year, Zuckerberg will be on stage with some of those wireless operators that are part of his coalition to provide an update on the initiative.
Of course, the "connected lifestyle" remains a hot area of interest. In particular, there will be a keynote panel on Monday, March 2, at 11:15 a.m. featuring AT&T's Ralph de la Vega, Ericsson's Hans Vestberg, Carlos Ghosn of Renault-Nissan Alliance, and more. If this area is of interest to you, you may also want to check out my colleague Mike Dano's Connected Home panel on Wednesday, March 4, at 12:30 p.m. featuring panelists from AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, SmartThings, Kore Telematics and Intel. For more specifics and to register, click here.
Once again, the GSMA is expecting strong attendance at MWC: This year the group said it expects about 90,000 attendees, up from the 85,000 it recorded in 2014. In addition, 2,000 companies will be exhibiting this year using about 100,000 square meters of exhibition space.
Unfortunately, transportation to the Fira Gran Via remains tricky--attendees will have to rely on a combination of buses, shuttles, trains and cabs to get to the convention hall. Although Barcelona is expanding its subway line to the Fira Gran Via, O'Hara said that line will not be open in time for the 2015 event.
As always, the Fierce team will be out in force at this year's Mobile World Congress, bringing you all the latest news and updates. To follow our up-to-the-minute coverage, tune in to FierceWireless, FierceWirelessTech, FierceWireless: Europe and our dedicated Mobile World Congress news website, MWCLive. --Sue