Mobile World Congress continues to be the must-attend event of the year in the wireless industry. According to the GSMA, more than 85,000 visitors from 201 countries attended MWC this year, outstripping the 72,000 visitors who attended in 2013. In addition to the more than 80,000 attendees at the Fira Gran Via this year, more than 5,000 people participated in a range of partner programs at Fira Montjuïc.
And what were some of the main themes of the show this year? Low-cost smartphones were on everyone's mind, which makes sense given the boom in smartphones expected in growth markets over the next few years.
The still-nebulous term "5G" got bandied about a lot by regulators, executives and industry groups as the buzz around what 5G means continued to grow. Considering most believe 5G networks won't be commercialized until 2020, few wanted to define the technology. Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission's Digital Agenda, said there is more at stake in developing 5G technology than just meeting growing data traffic and demand for connectivity. And the Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance (NGMN) thinks there is a need for a unified approach to developing a 5G standard, so vendors will have clear guidance for the future.
Perhaps the biggest news at MWC actually came a few days before the show started, with Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) agreeing to buy over-the-top messaging service WhatsApp for a staggering $16 billion in total. At the show, WhatsApp announced plans to offer voice calling sometime in the second quarter. OTT companies are now promising to offer not only calling and messaging services but social networks, movies, games and even banking services. Additionally, more and more OTT players are now seeking to provide network access itself, giving another challenge to carriers.
None of the developments that marked MWC 2014 will be resolved by year-end. They will continue on into the years ahead. However, the Fierce editorial team had some time to think about the major themes of the show and what they mean for the future. We looked at the key trends and have noted them in our annual scorecard. Check them out below. Also, check out our scorecards from the 2013 MWC, the 2012 MWC, the 2011 MWC, the 2010 MWC and the 2009 MWC for comparison.
P.S. Don't forget to check out our complete coverage of Mobile World Congress 2014 at our MWCLive mini site. --Phil