Digesting Mobile World Congress 2014: Six Key Themes and Two Future Scenarios

10 03 2014

It’s been a while since we attended Mobile World Congress and whilst we have perhaps missed the buzz, we have not missed the sore feet from walking around those huge halls.

We are therefore grateful to, and warmly welcome Richard Arthur, Telecom guru and Head Communications & Media Solutions Enablement at HP, for this fascinating “guest post” on his visit to this year’s Mobile World Congress 214:-

A record breaking eighty-five thousand people attended this year’s Mobile World Congress in February in Barcelona Spain.   Many of us who were there are still digesting the cornucopia of booths, seminars, parties, and the one too many tapas and Rioja we all had.

Here’s my round-up of the highlights from the show; also linked my video: a smorgasbord of show floor highlights.

Use this link to watch Richard’s High Speed Review Video of Mobile World Congress 2014: http://vimeo.com/88625618

1.     Face time with Facebook

One of the most talked about keynotes was Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg who took the stage and justified the $19B WhatsApp purchase.  Meanwhile also at the show, WhatsApp announced a voice service on top of their popular messaging.   Zuckerberg also touted a free internet for developing nations initiative which caused much lively debate.  Shortly after the show, Facebook announced the purchase of drone company Titan Aerospace for $60B to support just such an initiative.

 2.     Wearable tech yes… fashionable?

As is usual, mobile devices were the most visible new announcements at the show.   Wearable tech adorned many booths, although less of the Google garb then we might have expected.  Samsung’s curved OLED watch shone brightly and surprised with a Tizen Operating system.   Companies both big:   Huawei, Sony, Motorola, and small:  GoPro,  Fitbit, and Byonym went wearable.

On the Smartphone side, Samsung Galaxy 5 was the most hotly anticipated launch.   However many reviewers and the GSMA preferred others.   HTC One rang up “Best Smartphone” and, impressively the Xperia Z2 shoots 4K video.   I liked the LG flex’s ability to make like Gumby while still featuring a great display. Nokia surprised with the X low end Android phone announcements:  a new tone for Nokia in the run up to their Microsoft acquisition.  HP announced new business tablets and showed off our  Slate 6 phone tablet now available worldwide.   On the Slate 6 CNET said “The overall fit and finish is excellent given the price range, and with dual SIM support it would be easy to see this new line building a fan base.”

3.     Network Function Virtualization made real

As has been the case recently, network infrastructure announcements were less visible at the show.  However, the major equipment providers and infrastructure vendors did make a series of announcements.   Multiple companies launched Network Function Virtualization initiatives.  If you haven’t heard of NFV, I recommend you check out the latest White paper from ETSI on the subject.  This new approach to telecom infrastructure has the potential to revolutionize the network with huge Capex and Opex savings as well as dramatically improving innovation potential in Communications Service Providers.

HP announced the HP OpenNFV program at MWC which included a new organization in HP, architecture and set of newly launched products, plus a partner and lab program.   It featured seven of the nine ETSI defined NFV use cases in live demos on its booth.    LightReading summarized the HP announcement concluding that HP’s breadth and partner program are key NFV differentiators.

 4.     Headline “No News on 5G”

In the network core, vendors traded opposing 5G views, meaning no consistent definition exists yet, however many approaches to improving 4G and WiFi were demonstrated.   LTE Advanced featured in many vendors and some service providers’ show participation.  LTE-A’s main attractions are support for highly variable network topologies including Pico and Femtocells, and aggregation of multiple carriers (frequency bands) to provide much higher potential bandwidth.

5.     Driving the Connected City

GSMA’s connected city program drove a number of “car-as-mobile-device” launches, including Ford’s high profile launch of the new Ford Focus.    This was quite a coup (not a “Coupe”) for Mobile World as the Geneva Motor Show follows only one week later.  HP’s own Jeff Edlund, with Telsta’s Hugh Bradlow, spoke on Smart Cities and how they can be achieved today.

In some of the smaller booths some cool, if not necessarily ready for primetime, innovations could be found.   I particularly liked the “Brewbot” smartphone-controlled personal brewery and “Joseph” the ceramic Bluetooth speaker which can also be a planter or aperitif dish.

6.     Whither the Smartphone OS?

I dutifully made the rounds to catch up on the Smartphone Operating System trends.    I was disappointed to see that Firefox and Ubuntu, as well as Tizen, all big features of last year’s show, still cannot show significant market penetration.  This is a testament to the ongoing strength of OS market leaders Android and IOS.

img_1742.jpgOne day, in the not too distant future…

As always, the GSMA sets out to showcase the technologies, products and services that are shaping the future of the mobile industry at Mobile World Congress.   In closing this report, I leave you with the following scenarios gestated during a sleep deprived and cramped flight home:

In scenario one, Facebook provides free internet to the unconnected masses via drones while Google launches balloons that carry Wi-Fi to places still unconnected.    These brands become bigger than any telecom brand to communications customers in the developing world.

Scenario two hits a bit closer to home and plays out in real time:

Glance at smart watch – beer time.   Tap to connect to Brewbot and verify via smartphone that beer is proper temperature.   Command connected car to retrieve beer and deliver to friend’s house, where chips and dip are waiting in the Bluetooth speakers playing Smartphone DJ mixed music…. 

Oh and don’t forget the Tapas by app.

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Rich ArthurEnjoyed this guest blog?

You can follow Richard on his Twitter account:  @RArthurTelecom

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Solar-powered mobile phone lead the eco charge

18 02 2009

If you read my blog on mobile phone innovation for the elderly – then you’ll know that one of my pet hates is rummaging for my phone in my bag. My second mobile phone hang-up is running out of battery power. You know it’s fully charged, but you forget to double check. Dropping off the kids at school you need to use your mobile phone and guess what, no power…. Arrrghhhh. Does this only ever happen to me?

It seems my prayers have been answered. A plethora of solar powered mobile phones will be hitting the market later this year. Being blessed to live in a place that boasts 300 days of sun, I’m in luck.

Here’s a quick overview of the early to market contenders that were unveiled at the Mobile World Congress:-
Hat’s off to ZTE, China, together with Digicel Group and Intivation who have launched the Coral-200-Solar, the world’s first low-cost solar-powered mobile phone aimed at the world’s poor (or financially challenged).. The Coral-200-Solar, manufactured by ZTE, uses proprietary technology from Dutch-based innovator Intivation. Since early 2008, Digicel has been providing its’ customers with low-cost or free portable solar charges in many markets. The concept of linking charger devices and a phone is sure to be a winner.

Here’s one new innovation that will certainly make a difference to people’s lives in locations where (a) price matters (b) electricity connections may be difficult. As ZTE state in their news release “there are an estimated two billion people in the world who have limited or no access to electricity. The population of many emerging markets in which Digicel provides cellular services will benefit greatly by access to a mobile handset that can be powered by the sun, or by electric power when it is available.”

Likewise, I tip my hat to the South Korean manufacturer, Samsung who have also launched an eco-friendly full-touch screen solar powered mobile phone – Blue Earth. – available in the UK during the second half of 2009.

The latest in a series of eco-friendly products, Blue Earth comes with a unique user interface which is designed to draw attention to preserving our fragile environment. Simple to set screen brightness, backlight duration and Bluetooth to an energy-efficient mode, this new user interface allows the user to be energy-efficient with just one click of ‘Eco mode’. Through the ‘eco walk’ function the user can count their steps with an in-built pedometer, calculating how much CO2 emissions have been reduced by walking as opposed to motor transport. This unique function allows user to calculate the value of this footprint through the number of trees that have been saved.

Blue Earth is made from recycled plastic called PCM, which is extracted from water bottles, helping to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions in the manufacturing process. The device, including charger, is free from harmful substances such as Brominated Flame Retardants, Beryllium and Phthalate.

Not to be outdone, LG will also launch another eco-friendly solar-powered mobile phone at the end of 2009. Proto-type mobiles were available for viewing at the Mobile World Congress but no product name, as yet.

By simply pointing the phone’s solar panel at natural light, the panel will convert solar energy into electricity without needing to be plugged in. For a ten minute exposure to the sun, this will give the phone enough power for a three-minute call – ok for a quick emergency call but not to call your clients. If left in natural light for long periods, the solar panel creates enough standby power to power the phone without any charging devices. Great news, should work for me in my sunny kitchen!

LG’s green initiative has not stopped at phones. The company’s LG HFB-500 Bluetooth solar car kit, first introduced at this January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, gives customers hands-free mobile use in a fully rechargeable solar unit. A definite must to avoid those fines.