Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2019

Fira Gran Via
February 25 – 28, 2019

Attendees: 109,000
Exhibitors/Sponsors: 2,400
Media/Analysts: 3,640

Calysto Overview

Mobile World Congress 2019 wrapped up in Barcelona last week with more than 109,000 attendees, including delegates, exhibitors, contractors, and media, making their way through the Fira Gran Via.

The theme of the event was ‘Intelligent Connectivity’ which aimed to highlight the intersection of ‘hyper-connectivity,’ enabled by 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT), and ‘intelligence,’ delivered by artificial intelligence AI and big data. MWC19 also explored the critical topics of Content, Digital Trust, Digital Wellness and The Future.

There were plenty of robots, concept cars, and other attention-grabbing technologies on display. NimbeLink drew people in by featuring a live beehive to promote its asset tracking solution.

5G Ruled the Roost

Once again 5G was on the tip of everyone’s tongue. 5G was prominent at MWC19, and it was exciting to see a glimpse of that new world, with 5G-enabled handsets, launched new products and services, and even the first demonstration of live telemonitored surgery over 5G technology. The mobile industry continues to make strong progress with 5G, and MWC Barcelona continues to showcase the best and most creative elements of our connected world,” said John Hoffman, CEO, GSMA Ltd.

Supported by Samsung’s 5G network, Mobile World Live TV, the GSMA’s video broadcast service, which provides content throughout MWC, this year featured 5G live broadcasting for the very first time. Attendees enjoyed true seamless transmission with low latency over the entire five days of the show.

“A year or two ago the show was all about IoT,” says Global Tech Executive, Allen Proithis. “This year, most of the messaging is about the glory of 5G, even though it is still a few years from scale. I believe that this is a reflection of the operator’s struggle to monetize IoT beyond connectivity. IoT is finally starting to move a bit faster after years of promises, but the companies capturing 95% of the value of IoT that resides outside of connectivity are not usually the operators. GSMA’s traditional constituency is much more comfortable on the radio/RAN side of the world, hence the 5G hype.”

Thomas Hasselman, CMO of Quuppa noticed the shift in focus as well, “Seems the MWC event is back again being a ‘telco show’ after having a few years of wider scope, including IoT.”

Foldable Phones Took Center Stage

Leading up to this year’s mega-mobile event in Barcelona, Spain was Samsung’s ‘early’ device announcement (delivered February 21) of the 10th generation of its fabled ‘S’ series Galaxy line. Reviews have been positive, and after getting to hold this device while at MWC — its edge-to-edge screen, in-screen fingerprint sensor, and triple lens camera are indeed differentiators in the high-end device category.

Samsung’s decision to not showcase its new flagship at MWC provided Huawei an opportunity to draw a large crowd to see it unveil its first folding smartphone. LG and Samsung showed off their take on foldables at MWC as well — Samsung had its Galaxy Fold on display in a glass case, and LG’s V50 ThinQ was also on display.

While neither 5G or foldable phones are quite ready for prime time, they will finally be in the hands of early adopters soon enough. Huawei managed to combine the two biggest stories coming out of the show into one device, the Mate X.

Nokia, Sony, Xiaomi and ZTE also released new devices at MWC, but MWC didn’t feel like a device-oriented show at all.

Huawei On the Hot Seat

Foldable phones weren’t the only reason people were talking about Huawei. It’s been highly publicized that the U.S. has been trying to convince European allies to ban telecommunications gear made by Chinese companies, specifically Huawei and ZTE Corp, over fears that the Chinese government might order employees of those companies to use the devices to spy on or disrupt communications.

“The situation with Huawei seemed to pop up on a regular basis,” noted Proithis. “Most people were optimistic that things would be resolved in a few months. Equally interesting was the number of hardware companies that have moved production to places like Vietnam over the past year. They decided to take the US/China trade issue risks off the table, and they are not planning to move manufacturing back to China even if things are resolved.”

HTC Gets in on IoT

According to Proithis, “HTC’s partnership announcement with Nodle was some of the most exciting news of the show. Nodle is rapidly building a virtual Bluetooth network by turning smartphones into gateways for Bluetooth powered IoT devices. Almost 4 Billion Bluetooth chips shipped last year, and it is also the most battery efficient battery technology out there. I love this idea in that it is the only IoT connectivity that does not require new network buildout, and existing BLE devices can be provisioned on the network with no client software required. It is also very complimentary when working with NB-IoT and LoRa.”

Keynotes

MWC19 Keynote speakers included representatives from ARM, Cisco, Citi, Daimler AG and Mercedes Benz, Digital Asset Holdings, Groupon, HTC, Huawei, IOC, KT Corporation, Light, Microsoft, Niantic Inc., Orange Group, Picasso Labs, Rakuten, Singtel, Smart Dubai, Sparrho, United Nations, Universal Music Group, Vimeo and Vodafone Group.

Exhibitors/Sponsors

More than 2,400 organizations displayed their wares across more than 120,000 net square meters of exhibition space at MWC19, including Accenture, Alibaba Cloud, ARM, AT&T, BMW, Cisco Systems, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Facebook, Google, HTC, Huawei, Intel, Lenovo, LG, Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft, NTT DOCOMO, Nokia Solutions and Networks, Ooredoo, Oracle, Orange, Qualcomm Incorporated, SAP, SEAT, SK Telecom, Telefónica, Verizon, Vodafone, Xiaomi and ZTE.

“The Quuppa folks in the Orange booth had an incredible micro-location demo using BLE technology. It was fun to watch someone take one step and see the movement reflected on the screen in real time,” exclaims Proithis.

“With our 600 sqm ‘demo area’ at the Orange booth Quuppa gained credibility and a lot of interest, from partners, customers and analysts,” adds Hasselman.

Highlights of the Show

4 Years from Now (4YFN), MWC’s start-up event, welcome more than 23,000 attendees in its sixth edition in Barcelona, with sponsors including Banco Sabadell, Airbus, Telefonica, and Vueling. The program was made up of a combination of keynotes, panels, fireside chats, and start-up competitions, 1:1 start-up mentoring, investor and corporate meetings, pitching competitions, “pitch the press” sessions, networking activities and more.

Vicky Sleight, Chief Perfect Officer, Perfect Ltd. Advisor, Diversity & Inclusion GSMA NA & accredited GCologist for The GC Index®

offers a little constructive criticism. “It’s a shame to see that young innovators are separated at 4YFN. Moving forward it would be great to see this more integrated as it is a wonderful concept.”

In the past, the GSMA committed to increasing the number of women at MWC. In 2019, there were more than 25,000 female attendees. Additionally, 37% of keynote speakers and 27% of all speakers in the conference program were women. Back for its third year was the GSMA Women4Tech Summit. Senior leaders gathered to discuss hot topics ranging from finding AI talent to working in a post #MeToo world. New to the Women4Tech Summit was Inside Track, which offered attendees the opportunity to gain critical insights on their own professional skills from a Fortune 500 expert.

Despite the GSMA’s efforts to reduce the gender gap, some think more needs to be done. “There’s still not enough of a gender balance on the main stage, and Women4Tech should not be on the last day of the event,” shared Sleight.

We hope that in the future, the GSMA will make even more of an effort to court women in technology for keynotes and to lead conference sessions.

Summary

“As always it was a great show, and I had very worthwhile meetings almost back to back the first two days, so it is definitely a useful platform to enable that,” Sleight concluded.

“MWC was a valuable show for Longview to attend,” says Pat Keeley, VP Business Development IoT at Carnegie Technologies. “We had meetings with carriers and partners from around the world in one forum. The overall message is that LTE (Cat-M and NB-IoT) based IoT is taking off and it is permeating across all the carriers. While not the focus of the show LoRa had a strong presence in many areas – much more significant than other LPWAN technologies.”

“The Mobile IoT Summit and Mobile Sunday events gave us early access to many key contacts in the industry. The quality of the contacts was excellent and we had many follow up discussions throughout the show,” notes Keeley.

As for Quuppa, MWC proved to be a “Great platform for generating noise on social media,” shared Hasselman.

“MWC is always the greatest collection of mobile industry senior executives. It makes it a pleasure to exchange ideas, compare thoughts on industry trends and to move strategic deals forward,” shared Proithis. “On the dislike side, it has become a more narrow operator and network equipment supplier show. This is not necessarily a bad thing as focus is important, but I think that the GSMA is going to think carefully on how to keep the show both fresh and focused over the coming years.”

Another suggestion for the GSMA: “Move the show into the first or second week of March! We were lucky this year with no rain and warm, sunny days, but last year we had snow flurries! A week or two move would make things easier given that meetings tend to be spread around Barcelona, and the metro workers love to go on strike during the show,” says Proithis.

Up Next: MWC20 Barcelona will be held February 24-27, 2020.

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