Is it going to happen? Is it not going to happen? Are we ready? Are we not ready? Are there commercial deployments? Are there not?
Reality is, we don’t know what’s going on. If you listen to some US operators, they’ll tell you that 5G is coming to your house, tomorrow, hand delivered by the CEO of your operator of choice. Other vendors are a little more realistic about the prospects of 5G, claiming that we won’t see real, commercial deployments after 2020, indeed even maybe expect to wait until 2025! That’s seven MWCs away!
And perhaps, some scepticism is needed in such a hype-driven industry. While there may be claims about trials and deployments (and indeed more so than in previous years as pointed out by Scott Bicheno of Telecoms.com), most of us are still very much on 4G (and even 3G at times) and likely to remain there for a while. So it looks like more waiting on the 5G front and as the industry evolves towards the new ‘G’, you better believe there’ll be more claims than you can shake a stick at.
Yes, I know, no one cares about 4G anymore (except me when I’m in the middle of Oxford Street trying to make a call), but apparently the Moon is getting a 4G network. Nokia and Vodafone have teamed up with SpaceX, Elon Musk’s aerospace baby, to set up the network in order to stream live lunar images. While this is certainly a great step towards further scientific research into the way our planets and solar system work, one can’t help but think: hasn’t an operator like Vodafone got anything else to worry about besides 4G on the flipping moon?
Given that Vodafone’s last quarterly results showed a dip in revenue, you’d think monetizing new revenue streams might be top priority. Or perhaps, we’re too short-sighted and cynical – after all, the sky’s the limit, literally.
As with most MWCs, device launches are a popular part of the show. Samsung and Huawei were two prominent ones this year, but also Alcatel which launched the first Android Go phone – a more cost-efficient Android OS intended for even entry-level smartphones. While the western world, so secure in its love for Apple and Samsung phones, will probably prove to be a less popular audience for Alcatel’s new device, it raises the question about its potential in the developing world. If entry-level smartphones are able to do the same things (or just about) as a Samsung Galaxy S8 or S9 on an iPhone 8, its appeal to the developing world will be huge. It all remains to be seen.
Nokia: the Shoreditch Hipster
On the topic of devices, it seems Nokia is trying to start a trend of launching new models of old, iconic Nokia devices. Last year it was the 3310 and this year it’s the Banana phone. If, like myself, you’re young enough not to have known the Banana phone (or the 8810 as it is officially called) it was first launched in 1998 and ran on 1G. It could only send SMS messages and had an infrared port. Nokia’s new unveiling features a little more, including: 4G LTE, 4GB storage, up to 25 days stand-by time and a camera. But of course, it also comes with those nostalgic mobile specs that avid Nokia lovers relish, notably, the ever-popular Snake and an actual keyboard.
It remains to be seen how popular the 8810 will be as a mobile phone, but there’s no doubt that Nokia’s move is a tactical one; as Samsung, Huawei and Apple dominate the mobile device space, Nokia is finding its niche in nostalgia and enticing the Nokia lovers from years gone by.
MWC: What else?
Sadly, George Clooney did not make an appearance at this year’s show, but we did get a keynote from F1 Champion, Fernando Alonso who spoke during the Fourth Industrial Revolution keynote and highlighted the impact connectivity is having on the F1 racing industry.
We also saw Huawei’s smartphone-controlled, driverless Porsche, which took several lucky journalists, including Total Telecom’s Chris Kelly, around Barcelona FC’s Camp Nou. Funnily enough, this wasn’t anything to do with driverless cars, but rather a demonstration of the processing chip inside Huawei’s Mate 10 Pro phone. So no driverless cars from Huawei any time soon but the message is clear: it’s all about the chip.
That’s everything from CCgroup Mobile and Telecoms team who spent 5 days in Barcelona, and staffed over 100 media and analyst briefings and saw several clients take the stage at keynote speakers. See you next year MWC!