Mobile World Congress 2017 – EY predictions

23 February 2017

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The Mobile World Congress begins next week, bringing together business leaders to debate the future direction of the industry.  Adrian Baschnonga, EY Lead Telecommunications Analyst, makes his predictions for the week ahead:

Assessing the adoption curve for 5G

“5G has taken centre stage in Barcelona over the last couple of years, but operators have plenty to consider as they build the business case for investment. For one, the very versatility of the technology itself asks questions of the right strategic approach.

“Beyond providing a step-change in consumer mobile data capability, 5G has the potential to act as a cornerstone for the Internet of Things or as an alternative to fibre broadband in rural areas. Tailoring technology trials to these different service opportunities will be vital, and closer collaboration between operators and their vendor partners is a must.

“Operators should also be clear on how newer iterations of 4G fit into their overall infrastructure upgrade plans since commercial 5G will have to wait until technology standardisation work is complete. At the same time, regulators have plenty of work to do as they assess and open up new spectrum bands to support 5G.”

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) in focus

“Mobile World Congress has become synonymous with flagship device announcements, yet new product categories are crucial for vendors as smartphone growth slows down.

“All eyes will be on the latest VR and AR devices on show, as this becomes a new battleground between tech giants. While their potential to transform everything from consumer gaming to employee interactions is clear, manufacturers will need to be patient. According to recent reports, more than 10 million VR and AR devices are expected to ship this year, yet this still pales in comparison to an annual smartphone market of over 1.5 billion devices.

“VR business models are at a nascent stage and the role of headset, smartphone, console and software in the overall experience is still a work in progress. Working more closely with content creators should be a priority for device manufacturers as they look to create compelling products, and all players in the ecosystem should recognise product development is an incremental process. This is particularly true of the AR market, where hardware constraints will take longer to overcome.”

Taking Internet of Things (IoT) opportunities to the next level

“The promise of the connected society means an ever wider range of industries are now represented at Mobile World Congress. Operators recognise their role as enablers of the digital society and are moving quickly to introduce low power wide area networks, which are well suited to use cases such as safety monitoring and smart grids.

“While progress on the technology side is reassuring, long-term growth in IoT hinges on partnership and collaboration. Business models remain fluid, but focusing on the right role to play in the value chain has never been more important, both for operators and their peers in other industries.

“As all players look to scale early successes, a number of challenges need to be met head on. Interoperability issues could still act as a barrier to higher levels of take-up, while service providers must also contend with an evolving landscape of security threats. Addressing these more prosaic concerns will do much to dictate the pace of progress in the world of IoT.”