We attended GSMA’s Mobile World Congress 2016 and got a first-hand look at exciting new developments in the mobile sphere. Handhelds took center stage as flagship smartphone reveals were complimented by innovative competitors seeking to differentiate themselves. Although many announcements were device-centric, our biggest takeaways from MWC were the broader themes that teased exciting possibilities for the future of mobile connectivity.
5G will bring disruption
A 5G world is imminent and will bring a broadly felt impact, according to reports from MWC. AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile have announced or begun 5G testing, with Verizon claiming to be commercially ready by 2017 (though industry experts believe this is unrealistic). Nokia, Intel and Samsung demonstrated leading technological developments like beamforming and massive MIMO. 5G’s near-zero latency and lightning-fast speeds will bring new opportunities for entrepreneurs across many industries. However, wireline incumbents must keep in mind the risks presented by 5G – it could tip the scales for many considering abandoning broadband in favor of an entirely wireless connectivity solution.
Virtual Reality is still in its infancy
Samsung and HTC took center stage, demonstrating VR competitors to the industry-leading Oculus Rift. It is clear from technical demos and current software on the market that the technology and its use cases are still nascent. Nonetheless, given the significant monetary investment in the industry, we expect this technology will continue to grow rapidly in coming years; Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg stated that VR will become one of the next generation’s killer apps. Service providers should look for opportunities for partnerships that may prove lucrative in a 5G world.
Mobile Video continues to grow
Netflix made headlines when they announced the introduction of adaptive-bit-rate streaming on mobile to help consumers better manage their data. Netflix also revealed more than half of subscribers watch video on their smartphones, but that mobile accounts for just 10% of total viewing – indicating that while interest in mobile video is strong, users prefer watching television on a traditional medium. OTT providers should thus continue to integrate their services into traditional television models to reach more customers.
Network Virtualization becoming a focus of service providers
Cisco partnered with Intel, Ericsson, and Verizon to focus on network virtualization and digitization. AT&T announced that 5.7% of their network is currently virtualized, with a goal of 30% by 2017 and 75% by 2020. An increased emphasis on virtualization will help reduce costs and improve reliability for service providers, while also increasing the amount of customers able to be served. Firms emphasizing rapid virtualization will be better positioned for the long term.