Since the early days of the first GSM World Congress in Madrid, Spain, the event has grown in scope and influence while, along the way, reflecting and often preempting the many changes experienced by the mobile industry. Now in its 19th year Mobile World Congress has matured into one of the most important dates in the mobile industry calendar. A spokesman for the event told Mobile: ‘Each year Mobile World Congress continues to grow in size and has established itself as the place where the next big things in mobile are born– either announced on stage during the conference programme, showcased in the award-winning exhibition, or conceived during one of the thousands of meetings taking place during the week.
‘As mobile technology continues to evolve, Mobile World Congress aims to showcase the best innovation the industry has to offer.’
As the 2014 MWC opens its doors in Barcelona, organizers are confident that this year will draw an impressive number of delegates and attendees . They confidently predict some 75,000 people will be attending Mobile World Congress 2014, with over 1,800 companies occupying more than 98,000 square metres of exhibition and hospitality/business meeting space. This years event, they said, will host government delegations and intergovernmental organisations from no less than 145 countries.
On the eve of the congress Mobile magazine spoke to a number of attendees to identify the trends and announcements that are top of their agenda.
Ben Wood chief of research CCS Insight
There will be a dazzling array of wearable devices this year at MWC from watches to bands to jewelry. But it is a bit like the X Factor. All of them will have their five minutes of fame but 98% will disappear or be one hit wonders.
However there is a new dimension changing the wearable landscape right now, which is the rise of companies powered by crowdfunding, such as Neptune, a Canadian company which has developed the Pine, a smart watch with a 3 inch display on it and the Omate TrueSmart which both raised over $1m of crowdfunding on Kickstarter. There are a host of little companies out there that can now play in that space. It is the democratization of R&D.’
Samsung will add to the momentum around wearables at MWC. It is already strong in this area with the Galaxy Gear smartwatch estimated to have shipped around $1m units globally since it launched. That makes Samsung the undisputed leader in the smartwatch zone. Its approach to the smartphone is classic Samsung. It will be a marketmaker in wearables using big investments or subsidies or bundled products. Samsung did exactly the same with tablets.
The Gear was a gamble for Samsung but it was an extravagant market research exercise. It told Samsung what consumers like and dislike, which is all learning and has helped them refine the next generation of wearables.
The biggest event will be the Samsung Unpacked 5 event. That is expected to be big news in terms of the Galaxy 5. Samsung need to announce a winning product to overcome the disappointing reception which the Galaxy S4 had. The Galaxy S3 was like a freight train coming through for Samsung but the Galaxy S4 failed to live up to expectations so they have to do something special with the Galaxy S5 and bring out a flagship device. They have to do something similar to what they did when they launched the Galaxy S3. It has to be a flagship device
Neil Mawston, executive director, Strategy Analytics
Geographically the interest will be around the Chinese and what they are doing. Everyone is looking at Huawei, TCL Alcatel, Lenova and ZTE.
These guys are where the Koreans were ten years ago and they are really starting to build their brands in Europe.The technology buzz will be around TDE LTE and LTE advanced. It is all about faster
networks as the era for mobile ? bre approaches. Convergence will also be big - how the small, mid-sized and large screens come together, how to connect hardware to services and, of course, wearable technology will be a key feature too.
Clive Bayley, CEO, Fonehouse
Mobile World Congress is great for keeping in touch with what everyone is doing. I am expecting some interesting launches this year. I will be visiting all the manufacturers, looking at what’s new in terms of devices and accessories. And of course it is a great networking event and the beer isn’t bad either!
Simon Woodman, head of mobile, Exertis Micro-P
I am looking forward to seeing what Samsung and Nokia are launching this year. I reckon there is going to be a couple of big launches this year, which will be exciting. Wearable technology is also going to be big this year as it was at CES
Scott Hooton, Chief Marketing Officer, Phones 4u
Mobile World Congress is thrilling for the landmark announcements that it consistently brings; and we couldn’t be more excited.
We expect to see the 4G smartphone establish itself as the anchor for a range of broader wearable and ‘smart’ technologies that are expected to dominate the show in Barcelona. People already see the smartphone as inextricably tied to wearable tech - 68% of respondents to our recent uBar survey said it’s vital that wearable technology remains an extension to their smartphone – but we believe that this is just the beginning, and foresee an exciting journey ahead for the category.
Manufacturers are already improving our day-to-day lives with a variety of new smart technologies; beyond today’s popular smartwatches and wristbands. Our challenge, as a leading 4G retailer, is to showcase the incredible options available and explain the benefits that this new technology can bring to our customers' individual lifestyles.
Matt Chapman, Editor of Mobile Choice magazine
It seems most of the major manufacturers will embrace MWC once again in 2014. In what almost seems like a rerun of last year's announcements (Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One, Huawei Ascend P2), this year's haul of news is expected to include the Samsung Galaxy S5, the HTC One 2 (AKA M8) and the Sony Xperia Z2 (AKA Sirius).
We also expect the buzzwords 'wearable tech' - which was the dominant trend at CES in January - to be on everyone's lips once again. Samsung's second generation smartwatch should be on display but LG may steal the show with its own wristwear and a Google Glass competitor called Glasstic.
Tizen is also expected to make a splash in Barcelona. The delayed feature phone OS may be seen on Samsung handsets launched at MWC 2014, with manufacturers such as NTT Domoco also expected to show off Tizen phones.
Paul Ceely, Head of Network Strategy at EE
Connectedness will be a major theme at MWC once again this year. Wearables, automotive and the connected home continue to be of huge interest to the industry, showing off what mobile networks are capable of. We’re building an ecosystem in this space, based on the strength of our 4G LTE network, and at the same time we’re taking an active role in the development of 5G technology which will also start to be discussed this year, enabling a true Internet of Things environment.
Mike Short, vice-president of Telefonica Europe
Where have all the towers gone? It’s no longer a Mobile World Congress but a Business World Congress. I expect we’ll see a lot of devices from the high end tablets to the very small modems. I can see lots of headlines being made. The event is heading from 80-85,000 people, while the UK will account for the second largest amount of address listed after the USA. It’s a very important event for the UK and very important for consumers to see the choice of devices, solutions and accessories. It will set the tone for the rest of the year and for the industry’s growth towards 2020.
Robin Kent, director of European operations at Adax
Virtualisation took off years ago in enterprise but is new territory for the telecom industry and mobile networks are undergoing monumental change. 2013 was the year for the ‘next generation network’ and 2014 will be the year that this network matures and smartens itself up.
Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) and Software Defined Networks (SDN) are the most exciting developments for the coming year. This smarter way of configuring and managing various applications allows operators to intelligently provide services, user experience and differential billing.