Bienvenida MWC Barcelona 2015 : Separating the wheat from the chaff !!


With this year’s theme of ‘The Edge of Innovation’, what can we expect from Mobile World Congress which has started in Barcelona today ?

The Internet of Things (IoT) has become shorthand for the concept of billions of connected devices. And it’s an idea that’s getting some real traction as big names position themselves as players in the market. FlexEnable has developed an organic transistor technology that that can be used to create truly flexible electronics with plastic flexible circuits. The company claims that this enables ultra-thin, ultralightweight, shatterproof electronic displays. This breakthrough technology, with cost-effective manufacturing, will revolutionise mobile devices and wearables and will open up new worlds for the Internet of things (IoT).

Carriers have been trying to figure out how to evolve their place in the IoT value chain beyond the mere connectivity piece, and people are excited about the potential of WebRTC in that respect. Following AT&T’s Enhanced WebRTC API launch in January, So don’t be surprised if there were more operator announcements along these lines at MWC, with Telefonica, Telenor and Orange likely candidates, as well as operators from the Asia Pacific region. For the unitiated WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) is an API definition drafted by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that supports browser-to-browser applications for voice calling, video chat, and P2P file sharing without the need of either internal or external plugins. WebRTC enables all kinds of real time communication such as audio, video and text between users by utilising the browsers.

This will be the year that 5G takes over MWC. Despite 5G technology not yet being standardised and unlikely to be ready for half a decade, many in the industry are ready to breathe hot air . While vendors jockey for mindshare, there will be no shortage of posturing around “what 5G is” and who should care. This includes the technologies that will make 5G a reality (including virtualisation, millimetre wave spectrum, unlicensed spectrum, duplex free operations) along with 5G drivers like ubiquitous IoT demands. Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance feels that 5G should be rolled out by 2020 to meet business and consumer demands.

So what are the characteristics of a 5G network ?? For starters it is a super-efficient mobile network that delivers a better performing network for lower investment cost. It addresses the mobile network operators pressing need to see the unit cost of data transport falling at roughly the same rate as the volume of data demand is rising. It would be a leap forward in efficiency based on the IET Demand Attentive Network (DAN) philosophy.

5G is super-fast mobile network comprising the next generation of small cells densely clustered together to give a contiguous coverage over at least urban areas and gets the world to the final frontier for true “wide area mobility”. It would require access to spectrum under 4 GHz perhaps via the world’s first global implementation of Dynamic Spectrum Access. And finally it is a converged fiber-wireless network that uses, for the first time for wireless Internet access, the millimeter wave bands (20 – 60 GHz) so as to allow very wide bandwidth radio channels able to support data access speeds of up to 10 Gbit/s. The connection essentially comprises “short” wireless links on the end of local fiber optic cable. It would be more a “nomadic” service (like WiFi) rather than a wide area “mobile” service. Middle East operator Etisalat said the rollout of 5G technology is one of its goals for 2020 and will underpin its future support for machine-to machine (M2M) and eGovernment services as well as the wider Internet of Things (IoT).

While both 3G and 4G radio access networks (RANs) were built as stand-alone network, 5G RAN will be deployed by integrating the existing LTE-Advanced (LTEA), its evolution technologies, and new radio access technologies (RATs). So expect Virtualization and SDN ( the other big thing in network evolution ) will be extended to 5G mobile wireless networks as well. As you know with wireless network virtualization, network infrastructure can be decoupled from the services that it provides, where differentiated services can coexist on the same infrastructure, maximizing its utilization. Consequently, multiple wireless virtual networks operated by different service providers (SPs) can dynamically share the physical substrate wireless networks operated by mobile network operators (MNOs). Since wireless network virtualization enables the sharing of infrastructure and radio spectrum resources, the capital expenses (CapEx) and operation expenses (OpEx) of wireless (radio) access networks (RANs), as well as core networks (CNs), can be reduced significantly.

Many telecoms companies are now pursuing multi-play strategies in which they offer a number of services, including mobile and fixed voice services, broadband and pay-TV. Vodafone has been active in this market with several high profile acquisitions in Europe, while the deal between BT and EE in the UK will also create a quadplay powerhouse. It would therefore be a major surprise if this isn’t a hot topic when executives from the major mobile operators assemble at MWC. CCS Insight research suggests that consumers are interested in signing up to companies offering this range of communication and media services if their offering is good value. The appetite for multiplay services may also be driven by people owning an increasing number of devices.

Behind the launch hoopla of super sophisticated smartphone ( with their wretched battery life ) look out for another technology that is gaining momentum. NFC ..aah yes Near Field Communications…thats what some congress participants will be using to register or pay for their cappucino !!! NFC is a contactless radio technology that can transmit data at speeds of up to 424kpbs between two devices within four centimetres of each other. Some plastic debit and credit cards now contain NFC chips, enabling people to pay for items by simply tapping the card against an NFC terminal. Mobile phones are also being equipped with NFC capabilities, enabling consumers to use the technology to interact with readers to access information, validate tickets, redeem vouchers, collect loyalty points, make in-store payments and use many other commercial services.

Derived from well-established radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, NFC builds on the existing standards used for contactless card payments. NFC-enabled devices are, therefore, generally compatible with existing contactless card terminals in retail outlets and restaurants. Across the world, businesses and consumers are looking to digital commerce to provide flexible and efficient transaction services across a range sectors, including retail, transport, financial services, online and advertising. As a result, the roll out of digital commerce services is gathering pace. By the end of 2014, there were more than more than 150 SIM based NFC launches, of which nearly 60 operate as commercial services around the world.NFC has widespread support from device makers. Some analysts report a tsunami momentum and NFC smartphones are reaching a tipping point in 2013 with unit shipments set to surge 156% this year to 400 million, according to Strategy Analytics. At the same time, the number of NFC-ready point-of-sales terminals is set to rise dramatically from 6.7 million in 2012 to 44.6 million in 2017, according to Berg Insight.

With the release of Android 4.4, Google introduced a new platform support for secure NFC-based transactions through Host Card Emulation (HCE), for payments, loyalty programs, card access, transit passes, and other custom services. With HCE, any app on an Android 4.4 device can emulate an NFC smart card, letting users tap to initiate transactions with an app of their choice. Apps can also use a new Reader Mode so as to act as readers for HCE cards and other NFC-based transactions. On September 9, 2014, Apple also announced support for NFC-powered transactions as part of their Apple Pay program. Apple stated that their version of NFC payment is more secure than competitors because Apple Pay implements tokenization of its data in order to encrypt it and protect it from unauthorized usage. And we all know that the technology Apple chooses to embed in their Iphone hits mainstream. As the WiFi accionados.

Anyone who has attended Mobile World Congress (MWC) over the last two years will know that the GSMA Connected City has been the place to experience the very latest in cutting-edge mobile technology. This year, it’s been rebranded the GSMA Innovation City, to reflect the great technological strides that the mobile industry continues to make, as well as the number of innovative, state-of-the-art products and services that will be on display. The Innovation City is all about experiencing and exploring the latest mobile technology in the context of an extensive virtual cityscape, where amenities, services and businesses are transformed and given added functionality through mobile connectivity. At the City, you can see a demonstration of an International Coupon System which allows purchases to be made across the globe with a smartphone, via a one-tap, pay-and-redeem digital wallet which is being run by the GSMA Digital Commerce programme.

Of particular interest in the M2M space will be two demonstrations of live operator profile swaps based on the GSMA Embedded SIM Specification, which is intended to make it easier to remotely change the profile of SIMs that are often located in difficult to reach or hazardous locations. One demonstration will show a smart parking application using a profile swap, and the other will demonstrate a connected car profile swap from the perspectives of both the end consumer and the backend provider.

So learn and enjoy MWC 15 even as you navigate in the hustle and bustle of 100000 attendees !!

Sadiq Malik ( Telco Strategist )


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