The biggest and best mobile event for 2017 exerted a heavy focus on content strategies. The other headlining themes were 5G and unconventional innovative revenue streams for service providers.
Mats Granryd, the GSMA’s director general moderated the opening keynote session wherein the focus was on the role of mobile in today’s world and how it is shaping emerging innovation.
GSMA launched the “Big Data for Social Good” initiative, which will leverage mobile operators’ big data capabilities to address humanitarian crises, including epidemics and natural disasters. The programme is being launched with 16 of the world’s leading mobile operators.
In an MWC first, there was a keynote session on policy. FCC chairman Ajit Pai made it clear that he is against net neutrality. He praised "light touch" internet regulation adding that it's sure to be on the FCC's agenda going forward. "Within my term in GSMA, roaming charges will be a thing of the past," GSMA chairman Sunil Mittal said in his keynote.
H.E. Dr. Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr, Director General of the Smart Dubai Office, showcased Smart Dubai's experience of transforming the emirate into a completely smart city to a number of future city leaders during the key session on the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’. She said: “We have realised that technology can create a positive impact on everybody’s happiness and remain committed to harnessing the latest innovations to improve city experiences to make everyone happy." The Director General added how Smart Dubai has created a roadmap for the smart transformation of Dubai encompassing six dimensions, namely the smart economy, smart living, smart people, smart environment, smart mobility, and smart governance.
Internet of things kept the excitement high especially in the innovation city. 'Internet of the seas' marked a new wave of eco-friendly IoT solutions on show. The University of St Andrews Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) demonstrated smart telemetry tags using Narrow Band-IoT (NB-IoT) technology to track and monitor the movement of harbour seals and research the reasons behind their population decline. Another highlight was the launch of the first robot driverless race car by Roborace.
Rajeev Suri, president & CEO of Nokia at the opening keynote of Day 3 discussed the fourth industrial revolution. Suri, along with the Nokia CMO Barry French, demonstrated the relative response of a remote-control monster truck to 4G and pre-standard Nokia 5G technology.
Reed Hastings, Founder and CEO of Netflix discussed how content is in the midst of a period of disruption and change. John Hanke of Niantic Labs, talked about Pokemon Go at MWC. Hanke spoke of the several ways operators can leverage such kinds of games to promote direct carrier billing and improve location technology. John Stankey, CEO of AT&T's AT&T Entertainment Group emphasised that "content that is compelling matters". He added: "We just cannot envision a future where AT&T is relevant if we don't directly participate in some of the water flowing through our pipes."
Shane Smith, chief executive of Vice, called upon the mobile operators to work on their content strategy. “If AT&T is the only place where you can watch Game of Thrones, then it’s going to be very good for AT&T; if you can watch it anywhere, then it’s not so interesting.” He stressed on the fact that premium content, combined with some element of exclusivity will attract consumers to mobile operators.
Speaking during the Conversational Commerce keynote, Jeff Lawson, CEO of API company Twilio warned that companies stuck in a ‘non-software mentality’ risk being overrun by companies with more agile approaches. I think we are heading into a period of Darwinian natural selection. Companies that adapt quickly to changing customer preferences are going to be those who survive. Every industry is going to become a software industry. The question is not whether you, as a company, ultimately build versus buy, it’s whether you build versus die.”
MWC 2017 also played the role of launch pad for several new gadgets, though the extent of innovation wasn’t that remarkable. Blackberry fans had a chance to rejoice as TCL Communication unveiled a new BlackBerry smartphone, the BlackBerry KEYone. “Impressively designed to be distinctly different, the BlackBerry KEYone reimagines how we communicate by offering unmatched productivity and the world's most secure Android smartphone experience," said Nicolas Zibell, CEO for TCL Communication. "We're humbled to play such an important role in the future of BlackBerry smartphones, which have been so iconic in our industry, and we're eager to prove to the BlackBerry community that their excitement around this new BlackBerry smartphone is something they can be proud of as well."
Alex Thurber, SVP and GM of mobility solutions for BlackBerry said: "We have worked closely with TCL to build security and the BlackBerry experience into every layer of KEYone, so the BlackBerry DNA remains very much in place. We couldn't be more excited to help bring it to market and introduce it to BlackBerry fans."
The classic Nokia 3310 made a return in the form of a more modern variant, through HMD. HMD Global further unveiled three new smartphones –Nokia 6, Nokia 5, and Nokia 3. The new range of Nokia smartphones all run Android Nougat and offer a secure and up to date experience and will all feature Google Assistant.
Many other handsets were announced over the course of the show, including the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, Huawei P10 and LG G6. Samsung and Lenovo launched new tablets as well. However, smartphone innovation once again failed to amaze this year.
40 game-changing products, services, devices, apps and technologies were awarded Global Mobile Awards. Asiacell, Deutsche Telekom, Turkcell, Vodafone and Zain are the winners of the GSMA’s “Outstanding Contribution to the Mobile Industry Award” for 2017. The joint honourees were recognised for their work in supporting millions of Syrian refugees who have been displaced by the conflict in their home country. Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman, GSMA and founder and chairman, Bharti Enterprises said: “Humanitarian crises are only increasing in their complexity and consequence, and as a global community, we must come together to address suffering whether from natural or human cause and this must be a dedicated and united effort. The collective response of the five organisations recognised today tells a remarkable story of the difference that our industry can make when the world is faced with an overwhelming disaster.”
4YFN brought together start-ups, investors and interested business owners for learning and networking opportunities, with the aim of giving them the much needed exposure.
Leading broadcast, film, TV, video, digital music, mobile games and brands were featured in the MMIX, which explored the exploding global demand for multi-screen media and entertainment in the market today.
During the MWC, GSMA issued a new report titled, ‘Messaging as a Platform – The Operator Opportunity,’ outlining how operators can play a central role in the future of Messaging as a Platform (MaaP). “Through partnerships and industry collaboration, operators can play a central role in delivering a unified, consistent and engaging user experience that can be scaled to create a global community,” said Alex Sinclair, chief technology officer, GSMA.
It is calculated that mobile technologies and services accounted for 4.4 per cent of global GDP in 2016, equivalent to around $3.3 trillion of economic value. This is forecast to increase to more than $4.2 trillion by 2020, or 4.9 per cent of projected global GDP, according to latest GSMA reports. The GSMA further forecasts that commercial 5G networks will begin to be widely deployed at the start of the next decade and, by 2025, will provide coverage to a third of the world’s population. 5G connections are forecast to reach 1.1 billion by 2025, accounting for approximately one in eight mobile connections worldwide by this time.