The second Mobile World Congress Americas event wrapped in Los Angeles last week - relocating from San Francisco - in a move that highlights this year's focus on the intersection of media, entertainment, and mobile. With more than 22,000 attendees from 100 countries, 1,000 exhibitors, inspiring keynotes and dozens of partner and customer meetings, we peered into the future's possibilities, brought about by 5G.
From the official arrival of 5G in the home and for business, to new forms of content in entertainment, to life-changing advancements in healthcare and autonomous vehicles, it was clear that our industry is at the dawn of a new era — and a new wave of opportunities, collaboration and connectedness awaits us. Here are a few of my top takeaways from the show:
1) Pathway to 5G - Home and Business
Verizon officially announced that its fixed wireless access 5G product will debut in four US cities next month. Residents in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento will be the first to gain access to the residential broadband service called Verizon 5G Home. It also announced a solution with Cradlepoint for businesses as it expands out its 5G service into the enterprise.
Meredith Atwell Baker, President and CEO of CTIA shared in her keynote that by next year there will be 50 5G cities. Baker also cautioned that government policies will be critical for growth, scale and reaching even more communities.
The GSMA’s Director General Mats Granyrd shared that by 2025, there will be 1.3 billion 5G connections worldwide, with 258 million connections in the Americas. But US leadership is not a given. Sprint’s executive chairman Marcelo Claure discussed how the proposed $26 billion merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, which was recently stalled, will be critical to the US maintaining its leadership position. He argued the merger is the only way to create the financial strength, capacity and spectrum assets required to build the largest 5G network.
2) Intelligent Connectivity Will Transform Industries
A new study by the GSMA defined “intelligent connectivity” as the fusion of 5G, AI and IoT, and it’s expected to transform a wide number of industries. From media and entertainment to healthcare, energy and manufacturing, public transportation and logistics, the trio will open up a new world of possibilities. For example, 5G will enable high-resolution facial recognition and license plate scanning for police and also allow doctors to monitor an array of vitals, dynamically manage treatment plans, and conduct a consult or intervention over webcam.
Wurl CEO Sean Doherty and Vubiquity CEO Darcy Antonellis illustrated the bright potential available for mobile operators in the media sector for deeper content personalization. HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler shared that 5G will open new customer touchpoints for content providers as it breaks down barriers of access with faster and broader connectivity.
The GSMA predicts that augmented and virtual reality will become mainstream and will change the way we watch live sports and music concerts, while drones will deliver packages to our homes, and virtual personal assistants will manage our lives for us.
As businesses use these new technologies and get on the pathway to 5G, many will adopt new business paradigms that will allow them to increase revenues, decrease costs, and gain a competitive advantage through service differentiation.
3) 5G, IoT Shift Networking to the Edge
GSMA Intelligence also recently forecasted that 16 billion IoT connections across the industrial and consumer markets will be added by 2025, alongside ongoing 4G and 5G connections growth. This will also drive a shift to decentralized and edge computing, which will bring telcos and cloud players into a mix of competition and partnership in servicing the vast range of enterprise sectors, overhauling operations with advanced connectivity and analytics.
Networks will continue to extend well beyond brick-and-mortar, connecting everything from kiosks, sensors, streetlights, security cameras to digital signage, vehicles, and people. And whether it's for businesses or public organizations, networks are becoming more dispersed and dynamic and must become much more scalable, secure, reliable, automated, and elastic to take advantage of all that LTE Advanced and 5G technologies have to offer.
The introduction of 5G will usher in not just faster and more responsive networks. If you wind the clock back ten years or so to the advent of 4G, few predicted the impact it has had to fundamental ways that enterprises interact with their customers. Many have even adopted new paradigms that have transformed their business models to disrupt the competition. 5G will introduce a whole new palette of colors with which businesses can paint masterpieces of disruption.
Clearly, it’s time to get on the pathway.