Mobile World Congress is fast approaching and the whole mobile & telecoms sector is bracing itself once more for the extravaganza in Barcelona. The GSMA is previewing the event as an opportunity to explore the “New Mobile Horizon”, but what big trends will emerge from the show? Here’s a quick list of key things to look out for at MWC 2013.
4G, 4G, 4G, 4G and more 4G
Although not mentioned explicitly in the conference schedule, all things 4G will obviously dominate the show this year. 4G networks are now up and running in all of the major regions (although the UK’s main spectrum auction is still pending of course) and there will a raft of announcements as handset vendors launch new products and operators roll out new services.
Despite these roll outs big challenges remain for 4G as everyone in the supply chain comes to terms with the new technical challenges presented by the new networks – both in the handsets and at the network level.
For handsets, 4G has had huge repercussions for the RF front end as existing components and technologies struggle to cope with the new demands of ‘peakier’ LTE signals. As a result we are seeing a significant wave of innovation. Companies like Nujira are leading this wave as RF component vendors strive to achieve higher performance and better efficiencies in the RF front end of 4G smartphones.
So away from the swish handset launches we expect to see some major developments in power amplifiers, antennas and modulators.
Small cells, WiFi and HetNets
On the network side of the road, 4G has hastened the development of new network architectures and strategies. MWC this year is likely to be buzzing with talk of new small cell deployments as operators look to maximise 4G performance as well as broader acceptance of HetNets as the future of mobile network architecture.
We also expect to see more sophisticated WiFi strategies. While WiFi was still being talked of in a simple offload capacity last year, companies like Devicescape are pioneering new approaches to integrate WiFi more intelligently as part of the mobile network.
The organisers are putting a big push behind NFC this year, and the BBC also highlighted the technology in its 2013 preview. However, with many continuing to focus on mobile payments, real world deployments and positive news have been sparse.
But we could see a big shift in the market at MWC this year as NFC shifts focus to ticketing. For example Samsung is pushing CIPURSE, an open standard for NFC ticketing that would mean you could use your contactless travel card across the world. We have discussed this move in more detail elsewhere on the blog.
One of the most interesting announcements at CES this year was Ubuntu adapting its OS to run on mobiles. After the somewhat muted response to the release of iOS 6 last year there is definitely a renewed focus on the ‘mobile experience’. One of the keynotes to watch at MWC is Mozilla’s CEO, Gary Kovacs, following the hotly anticipated launch of Firefox OS.
Mobile Data, M2M and connected cities
The final trend to watch is the progress of technologies and concepts designed to create more seamless mobile services – eventually pointing towards the much-discussed “connected city”.
Mobile data and M2M are not exactly new concepts but we are now approaching critical mass in a number of areas: brands are realising the enormous marketing potential of mobile data and that is recognised with a number of talks and panels on the schedule at MWC; mHealth is also rapidly developing and gaining more mainstream acceptance, attracting major R&D effort and quickly becoming the leading example of the power of M2M communications.