Mobile World Congress review – from an IOT and Disruption perspective


Here is my review of the Mobile World Congress. This year, for the first time, I was invited to attend the GSMA Ministerial programme as part of my work in being the co-author for Digital world in 2030 report to be released in the European parliament next week

This blog is a personal perspective (i.e. related to the above report – but my own views).

It tracks disruptive trends and I present a perspective / viewpoint on the industry.  It is biased towards IOT – which is also a personal focus – especially due to my teaching for  ”Big data analytics and algorithms for cities” at the City sciences program for the Technical University of Madrid

We now live in a mobile first world. I was not carrying a laptop and this single image (Android with Intel inside) – shows us that we are indeed in a Mobile first world









The ‘Mobile first world’ also explains the sheer size of MWC(85,000 attendees – a 20% jump from the previous year) –  45 restaurants – two  heliports – 1,700 exhibitors – eight exhibition halls – 240,000 square meters (2.6 million square feet)

If you are not a part of it – you are missing out!

So, here are my perspectives ..


Firstly, here is my overall perspective, which I also discussed in my keynote at the Swiss mobile association in Zurich (slides) (smama)

  • The Mobile data industry as it stands today, is about fifteen years old.
  • It is fast growing but mature. We now have a two horse race for devices (considering Samsung owns about 70% of the Android market).
  • In innovation terms, innovation shifts from building networks to creating light bulbs. When compared to electric networks – in the early stages – there was a period in which networking technologies competed (AC/DC – Edison/Tesla) etc. Once that was decided, innovation shifts to creating light bulbs). We are in a similar phase.
  • So, innovation shifts along three dimensions: Horizontal (apps), Vertical (cross stack – ex IOT) and network.
  • Why is network the third dimension of innovation? Unlike electric and power networks which have a 50/60 year cycle – Telco networks have a 7 year cycle (from standardization to spectrum to devices). That means the rate of Telco innovation is also comparatively faster and every network innovation leads to a knock on effect for secondary innovation (ex devices). Hence, 5G is important What will 5G look like and how 5G will shape the technological landscape of countries for the next decade
  • Since 5G is widely expected to be deployed around 2020 – the question then is: How will the market play out between now and 2020? There are some key indicators already:  iBeacon  could be a de-facto standard since it’s an ‘open enough’ standard. (I.e. iPhone and Android devices can both use it). Many of the use cases for mobile couponing etc promoted by NFC – could well be deployed with iBeacon. More interestingly, iBeacon could motivate retailers to open up their WiFi networks and allow others to use their WiFi (in return for instore coupons)
  • Similarly, Hotspot 2.0 would allow us to seamlessly navigate between cellular and wifi networks.
  • This means – by 2020 – we could live in a world with primarily localized connectivity and 5G would then make that connectivity pervasive (like ‘air’)
  • In this world, Operators would have a much better visibility of their customers(through say Hotspot 2.0) and would focus on being much more customer centric by truly leveraging their data (Big Data, IoT etc)
  • To quote John F Kennedy, a rising tide will lift all boats and thus, we have an optimistic view of the industry
  • Thus, Hotspot 2.0, Low energy Bluetooth (on which iBeacon is based) will be interesting. It will be also interesting to see how Zigbee fares in future in context of Bluetooth (and the jury is definitely out on Zigbee  as is on NFC (Apple’s ibeacon mobile payment system is the death knell of NFC). NFC and Zigbee have taken too long to gain critical mass – and normally when that happens – something else takes over
  • More interesting from a connectivity standpoint is 900Mhz wifi also called 80211ah standard. At MWC 900MhzWi-Fi makes a debut which could provide wi-fi with dedicated bands for ultra-reliable, always-on machine-to-machine connections.

Why the focus on IOT ..

2014 was clearly the year of IOT. IOT is not M2M (machine to machine). M2M is a telecoms term which implies that there is a radio (cellular) at both ends of the communication. On the other hand, IOT means simply connecting to the Internet.

The two are not the same!

From an IOT perspective, we can see connectivity in three ways:

a)      Things connected to the cellular network directly and communicating mainly via cellular (machine to machine)

b)      Things connected to Internet, speaking to each other  in an autonomous, discoverable, peer to peer mode (ubiquitous computing)

c)       Things connected to the mobile phone and then to the Internet

(a) is too expensive for mass market.  (b) is too futuristic. (c) is happening now .. and is my main focus here


MWC is all about devices!

  • LG, Samsung, and Sony dominate ex Sony’s Xperia Z2
  • In contrast, devices from Huawei and ZTE did not seem to be impressive. It will be interesting to see if they are successful going forward as device vendors or will continue to remain infrastructure vendors
  • Both Nokia and Blackberry (former leaders) remain uncertain with Nokia adopting Android.
  • New devices like Yotaphone 2 (screen on one side – e-reader on the other side) provide new interfaces
  • Some vendors like Kyocera introduce some quirky concepts
  • Both Sailfish (Jolla) and Ubuntu had a presence – but too early to say how these devices will fare in the future
  • There were devices and then there was Samsung Galaxy S5! Apart from the usual (5.1 inch screen, 16 megapixels camera etc), we also have for the first time a fingerprint scanner and support for 128-GB memory card.
  • The Galaxys5 also allows you to track your heartbeat. In conjunction with the Samsung Gear Fit , we have the makings of a new class of IOT device targeting healthcare


Emerging market devices

Devices targeting emerging markets and the cost conscious customer were prominent.

  • Nokia X(with  Android) strategy can be seen in this light since they support  up to 75% of apps available on Google Play. The Nokia X, X+ and XL will cost €89 (£73), €99 (£81) and €109 (£89), respectively.
  • The $25 firefox phone also comes in the same class and challenges the Nokia X
  • The facebook whatsapp strategy could also been in that light


Automotive was also a strong theme especially with Ford Sync 2 , Mercedes QNX-based system , Connected car solutions at MWC 2013 – m2m, CarConnectivity consortium , AT&T-GM


  • In an age of Snowden, Privacy has taken center stage.
    Mozilla announced the Future of Mobile Privacy to secure data easily.
  • Samsung announced the Knox security product targeted at small and medium enterprises. According to Computerweekly “The SME offering allows dual “personalities” to be set up on a smartphone to allow one handset to function as two separate devices, keeping the data from each, whether personal or corporate, contained and secure.
  • And then there was the Blackphone – dubbed the Snowden phone (Blackphone web site). The ‘privacy-first’ runs a customized version Android OS.
  • As mentioned before, the Galaxy 5 already has fingerprint recognition
  • My analysis: It’s interesting to see how many people actually buy secure phones for themselves (i.e. not popular phones like Galaxy 5 which have secure features built into them). In my experience, many people (with Geographical exceptions like Germany) – want privacy – but actually behave in the opposite manner (or do not pay for privacy)


I have already explained the significance of IOT above .. Here are some interesting observations






Comments/feedback welcome at ajit.jaokar at  Follow me @ajitjaokar

For a copy of the Digital world in 2030 report to be released in the European parliament next week – follow the link