Mobile World Congress, or MWC to its friends, is the largest annual mobile trade show. It’s where we’ve seen some of the biggest handset launches over the past few years and 2016 has been no different.
The event takes place this week between 20-25 February in Barcelona, Spain. It drews a crowd of around 100,000 attendees. This year some of the expected announcements didn’t appear and some of the highlights came from unexpected quarters.
But this year is different — while there were a handful of breakthrough smartphones announced before the conference — including Samsung’s new flagship Galaxy S7 and LG’s G5 — the focus on the showfloor took a different direction.
Companies demonstrated their platforms and solutions for the Internet of Things, virtual reality, and the fifth generation of cellular networking technologies, raising the bar with products like headsets, wearables, and IoT applications.
The event, initially named as GSM World Congress and later renamed as the 3GSM World Congress, is still often referred to as 3GSM or 3GSM World.
Up until 2006 the event took place in Cannes, France and was known as 3GSM World. In 2014 the GSMA announced that their annual summer event in China was being rebranded under the Mobile World Congress banner as “Mobile World Congress Shanghai”. The event took place 15–17 July 2015 in Shanghai, China, at the Shanghai New International Exhibition Centre.
MWC encourages renewable energy resources; several green initiatives have been launched at the event including solar device charging, reduced waste of printed materials, encouraged the reuse and recycling of materials at the venue, and utilised digital signage and electronic tools.
You’d think at least some people gathered in Barcelona for the MWC would be in a bad mood. After all, for the first time since Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone nearly a decade ago, smartphone sales growth has dipped beneath double digits, slowing to just 9.5 percent, according to IDC.
It’s expected to drop even more, according to Gartner’s predictions. Even mighty Apple faces new pressure amid projections iPhone sales could be flat or even drop for the first time.
But the “mobile” in the MWC isn’t just about phones anymore. The Internet is becoming an invisible fabric—like air—that enables all the services we’ve come to depend on—from communications to banking to driving in the right direction.
Nearly two-thirds of the global population—four billion people—still aren’t online. There’ll be much discussion this week about how to connect them—both because Internet access can offer a path out of poverty, and because it’s a great market opportunity.
A fifth-generation mobile network technology (5G) on the horizon will amp up that speed considerably, with very low latency. That 5G will be a necessity for virtual reality to be useful in professional settings.
If your heart surgeon is conducting a bypass on you using a virtual reality headset, you want to be 110% certain the Internet isn’t going to lag by even a second.
The new 5G technology, which won’t be widely available for several years, will also allow for more sensors, embedded in everything from watches to cars, to work together more seamlessly.