Finally, 5G goes ‘live’ at Barcelona
Soon, your smartphone will be 5G – and foldable. But the Mobile World Congress at Barcelona is no longer just about phones. Rebranded #MWC19, it offers a first glimpse of tomorrow’s Internet of Things – including a connected, autonomous mobility ecosystem.
This is the year 5G is going ‘live’, revolutionising a wide range of industries, including automotive. No wonder 5G is the main theme at #MWC19. But what does it stand for again?
5G is short for ‘fifth-generation wireless technology’. While 3G made it possible to browse web pages on mobile phones, even better 4G technology inaugurated the era of the ‘smartphone’. And 5G will be up to 100 times faster still, with three main effects: it will be able to support a lot more devices, transmit a lot more data and do so a lot more reliably.
In practical terms, the advent of 5G will well and truly kick off the era of the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT), in which all sorts of devices (phones of course, but also household appliances, cars and even entire ‘smart cities’) are connected to the internet, enabling remote monitoring and management. Automotive applications include advanced telematics and – crucially – entirely autonomous vehicles.
So far, 5G has been theory. But this is the year in which it is being rolled out across large areas, to start with in the U.S., Asia and Australia. There is still a way to go before 5G becomes a part of everyday life, though: cost still has to go down, and there are still standardisation issues.
But product launches and strategic announcements at this year’s MWC will provide insight into who is doing what – offering a first glimpse of the shape of things to come.
Here’s an overview of what’s been happening at #MWC19 on Monday:
- Chinese telecoms giant Huawei unveiled its Mate X, a foldable smartphone. A few days ago, Samsung revealed its Galaxy Fold, also a flexible-screen device. Both devices are 5G-compatible and will be on eye-catching display at #MWC19. The Mate X is priced at €2299, the price tag for the Galaxy Fold has not yet been revealed.
- Xiaomi, another Chinese smartphone manufacturer, announced the Mi Mix 3 5G, as the name indicates also 5G-ready. The phone will launch in May. It has the most affordable 5G price tag yet: €599.
- Sony relaunched its smartphone range with the Xperia 1, a superslim device featuring the world’s first 4K OLED screen, in a 21:9 ‘CinemaWide’ display (excellent for gaming); and triple camera with the world’s first Eye AF tracking software for smartphones.
- Nokia – remember them? – announced a range of new phones, including the Nokia 9 PureView, with 5 rear cameras.
- Microsoft showed off its HoloLens mixed-reality headset, aimed at business users.
- Swedish network solutions specialist Enea presented a range of cutting-edge products, including Video Traffic Management, which predicts congestion via machine learning and can reduce it by 20%.
Apart from the widening gap between the U.S. and Europe on the security risk posed by Huawei – Europeans are generally less worried about the company’s close links to China’s military – the main theme at #WMC19 is 5G itself, which is making the transition from theory to practice at Barcelona this year.
However, many experts predict it will still be years before consumers, or corporate customers, will start experiencing the first benefits from the advanced network technology: transmission speeds can only be as fast as the infrastructure permits. And market research indicates that just 45% of telecoms operators will have rolled out a commercial 5G network by 2025.
Why? Perhaps because 5G is still a technology searching for a ‘killer app’, one that captures the imagination of customers – private and corporate – worldwide. Because of that, some manufacturers are not in a hurry: Apple, for instance, has announced that it will not be launching a 5G-ready device this year.
Stay tuned for more #MWC19 news tomorrow.