Mobile World Congress, the world's annual gathering for the mobile industry, was held in Barcelona this year from 27 February to 2 March. As the most anticipated event of the year for the industry, thousands of people come to Spain's Mobile Capital to meet and greet industry experts, witness the latest mobile and technology announcements and trends in the sector, and to find out what the next year's technologies will be.
This year's MWC event saw plenty of exciting releases, including phones, tablets, and other smart devices. Huawei, LG, Sony, ZTE, Nokia and even BlackBerry announced new smartphones at the event. Huawei unveiled an impressive new smartphone, the Huawei P10 and the larger P10 Plus, featuring dual Leica rear camera lenses, a longer-lasting battery and fingerprint sensor system.
Finnish startup HMD Global relaunched one of Nokia's most popular devices at MWC - the 3310 - which was first launched to the mobile phone industry 17 years ago. Nokia's 3310 is considered an iconic handset due to its incredible popularity amongst customers in the early 00's when Nokia dominated the mobile phone market. Nokia also introduced a range three new Android smartphones: the Nokia 6, Nokia 5 and Nokia 3.
TCL Communication launched a new high-end BlackBerry device at MWC, the KEYone, which brings back the brand's signature physical keyboard and has a larger screen than previous models. Like Nokia, BlackBerry phones will be made under license by another manufacturer.
Samsung, which didn't unveil a new smartphone, announced a premium tablet at MWC, and two all-in-one PCs at the event. The Galaxy Tab S3 is powered by Android 7.0, and now comes with an S-pen for jotting notes and sketching on the screen. The company also announced a new keyboard for the Tab S3, available as an additional purchase. With Android 7.0 installed on the Tab S3, Samsung adopted Google's multi-window mode, and quick app switching, in lieu of the company's previous TouchWiz solution.
Vendors vowing to make comebacks
On day one of Mobile World Congress, Ericsson's newly appointed CEO, Borje Ekholm, vowed to restore the Swedish company's reputation - and declared that under his guidance the organization will be at the forefront of the evolution of 5G technologies. Ekholm was appointed as the new CEO in October 2016, but didn't officially become CEO until January 16. He replaced Hans Vesterberg, who had been Ericsson's CEO for the previous seven years.
At a press briefing, Ekholm pledged to turn around Ericsson's flailing fortunes and lead them out of one of the most tumultuous periods of its history. Ericsson has endured a difficult number of years - last year the Swedish telecommunications giant was forced to axe thousands of staff in both Sweden and Italy in a desperate effort to reduce costs.
In addition, Ericsson was rocked to the core by allegations from former executives that Ericsson had allegedly bribed a string of high profile politicians across different regions in an effort to secure major contracts in those countries. Former executive Liss-Olof Nenzell handed the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) documents relating to the alleged kickbacks.
In defense, Ekholm delivered a passionate address at MWC, declaring that Ericsson is ready to explore 'unchartered territory' in its bid to rollout 5G technologies. Ekholm disclosed that Ericsson was making 'significant headway' and was adamant that the firm would be at the forefront of the 5G evolution.
Ekholm said: "Of course 5G has been a buzzword and nothing has really happened, right? But what you are seeing now is the momentum we are building. We are entering into a whole new market, in a way (it's) uncharted territory. We are connecting new things, this will require us to enter into new partnerships and new collaborations and new business models basically."
The CEO said there was 'real momentum' starting to build towards 5G and added that organizations ranging from network companies, to mobile phone makers, to semiconductor businesses are united in their efforts to make 5G a reality - the future of mobile internet was a key theme and prominent feature of discussions all week at MWC 2017.
Ekholm also declared that Ericsson's future will require grit and grace in an attempt to transform itself back into a global leader. Ekholm concluded by saying, "At Ericsson we're focused on setting our future direction - but the process will take a lot of grit, grace and huge amount of team work."
Another leading vendor at MWC, Chinese smartphone vendor Huawei, caused a stir at the event when it unveiled its latest smartphone with a better camera in an attempt to exploit the gap in the market left by Samsung's withdrawal of its flagship device due to problems with the battery.
Samsung was forced to recall all of its flagship Galaxy Note 7 units last October after reports emerged that the devices were catching fire and in some cases even self-combusting. The South Korean conglomerate is subsequently delaying the launch of its new flagship smartphone until later this year. Apple traditionally avoids Mobile World Congress, so that left Huawei - the world's third largest smartphone maker - with a brilliant opportunity to seize the spotlight at the show.
Huawei launched the P10 and the larger P10 Plus which feature dual Leica rear camera lenses, a longer-lasting battery and fingerprint sensor system. "The P10 and the P10 Plus will make every shot a cover shot," said Richard Yu, chief executive of Huawei's consumer business group, at a presentation.
The company managed to gain ground on Samsung and Apple in terms of market share last year, increasing its share of the smartphone sector to 8.9 percent in 2016 from 7.3 percent a year earlier, according to the Gartner consultancy group. Samsung saw its market share shrink over the same period by two full percentage points to 20.5 percent and Apple contracted to 14.4 percent from 15.9 percent.
The P10 will sell for 649 euros ($685), the P10+ will cost 799 euros. Huawei also unveiled a 'smartwatch' that contains a sportier look than the first device it introduced two years ago, targeting fitness users.
In other vendor news, Nokia delivered on its strategy to lead in 5G, IoT and cloud, tap new growth markets. On the eve of MWC, Nokia's launches of solutions covering 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT), software and cloud underscored the breadth and strength of a product portfolio bolstered by the acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent in 2016.
Nokia outlined how the rapid execution of its new strategy is delivering industry-leading innovation for communication service providers in network speed, agility and efficiency, while broadening the company's footprint in faster-growing areas including software and the utilities and transport markets.
"Nokia comes to Mobile World Congress this year with a bigger and fully end-to-end portfolio to sell, and with groundbreaking innovations to share," Nokia President and CEO Rajeev Suri said.
"All of this is underpinned by an organization squarely focused on the execution of our strategy to lead in high-performance networks with communication service providers, expand to new verticals, build a strong standalone software business and create new business and licensing opportunities in the consumer ecosystem," he added.
New products like 5G FIRST, announced at the company's press and analyst event, showed Nokia's innovation strength to deliver differentiated products that connect not only millions of users but interconnect billions of things to create what Nokia calls the 'global nervous system,' Suri added.
Nokia 5G FIRST comprises its radio access network (RAN) including Nokia AirScale massive MIMO Adaptive Antennas, packet core and mobile transport solutions as well as a full service offer using Intel architecture and the Intel 5G modem for initial deployments starting in 2017. With the introduction of 5G FIRST, operators will gain a first-to-market advantage based on early specifications. In addition, Nokia will use the lessons learned through real-world deployment to contribute to final 3GPP standardization of the technology.
While each operator has its own timeline for moving to 5G, some leading providers are eager to take advantage of the extremely high capacity and low latency connectivity it promises to deliver. To meet early-adopter demands, Nokia confirmed it will make its commercial 5G FIRST end-to-end solution available later this year.
Leveraging Nokia's end-to-end network capabilities, 5G FIRST also incorporates the multi-access Nokia Cloud Packet Core and the Nokia Shared Data Layer as part of a cloud-native core architecture to deliver the flexibility, massive scalability and performance operators need to rapidly and cost-effectively deliver 5G services.
A comprehensive array of mobile transport offerings from Nokia address the critical capacity, reliability and latency requirements of the 5G era. As a next step in a new technology collaboration with Intel, Nokia will leverage the Intel 5G modem for initial deployments of 5G FIRST to deliver ultra-broadband to the home using fixed wireless access as an alternative to existing fiber deployments.
To share insight on future innovations, Nokia also demonstrated a 5G wireless mmWave-based small cell deployment with self-backhauling capabilities. Using an innovative cloud-based mesh topology manager, it creates an in-band meshed network with self-organizing, self-healing and load-balancing capabilities.
What's more, SAP made a splash at MWC this year, demonstrating new technology to make life easier for drivers and rental car users through Internet of Things (IoT) in collaboration with Concur Technologies, Hertz and Nokia. A part of the SAP Leonardo portfolio, the SAP Vehicles Network solution creates an intelligent, automated experience - from car rental to parking and fueling location and payment, to integrated navigation and expense management for business travelers.
SAP also announced that Mojio, the connected vehicle platform and app provider for Deutsche Telekom and T-Mobile USA, has joined SAP Vehicles Network and will provide parking and fueling through its app in the United States and Europe. SAP Vehicles Network, built on SAP Cloud Platform, enables participating network companies to provide mobility services to drivers and passengers.
By standardizing the business processes, SAP Vehicles Network enables integration and collaboration to facilitate new revenue streams and business opportunities for network members. Through the network, member companies can offer secure, convenient services - independent of devices or vehicles - such as parking, fueling and location-based food services, tailored for the business traveler or the individual consumer.
Leading operators looking to the future
Leading Qatari mobile operator Ooredoo showcased next-generation solutions and services on its pavilion at MWC, demonstrating the incredible progress it has made in recent years. The company took visitors on a journey from the days of voice and text through to the super-connected era of 4.5G and 5G now made possible by Ooredoo's advanced Supernet technologies.
Using a special video demonstration of 5G-enabled robotics, Ooredoo showed the faster and smoother performance of Ooredoo 5G and the potential for Internet of Things applications, with the reduced latency and high-speed network enabling real-time communication between machines.
Joining next-generation and lifesaving technology together, Ooredoo also premiered its 'Ooredoo Rescue' concept. Using pioneering drone technology, Ooredoo aims to enable Coast Guards to respond faster and more accurately to emergencies by providing a live video feed of the situation remotely and deploying an emergency raft via the drone. The Ooredoo Rescue solution includes a host of stations on a series of made-to-order buoys that are anchored around the coast. Each buoy is equipped with cameras, powered by solar technologies that can monitor the seas in real time.
Ooredoo also presented a broad range of mobile health solutions, including "You Click, We Care", which brings advanced medical monitoring and interaction straight to the home. Patients with chronic diseases can receive full medical attention from professionals with just one click on a mobile device, while advanced monitoring and alerting algorithms enable doctors to intervene as required before an emergency situation.
In addition, Zain Group was recognized as the winner of the GSMA's "Outstanding Contribution to the Mobile Industry Award" for 2017. The award was presented to Zain Group and four other mobile operators Asiacell, Deutsche Telekom, Turkcell and Vodafone on 26 February 2017, the eve of Mobile World Congress, at the GSMA's annual Welcome Dinner at the Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona, in the presence of His Majesty, King Felipe VI of Spain.
Zain's recognition in this manner was based on the work the telco continues to undertake around the region to assist and improve the living conditions of the most vulnerable sectors of society, including those fleeing the crisis in Syria. In particular, GSMA applauded Zain's creation of several commercial packages in the Middle East intended to facilitate connectivity, which is much needed amongst refugees and internally displaced people.
Another major development at MWC was the announcement of MoU's (Memorandum of Understanding) between Huawei and Zain Saudi Arabia. The collaboration between the two organizations will see them partner on a number of new technologies and services in an attempt to further develop the operator's ICT offering to its customers. In addition to this, the collaboration will also help them contribute significantly to the Kingdom's digital transformation goals.
Present at the signing of the MoU's were Zain Saudi Arabia CEO, Peter Kaliaropoulos and CEO of Huawei Tech Investment Saudi Arabia, Mr. Ramadan Ding. Under the first MoU, both companies will explore new avenues of cooperation to accelerate the Kingdom's digital transformation - which is one of the key factors of the Saudi 2030 Vision - as they define a network evolution path to help Zain deliver advanced services across its network.
Zain Saudi Arabia and Huawei have also identified several revenue-generating services to be implemented in the Kingdom, those of which rely on Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities, like smart homes and utilities, connected cars, Huawei's MuchTV, Game RS and digital music services.
Another MoU will focus on Zain's B2B solutions and include developing a Fiber to the x (FTTX), Public Cloud domain and unified communication which will see launch of a business hotline and develop 15,000 SME in 2017.
Since the beginning of 2017, Zain Saudi Arabia and Huawei Tech Investment Saudi Arabia have jointly announced a number of partnerships, with the most recent being the launch of a commercial NFV-based IMS network, which makes Zain the first operator in the world to move legacy networks onto clouds and simplify the network structure, resulting in a significant enhancement to the telecom provider's ability to cope with the future demand and network requirements.
Wrapping up on a positive note
On the third day of MWC, and in line with the event, Lebanese Minister of Telecommunications, Hi Excellency Jammal Jarrah, held a welcoming gathering with the Lebanese ICT Diaspora to provide updates about the Lebanese Telecom sector in a Q&A environment.
Five members in the panel were present with his Excellency, including Imad Kreidieh, head of the state-owned telecommunications company Ogero; Bassel Ayoubi, general director of investment and maintenance at the Ministry of Telecommunication; Naji Andraous, general director of installation and equipment; Naji Abboud, head of Owner Supervisory Board and the Minister's consultant Nabil Yamout. The conference was moderated by our very own Toni Eid, Editor-in-Chief of Telecom Review.
In his speech, the Minister of Telecommunication began by welcoming the Lebanese community present at Mobile World Congress, mentioning his astonishment with the Lebanese potential in the telecom sector and the diversification of the Lebanese skills in the region and abroad, knowing that most of the world's renowned companies comprise Lebanese people.
According to the Minister, the telecom sector is an essential pillar in the progress of any country, economically speaking. "It's part of the community's daily social and economical life. For this reason we have to enhance this sector as much as we can in order to keep pace with other nations and give the Lebanese community the best services," he said.