MWC 2021: Momentum in 5G is Picking Up Speed

The Mobile World Congress (MWC) got back to business last week by celebrating the return of its annual conference following a one-year pandemic-induced hiatus. The premiere mobile trade show in Barcelona is considered one of the world’s biggest connectivity events, bringing together industry leaders and innovators from across the mobile ecosystem. MWC is organised by the GSMA, which represents players in the broader mobile communications ecosystem including software and internet companies. This year’s key theme – Connected Impact – spotlighted evolutions unfolding in AI, Internet of Things (IoT), and 5G.

Accelerating innovation

It has been a rollercoaster year for tech players across the spectrum as they confront unprecedented global challenges and opportunities brought on by the Covid-19 crisis. While the MWC has always focused on reshaping the future digital landscape, this year’s event highlighted the rapid acceleration to deliver sustainable next-generation technologies. For the industry, these solutions are not only for the benefit of users who expect the full digital experience wherever they go, but also for businesses to capitalise on a potential multi-trillion dollar industry that 5G could unlock. The consensus, of course, being the potential for 5G to enable many of tomorrow’s most innovative technologies.

Connectivity of tomorrow

The proliferation of 5G and its far-reaching impact was a defining topic at MWC 2021, with analysts predicting that 5G will start to live up to its hype in 2021. The industry is now flexing its capabilities as mobile operators expand their 5G network footprint, with significant growth forecasted for the 5G device market. Since the industry last met in Barcelona in 2019, the number of 5G networks increased from three in South Korea, to 165 networks in over 65 countries worldwide. Momentum is growing, and as the pandemic reinforces the global need for connectivity, expectations are high around how the mobile ecosystem will transform our lives. According to the GSMA, the telecom industry will invest some $900 billion between now and 2025 – and 80% of that will be in 5G. Its potential to unlock new business and drive growth is proving to be a tantalising prospect for all.

5G at the edge

The pandemic has accelerated trends that the industry had long been anticipating. As Verizon CEO, Hans Vestberg, puts it: “The world has learned first-hand that 5G isn’t simply a next ‘G’, it is a transformative technology. 5G is the innovation that makes other innovations possible… the power of 5G has gotten real.” According to Verizon, multi-access edge computing (MEC) – which brings technology resources closer to the end user – combined with the high bandwidth and low latency of 5G will transform industries. One use case spotlights autonomous mobile robotics that can improve efficiencies in mining, manufacturing, transportation, warehouses, and more. AI delivered over 5G will make it possible for robots to connect with other robots and devices, with huge possibilities to revolutionise business models.

Future of 5G mobility

The latest global deployments of cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) and 5G technologies were also highlighted at MWC, with the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA) forecasting major advancements over the next two to three years. 5G-V2X technology, which will enable real-time connection between vehicles and their surroundings, has the potential to transform the global automotive world, impacting everything from road safety to traffic efficiency. While Europe is preparing to introduce 5G-powered vehicles to its roads this year, China is leading the way in deployments with C-V2X expected to be included in around half of new cars nationwide by 2025. That same year, it’s estimated that 470 million connected vehicles will be on highways around the world, opening up a surplus of opportunities for MNOs, automotive OEMS, cloud providers and other stakeholders. By 2035, 5G is expected to enable over $2.4 trillion in economic output across the broader automotive sector – almost 20% of the projected global impact of 5G.

Technology spotlight

MWC is well known as the event for product launches and industry updates. Qualcomm created a buzz by announcing a faster version of its upgraded Snapdragon 888 Plus mobile processor that will power upcoming flagship Android smartphones – reportedly delivering a 20 per cent increase in performance and a computing capacity of 32 trillion operations per second. Elon Musk also gave a virtual keynote to discuss plans for SpaceX’s satellite internet network, Starlink, to beam broadband internet across most of the planet – aiming to supply coverage to roughly half of the world’s population without access to the internet. “There’s a need for connectivity in places that don’t have it and where it’s limited or expensive. You can think of Starlink as filling in the gaps between 5G and fibre to reach the most difficult 3-5%,” he explained.

This year’s return of MWC was welcomed industry-wide, spotlighting how far we have come in delivering intelligent connectivity. Through faster speeds and stronger connections, 5G has become a catalyst for next generation IoT services that are transforming industries. As a leader in global connected software solutions, Cubic Telecom is driving market innovation and accelerating digital strategies across this evolving ecosystem.

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