Mobile World Congress Americas Themes

The second MWC Americas will take place in Los Angeles on the 12th to 14th of September at the LA Convention Centre. We will be in LA for the next three years, at least and we are all really looking forward to working with the local community and making this a celebration of innovation in such a vibrant and diverse city.

The Conference

The Conference at MWC Americas will contain 5 keynotes, and 44 track sessions, all focused on four key themes;

Why did we choose these themes?

Los Angeles couldn’t be a more appropriate venue given the fact that the West Coast of the USA is most famous for the two industries of Movies and Tech. Perhaps I should say twin industries, given the growing relationship between the two industries. Obviously, this is exemplified by the $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner by AT&T, but the convergence is far deeper and more profound than just that example.

The mobile device has moved from being the third screen to becoming the first screen for viewing content, especially for younger generations, who view on demand (on their own), rather than via broadcast TV. Even the usually stable movie theatre attendance has seen dramatic shifts in recent years. The video explosion on mobile has seen exponential growth, all enabled by 4G networks, and larger high definition smartphones. The statistics on this are overwhelming;
• Internet video traffic will account for 80% of all internet traffic by 2021, according to Cisco..
• Over 500 million people watch video on facebook everyday, mostly on mobile networks and devices.
• Every second, a million minutes, or almost 17,000 hours of video content will cross the network by 2021, according to Cisco.

Look around: how common is it to see someone deeply engrossed in a video on their mobile device? Be it a TV show, a movie, user generated content, or news, mobile phones are not only the most personal device, it is the first screen when viewing content. Costs of production and the reach of mobile distribution (5.1 billion people around the world subscribe to mobile networks services), means mobile is fundamental to media, content and entertainment engagement.

So profound is this engagement medium, that operators themselves have switched from using devices, and specifically subsidy, to engage and lock in subscribers, to investing in content. AT&T being the obviously example, but there are many others.

The changes taking place in the content industry are part of a larger revolution in industry and society of course, namely the fourth industrial revolution. The pace of change continues to accelerate, politically, economically and socially. Technology, especially connectivity and artificial intelligence, play a pivotal role in all these areas. Causing disruption and reaction.

Mobile technology has been the single greatest enabler of this phenomenon, providing unprecedented global access to over five billion people and their data. This unrivalled distribution network, enables incredible growth opportunities, but it also lowers the barrier to entry and therefore creates a highly volatile and disruptive marketplace, where companies rise and fall at ever increasing speed.

The pace of change is highlighted by any number of examples; two that I often quote are the changing work environment, where a job for life is a distant memory for all but our parents and grandparents, and then, at a more macro level, the shortening lifespan of companies today. Figure 1 below illustrates this very clearly. The average lifespan of a company in Standard & Poor’s Index has shortened in the past 50 years, from 62 years in the 1950/60s to between 15 and 20 years today;
Figure 2

The point here, is that companies and professionals need to be extremely agile to remain relevant and competitive. This does not just mean keeping your finger on the pulse (by, for example, attending a highly informative conference), but ensuring that you have the systems and corporate culture in place to then implement the changes required, to not only survive, but flourish.

We have seen huge changes before in the previous three industrial revolutions (see figure 2 below), but it is the accelerating pace of change that is significantly different and creates massive challenges. Yes, the previous industrial revolutions caused huge disruption and change, the move from field to factory and urbanisation, being an obvious example. While profound socially, economically and politically, this was a more gradual process.
Figure 3

Individuals, companies and governments need to understand and manage this change, to prevent further economic, social and political unrest. If you think this is a grandiose statement, let me point out another example. The most common job in 35 of 50 states in the United States of America is truck driving, employing over three million people, but with the advent of autonomous vehicles, the future of this job is under threat. Clearly, this will cause social and political disruption. Managing the transition is national economic and political issue.
Figure 4

We should not just focus on the economic and social disruption the Fourth Industrial Revolution will cause. As with every other industrial revolution, the change is ultimately overwhelmingly positive, more jobs, better lifestyle, greater efficiency, higher GDP, etc. The short-term disruption does, however, need significant oversight, to ensure some groups are not left behind.