Announcing the MWC19 Conference Themes

MWC19 in Barcelona is a mere seven months away, and preparation is well underway. The website is about to launch along with this year’s brand, and the first two steps in our plans for Conference have been taken. The call for speakers went live earlier this month, and now we are announcing the key themes for MWC19.

The themes of each MWC enable us, and you, to focus your efforts and position the show, enabling attendees to understand the core value of the show. Every type of content at the show, from conference keynotes, track sessions, partner events, tours, seminars and exhibition stands will be tagged with one or more of these themes. Enabling the attendee to navigate their way through what is a huge and diverse show, ensuring they get the depth and value they need to justify their attendance.

To provide some overarching context, I wanted to provide a broad view of the current status of the mobile industry. The industry continues to make strong progress with 5G. Most of the 5G pioneers are planning their commercial launches for 2018 and 2019, including South Korea, the US and the UAE. GSMA Intelligence estimates that by 2025, there will be 1.2 billion 5G connections worldwide, with 5G networks covering approximately 40 per cent of the global population by that time.

Artificial intelligence is another exciting new area of innovation, fuelled by the availability of high-speed connectivity, the mass-market adoption of smartphones and the power of machine learning. AI will deliver a new category of products and services, many of which will not be tied to existing devices.

We’re already seeing AI in use for virtual agents and chatbots across a number of channels including the web, in apps or on messaging platforms, such as Rich Communications Services (RCS). Of course, we are already familiar with AI-based virtual assistants, such as Amazon Echo or Google Home, to name just two.

But the impact of AI goes beyond us as individuals, it is transforming industries. Self-driving cars are a great example, where AI will help to process the enormous quantities of data gathered, making critical decisions in a fraction of a second. AI also supports business transformation across many dimensions, including devices, networks and services.

Introducing Intelligent Connectivity

To be truly life-changing, though, artificial intelligence requires hyper-connectivity, offering ultra-high speed and ultra-low latency. These two megatrends, combined, are ushering in a new era for our industry – an era of ‘intelligent connectivity’. This era will be defined by highly contextualised and personalised experiences, delivered as and when you want them.

Personal assistants of the future will understand our every need and will have a deep understanding of our environment and surroundings. They will be able to better understand the context of our requests, and provide us with information and services that greatly enhance our lives. Conversation-driven AI assistants could replace the screens that dominate our lives today, and looking ahead to the future, conversational technology will continue to improve, helping to bring robots into the mainstream, working hand-in-hand with our virtual assistants.

For industry, billions of inexpensive connected sensors and cameras will provide streams of real-time data, providing information on practically aspect of an operation. Using massive processing power and storage, this data can be processed and acted upon in real time to drive improvements in areas such as industrial automation systems, factory operations, security systems, agriculture, traffic and transportation, to name a few.

Of course, to unleash the full power of intelligent connectivity we need a regulatory environment that is fit for the digital age, one that fosters innovation and spurs investment. This will include the timely release of harmonised spectrum with the right conditions, but perhaps more importantly, the application of same regulation for equivalent digital services and the ability to harmonise international privacy and data protection rules. Without these elements, we will not be able to fully leverage the capabilities of connectivity, big data and artificial intelligence, which are crucial to the development of a rich and vibrant digital economy.
The future of mobile is clear: it’s not just about connectivity, but intelligent connectivity and how this will impact individuals, society, industries and the world’s economy.

MWC19 Themes

MWC19 will break down intelligent connectivity into eight core themes. Some of which are familiar from previous years, this is very deliberate, others are more reflective of recent events and issues.

IC: Connectivity

5G is designed to create speeds, flexibility and agility to create the services and performance needed for use cases with far higher reliability requirements than are possible today.
The Connectivity theme at MWC19 aims to highlight the requirements for the entire solution stack required to take us into the 5G era, from implementation, to use cases, business models, spectrum and regulation, to the business and cultural challenges of working with new and diverse markets/industries.
Example Topics:
• 5G Business Case
• All IP
• Spectrum
• Network slicing
• Edge Intelligence
• Customer data
• Collaborative Intelligence


With a market projected to reach $70 billion by 2020, artificial intelligence is poised to have a transformative effect on consumers, enterprises, and governments around the world. While there are certainly obstacles to overcome, consumers believe that AI has the potential to assist in medical breakthroughs, democratize costly services, elevate poor customer service, and even free up an overburdened workforce, allowing humans to spend more time engaged in high-level thinking, creativity, and decision-making.
Separating hype from reality remains a challenge, as does understanding the full impact of the increasingly complex technology we are implementing.
This theme will explore the real potential of AI, how we must manage such a profound technological revolution and its impact on our professional and personal lives.
Example Topics:
• Ethics
• Use Cases
• Digital Marketing
• Sustainability
• Diversity
• Singularity
• Chatbots
• Regulation/Policy

IC: Industry 4.0

This theme will analyse the implementation and wider impact of the confluence of, IoT, cyber physical systems, cloud and cognitive computing/AI that constitutes Industry 4.0.
What is the opportunity and its challenges? What are the business models? How do the opportunities differ by vertical and solution? Equally, how are they similar and therefore scalable? What is the role of the operator, and each element of the value chain?
Example Topics:
• IoT
• Digital Transformation
• Agility
• Future of work
• Education
• AI
• Digital IQ
• Collaborative Intelligence
• Security
• Customer Experience

IC: Immersive Content

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;
• Netflix was responsible for 35% of all fixed line internet traffic in North America in 2017, according to Sandvine’s 2016 Global Internet Phenomena Report
• 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.
As the appetite and expectation for AR, VR and other forms of richer immersive content grows, the impact on networks, event venues and overall consumer engagement will grow, presenting huge challenges to everyone involved in these twin industries. Not least among these challenges, is how we make revenue and profit margin, have a closer relationship with the growth in consumption and use of network capacity?
Example Topics:
• 5G
• Distribution
• Business Models
• Interactive
• Personal
• Entertainment
• Sports
• Gaming/Gamification

IC: Disruptive Innovation

Every topic on the agenda at MWC19 will include some level of disruptive innovation, be it the technology itself, or perhaps more importantly, the business model it will enable.
The speed of innovation and then its diffusion continues to accelerate, therefore companies need to be both incredibly vigilante, perhaps paranoid, and also have the agile corporate systems and culture to identify and then implement change, to ensure they survive and flourish.

IC: Digital Wellness

Digital touches every aspect of our lives, mostly through our smartphones and therefore mobile networks. As smartphones have become pervasive, their huge positive impact has also seen rising concern about the addictive nature of technology, as well as connections to mental health.
Technology is designed to enhance our lives, not take away from it, by becoming a distraction, to being present in and living our lives. The leading operating systems are addressing this potential technology backlash, with new features and APIs.
As well as social wellness, mobile technology has huge potential to provide much needed direct healthcare benefits. Apple’s Healthkit or Google DeepMind are examples of how tech ecosystem is focusing on digital healthcare. Coupled with huge interest in medical applications and hardware, this is a burgeoning and tremendously impactful sector.
Within the wellbeing industry, devices remain a major area of interest. Wearables (fitness trackers, smartwatches, smart clothing, and eyewear) has seen numerous players launch products, ranging from large corporations, down to start-ups on crowdfunding platforms. Even meditation has turned mobile, with Calm, Buddify and Headspace becoming popular.
On a related note, the broader application of connected technology for social good is once again a key topic. At Mobile World Congress 2016, our industry became the first to fully commit to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a collection of 17 goals covering a broad range of social and economic development issues. Leveraging the networks that we build and the services we deliver, the mobile industry is focused on connecting everyone and everything to a better future.
Two years on, we are increasing our impact across all 17 SDGs as a result of wider mobile reach and better networks. MWC19 will showcase the progress we have made in growing adoption of mobile-based tools and solutions that will drive the digitisation of systems, processes and interactions across a number of industries, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Sectors such as agriculture and healthcare are notable examples.
By contrast, not meeting the SDGs represents a significant business risk for the mobile industry and the private sector more generally. The economic cost of existing global burdens such as conflict, climate change and biodiversity and ecosystem damage already represent more than 20 per cent of global GDP and will only increase if no action is taken. Sustainability is both an economic opportunity and a moral imperative.
Example Topics:
• Health
• Well-being
• Digital Usage
• Digital nutrition
• Mental health
• Sustainability

IC: Digital Trust

Recent scandals have eroded trust in the digital ecosystem. Coupled with the growing introduction and interest in legislation around privacy and the ethics of data usage as we enter the AI era, we are at a pivotal juncture in the evolution of the Internet.
Industry must understand its growing responsibilities and work to create the right balance with consumers, governments and regulators.
Example Topics:
• Ethics
• Responsibility
• Transparency
• Society
• Identity
• Security
• Privacy
• Blockchain
• Regulation & Policy

IC: The Future

We take a longer 10 year plus view on the technologies that will shape our world. We look forward to your suggestions.