Mobile World Congress Shanghai has been growing steadily over the past five years, featuring 550 exhibitors and welcoming more than 75,000 attendees over the five days this year. I remember when the event just occupied one hall with a few dozen exhibitors. It now occupies five entire halls at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre in Shanghai’s modern Pudong area, becoming the event for Asia’s mobile industry to see and be seen at. Here are our key takeaways:
5G, 5G everywhere
No prizes for guessing the most hyped technology at Shanghai this year. With 5G licenses being issued in June to the three incumbent mobile operators, China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, and a fourth given to China Broadcasting Network (CBN). 5G’s potential is generating tremendous interest across the industry in China and indeed across the region. All the major operators showcased a variety of use cases: healthcare, multimedia collaboration, entertainment, logistics, Industry 4.0 and smart cities… and perhaps best of all, a piano-playing robot!
We were hard-pressed to find a single stand that didn’t have 5G branding somewhere – and we did try! A 5G summit on the Friday demonstrated live surgery, with jaw-dropping transmission quality. Industry experts discussed the different aspects of deployment from rollout to roaming, business model optimisation and more. While the US might have the highest speeds, Asia is all set to lead the world into the 5G future. Even hardened cynics like us, who are always looking to separate the real deal from the hype cycle, were impressed.
Chinese and global behemoths impress
I was super-impressed by the giant Chinese operators and equipment vendors showcasing their capabilities. There must have been more than 500 visitors thronging the China Unicom stand when I visited, creating a carnival-like atmosphere with multiple demonstrations, interactive sessions, lectures and presentations taking place simultaneously on every stand. Small wonder then that global vendors are vying to form partnerships and set up pilot projects with Chinese operators. China is the world’s largest IoT market with more than a billion connections according to the GSMA – excited to see what will come to market here in IoT – and other areas – by 2020!
The era of the silent roamer seems to be finished in Asia, with roaming specialist, BICS, reporting that roaming traffic in Asia increased by 245% in 2018, driven by an affluent middle class and increased outbound tourism. Add to this the millions of connected devices that are operating in the region, and the conditions are perfect to give Asia’s millions of roamers the solutions they need to keep posting those stories and images on their favourite social channels. Plenty of conversations around international roaming and connectivity and roaming, especially for MVNOs, who…
MVNOs come of age
MVNOs represent more than 220 million mobile connections around the world, and with an annual predicted compound growth rate of more than 10%, the APAC MVNO market was worth a staggering US$ 8 billion in 2017. Since liberalisation, China alone has seen more than 50 MVNOs emerge, contending with one another to offer their subscribers value-added and differentiated services.
Was it just us or were there no major device launches at Shanghai?
Chinese smartphone manufacturer Oppo demonstrated its ‘under-screen camera’ as well as some rather cool ‘MeshTalk’ technology, which allows phones to transmit texts, voice messages and voice calls within 3 km without cellular networks, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. (Incidentally, Oppo has been undertaking some really prominent marketing activity and is adopting a really high-profile stance at the cricket World Cup that’s currently taking place in the UK.) But apart from Oppo, no major high-impact product launches or unveils – unlike the folding smartphone from Huawei that made its debut at MWC Barcelona earlier this year.
WeChat, shared bicycles and Maglev
At Isoline, we pride ourselves just a little bit on being tech-savvy and well informed, and yet some of the technology that is in use on the streets of Shanghai just blew us away.
For example, mobile wallets: China is miles ahead of anyone in terms of the adoption of mobile wallets and other sharing technologies. We gaped at fruit vendors on the street coolly accepting payments from passers-by via QR codes that trigger mobile payments via the WeChat app, which reportedly has more than a billion daily active users. Pedestrians scan QR codes via WeChat to unlock shared bicycles that they can pick from anywhere or park anywhere. And the Maglev – which does the 19-mile journey from downtown Shanghai to Pudong airport in 7 minutes!
And that was it. As always, we came away inspired, impressed and a little in awe of what lies around the corner for mobile industry participants and 5G. Did you read our roundup blog from MWC Barcelona 2019? If not, you can read it here.