Though the show has barely been open a day, we’re pretty confident that we can put our fingers on what the biggest trend to come out of MWC 2018 will be. Hands down, 5G connectivity has (and will) dominated the conversation in Barcelona since the official opening of the show on Monday. There’s mixed feelings around just how far away we are from a commercially ready 5G network for consumers, but that’s not stopping companies from talking about their services and even unveiling some of their 5G-ready products—which include smartphones and smart home technology.
Here’s a recap of some of the major announcements so far that have come out of Barcelona:
- Huawei made probably the biggest 5G splash thus far at MWC 2018 when CEO Richard Yu got on stage and unveiled the company’s first 5G chip. Dubbed the Balong 5G01, the chip reportedly is the first in the world to meet 3GPP’s 5G standards. Yu claimed that the chip was clocked reaching speeds of 2.3Gbps. In a briefing with reporters after the event, Yu said the company will have a 5G ready phone that utilizes its new chip ready by Q3 or Q4 of this year. By releasing its own 5G chipset (which follows up on the Huawei Kirin 970 launched at IFA last fall), it seems like Huawei is aiming to take on the likes of Qualcomm, but Huawei is planning on keeping these chips in-house, not allowing rival device makers to license the Balong 5G01 chip to use in their own devices.
- Samsung, hot off of its Galaxy S9 and S9+ unveiling, revealed a set of end-to-end 5G FWA (fixed-wireless access) solutions. The products, which range in use case for the 5G-powered home, city, and transportation, were all available for real-time demos at MWC 2018. Among the specific products on display were indoor and outdoor 5G home routers, 5G Radio Access Network, a next-generation core, and AI-powered 3D radio frequency planning tools and services. All of the products have been through field testing in multiple markets and have received FCC approval. Samsung said the products will be deployed in the first commercial 5G network later this year. All of this follows up on an announcement earlier this year that Samsung had teamed up with Verizon to power to provide the telecom company with products for the launch of its 5G network.
- During a briefing with the media at MWC 2018 on Monday, Ericsson President and CEO Börje Ekholm declared “5G open for business.” Ekholm said his company has been working to create a sound business case for 5G as well as position the network as a key technological enabler. He pointed to three fundamental areas that Ericsson believes service providers need to focus on to succeed: efficiency (i.e. bringing the cost-per-gigabyte down), the digital experience, and creating new revenue streams based on 5G and IoT use cases. To date, Ericsson has signed 38 memorandums of understanding with service providers for 5G trials. More importantly, Ekholm said, the company has several commercial contracts that it’s signed onto with deliveries expected by the end of 2018.
A lot of talk has happened around 5G connectivity for quite some time now, so it only makes sense that shows in which networking and the internet play a huge role would be dominated by the next-gen connectivity topic. Even in the days leading up to MWC 2018, 5G news was making the rounds. Intel, for example, made sure to remind everyone about its 5G-ready modem that was launched in November, and discussed other future 5G plans. Then there was Verizon’s secret 5G testing that occurred during the Super Bowl in Minneapolis earlier in the month, and AT&T’s announcement of the first three cities it will deploy its 5G network in. And, of course, Apple has been working behind the scenes to get itself in a position to be ready for the ultimate launch of the 5G network.
These early announcements and product unveils are encouraging, but mobile carriers say expectations should be tampered about how close we actually are to a consumer-ready version of a 5G mobile network. Verizon, which will launch 5G network service in 11 cities this year, thinks we’re a few years away from true mobile 5G service. And, if we can think back to the rollout of the 4G network, widespread adoption is likely even a little further away than that.
So, while 5G is dominating the conversation in Barcelona this year (just like it did last year), you can probably expect more of the same at MWC 2019, and MWC 2020.