MWC 2018 heralds the era of 'intelligent connectivity'

The Director General of the GSMA has said he believes two themes – 5G and Artificial Intelligence - would define the “most ambitious and exciting MWC yet” and help usher in an era of “intelligent connectivity.”

Speaking in a keynote at the event, Mats Granryd cited recent deployments at the 2018 Winter Olympics and the accelerated schedule for commercial rollouts as evidence of the shift.

He said that by 2025, there would be 1.2 billion connections and 5G networks would cover 40 percent of the world’s population, helping power new technologies such as augmented and virtual realities.

Intelligent Connectivity Era

But it is AI which will benefit the most from 5G, he argued, adding that the concept has been around for decades but it is only the advances in machine learning and adoption of smartphones that have made it a reality. Superfast 5G connectivity, he said, was the final piece of the jigsaw.

“To be truly life changing, AI needs hyper-connectivity with ultra-high speed and ultra-low latency,” he said. “We will move into an area when we connect everything and everyone intelligently. “Voice will replace the screens that dominate our lives today.”

The GSMA has always promoted the mobile industry as a positive force for society and Granryd stated his belief that mobile networks can help tackle inequalities, the environment and disasters. Digital wallets, mobile health applications and real time translation for displaced refugees were three examples he cited.

“The theme of this event is creating a better future,” he explained. “Mobile now connects more than 5 billion people or two thirds of the world’s population. By 2025 that number will be near 6 billion. Our industry is spurring innovation and developing exciting new opportunities. I feel we have an obligation to use our mobile networks to help the UN achieve their sustainable development goals.”

Of course, the other ambition of the GSMA is to promote its members’ interests and the issue of favourable regulation is never too far away.

Granryd argued that the sector contributes $3.6 trillion to the global economy and creates $500 in public funding – excluding fees paid in spectrum auctions. He called for harmonised spectrum releases, a more open approach towards consolidation and privacy and data protection rules.

“This vision of intelligent connectivity requires a friendly regulatory environment. Operators will invest $500 billion by 2020 and these are only possible if we have a regulatory framework fit for the digital age.”

“All these [factors] are crucial for a vibrant digital economy.”

MWC (Mobile World Congress) is the world's largest exhibition for the mobile industry, stuffed full of the newest phones, tablets, wearables and more. TechRadar is reporting live from Barcelona all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated MWC 2018 hub to see all the new releases, along with TechRadar's world-class analysis and buying advice about your next phone.   

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.