MWC22 – what not to miss!

Following on from last year’s trimmed-down version of MWC, the 2022 edition sees the show return closer to its full scale with 1,500 exhibitors from across the globe and a four day-long conference programme comprising 1,000 speakers.

With so much to see, it can be difficult to work out where to start. Here Mobile World Daily’s Chris Donkin assesses some of the top sights, themes and things to do during your time in the Fira Gran Via.

Witness the rise of the machines

Connected industrial machinery and robotics have provided some of the most eye catching demonstrations at the exhibition in recent years and 2022 looks to be no exception, with a dedicated area on innovations in vertical segments making its debut.

The new Industry City zone is set to provide a platform to showcase and discuss some of the most advanced connected offerings in sectors including manufacturing, fintech and smart mobility.

Here, and across the exhibition more widely, you can discover the rapid progress being made in creating truly cutting-edge applications for standalone 5G, including how artificial intelligence and connected machinery combine for world-changing innovation.

While early 5G deployments were largely focused on improving consumer services, commentators have long expected advanced networks to cater more for enterprise utilising VR, AR and artificial intelligence and this will certainly be evident at MWC22.

Expect to see enthralling and thought provoking demos from some of the world’s most innovative companies. Eye-catching showcases include the SK Telecom stand, which is expected to feature a robotic arm VR simulation.

Get meta about the software world

What is the metaverse: The future of entertainment, social interactions and work or unwarranted hype? It’s going to be hugely difficult to avoid talk of the metaverse at this year’s MWC, and more generally in technology circles in 2022, and the sheer mention of the topic is sure to spark some very lively debate.

It will be fascinating to hear diverging views and visions on the whole concept and see how companies position their roles in this new world. Witness how advocates passionately argue their ideas and discuss the potential of the virtual plane, and likewise how cynics dismiss its viability and usefulness.

This could be one of the themes at MWC which causes the greatest diversity of opinions and, as a result, will likely become a very entertaining part of the event.

On top of the discussion on how anyone will make money from the metaverse, there are also ethical and accessibility questions surrounding it. This is sure to be a topic to watch.

Elsewhere MWC will tackle the equally divisive topic of NFTs.

The digital tokens are causing a lot of controversy, both in terms of if they are a short-lived trend and their environmental impact. However they are also raising a lot of cash at auctions and sales and there’s a huge amount of demand for the most sought after examples. Are they an investment for the future or a fad? Hopefully the discussions at MWC will help you decide.

Network about networks

In a more standard, but no less important, MWC topic network technology is certain to take centre stage as operators press on with 5G, continue to improve 4G coverage and explore bringing new technologies into the mix (including 5G Advanced and the inevitable eventual move to 6G).

With companies at varying stages of their network modernisation journeys, MWC provides an excellent opportunity to learn from peers and assess what’s hot in the market.

Expect standalone 5G, cloud infrastructure, open RAN and energy saving tactics to be prevalent themes for conference sessions, while ground-breaking products to modernise networks and improve efficiency will be in good supply in the exhibition.

Last year growing interest in use of cloud infrastructure was a strong theme of the show, which is likely to be the case again in 2022 with many of the major cloud players represented.

Undoubtedly one of the largest industry issues in recent years, on the network side at least, has been the traction around open RAN. MWC sees strong advocates appearing alongside those supporting more traditional equipment so news on the progress and potential of the architecture is sure to be an unmissable side-show (keep an eye out too for open RAN player Parallel Wireless making a splash on the exhibition floor with a number of partners).

Another hot network area in 2022 is progress of mmWave. It is emerging as an important element of the 5G technology mix and said to provide significantly increased data capacity at high speeds with very low latency – facilitating reliable and high-quality connectivity in busy areas.

At MWC the GSMA 5G mmWave Accelerator Initiative and its industry partners are hosting a series of activities explaining how its deployment can help unlock the full potential of 5G.

With the number of 5G mmWave spectrum auctions and commercial launches accelerating around the world, the sessions are a must see at this year’s MWC Barcelona.

While serving a need for speed in built-up areas is something operators must get to grips with, supply in less cost effective rural areas and challenging terrains is also a vital issue which needs to be addressed.

In previous editions of MWC, we have seen a range of connectivity solutions for hard to connect regions with balloons, HAPS systems and satellite connectivity all floated as solutions.

Following the headline keynote from SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in 2021, and a number of companies vying to win contracts to supply connectivity from satellites in the last year, we can expect to see more extra-terrestrial moves and space chat.

Catch a keynote

MWC has a strong history of attracting leading players from the mobile sector, technology companies and beyond for its headline speaker slots and this year is no different.

The speaker list (which is subject to late changes and secret surprise guests) includes top executives from operators, vendors and large companies you may not expect to see at a mobile event.

Service providers represented include Telefonica, Vodafone, Telia, Telstra, AT&T, Millicom and China’s three operator giants. They will join top executives from Qualcomm, Nokia, AWS, Huawei, auction giant Sotheby’s and Weta Digital.

In an interview with Mobile World Live last month, GSMA director general Mats Granryd revealed a sneak preview of the main keynote themes would include connectivity, convergence between the physical and virtual planes, fintech, climate issues and security.

Elsewhere on the varied conference schedule there are dedicated sessions on open RAN, 6G, IoT and 5G’s impact on climate change, security, the metaverse, use of artificial intelligence and discussion on emerging technologies and trends.

As always, MWC22 features regular favourites Diversity 4Tech, startup programme 4YFN, the Ministerial Programme and various partner sessions across the four day conference.

Unfold the future of devices

In the midst of the fall-out from manufacturing issues and a global chip shortage, MWC21 was unusually light on handset announcements. However, in the opening weeks of 2022 many of the big name smartphone manufacturers have teased major releases for early this year.

At CES in Las Vegas several companies showed early versions of handsets set to be fully displayed at MWC.

Alongside new models from top players across various price-points, expect a significant number of vendors to stake their claim to a spot in the expanding foldables segment.

While Samsung and Huawei were early pioneers of handsets featuring flexible displays, they have since been joined by the likes of Oppo and Honor and it would not be a surprise to see more entering the fold in Barcelona.

Already confirmed at time of press are handset launch events onsite by Honor and RealMe, with more expected to follow.

Of course, devices are not limited to mobile phones with new ranges of smartwatches, tablets, VR headsets, eyewear, Fixed Wireless Access terminals, robots and smart machinery likely to make an appearance.

Contribute to a sustainable future

Players of all sizes across the industry have been working hard to improve their sustainability credentials over recent years, setting ambitious targets to reduce the environmental impact of their operations whether service providers, vendors, manufacturers or the many others active in the sector.

In addition to helping the climate change fight, these types of changes are also likely to produce tangible corporate benefits with consumers and enterprises alike keen to ally themselves to brands able to showcase green credentials.

Against this backdrop MWC22 provides the perfect location to share ideas on these core issues as well as hearing how peers across the globe are dealing with issues which truly impact everyone.

A wealth of knowledge will be provided through case studies and dedicated conference tracks while green technologies are set to be exhibited on the show floor.

Building on years of dedication to the sustainability cause, the GSMA has put-on a wealth of content on projects related to equality, so expect plenty of sessions dedicated to connecting the world, reducing connectivity gaps and specific initiatives such as mobile money and solar power.

Of course, these areas only touch the surface of the highlights of MWC22, so keep an eye out for the Mobile World Daily at the event and on the GSMA app for all the latest news, keynote line-ups and events set to take place in the Fira Gran Via and beyond. And don’t forget Mobile World Live TV has you covered wherever you are following the action from. We’ll be streaming online throughout the show – stay tuned!