- The annual Mobile World Congress (MWC) trade fair brought together world leaders in mobile and telecommunications to discuss the future of technology and gain media exposure along the way.
- Our analysis of the media debate around the event found that PR and comms pros should expect a second wave of 5G and more hype around virtual reality.
- We also found that there’s a strong industry shift towards B2B, while ChatGPT’s popularity helped reposition some chip makers as AI brands.
The Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest telecommunications tradeshow, was back this year in full swing. Attendance and the number of exhibitors were not yet those of 2019, the show’s peak year, but the show managed to generate a fair share of media buzz.
In a week of key industry announcements and exciting product launches, what are the highlights that PR and comms practitioners working in telco should know? To find out, we analysed 784 English-language articles about the show published in the last month. Here are our main takeaways:
1. Expect a second wave of 5G
That once-omnipresent mobile buzzword, 5G, barely made a blip at this year’s other massive tech event – CES. We’re a few years into the technology, and while it’s faster (in some areas), it hasn’t really shown itself to be the game-changer it was hyped up to be.
However, GSMA, the industry body that represents mobile network operators globally, used MWC 2023 as a launchpad for the ‘second wave of 5G’. It stated that 5G connections are poised to double over the next two years, driven primarily by upcoming 5G infrastructure deployments in more than 30 countries this year, 15 of which will be stand-alone.
Many journalists noted that while there hasn’t been a whole lot of groundbreaking 5G news on the consumer front for some time, it’s clear there’s a whole lot of work and innovation happening in another part of the 5G ecosystem: infrastructure.
Meanwhile, China-based tech giant Huawei noted that the achievements made by 5G in its first three years are equivalent to those that 4G made in its first five years, and that leading operators are already celebrating the success of the first round of 5G development, which has instilled a sense of certainty and confidence in the industry.
All these considerations made 5G the main topic in the MWC 2023 conversation:
Riding that ‘second wave of 5G’, several companies including Ericsson and Nokia gained media exposure by showcasing innovations at the MWC 2023 that enable service providers and enterprises to expand 5G capabilities beyond smartphones.
2. Mobile companies hop onto the AR/VR bandwagon
With the global deployment of 5G, immersive technology is expected to take the centre stage with use cases in automotive, sports, work and more. Companies like Oppo, Qualcomm, Xiaomi, and HTC, among others, showcased innovations in AR glasses and VR headsets at this year’s MWC.
But Samsung‘s announcement that it’s working out a roadmap for so-called mixed reality products helped made it the most influential company in terms of media impact.
We determine an organisation’s media impact in the context of a topic by looking at its media influence score calculated in terms of coverage by high-profile media outlets, topic relevancy score measuring its contextual relevance, and media visibility as measured by the number of mentions.
According to many media reports, Samsung looks to push into devices seen by many electronics makers as key for future growth. Mixed reality has been touted as the next big shift in computing just as the smartphone was, hence companies from Meta to Microsoft are investing in it.
Mixed reality refers to technologies that blend the virtual and physical worlds, involving augmented reality where virtual images or video are overlaid onto the real world and accessed via headsets.
Patrick Chomet, an executive vice president at Samsung Electronics, was cited as highlighting Samsung’s partnership with Google and U.S. chip giant Qualcomm which was announced in February. The three companies gave very few details about what the partnership entails but said it would focus on mixed reality.
3. The metaverse is still in the spotlight despite the industry’s doubts
Metaverse hype was hanging like a multicoloured fog over the trade show.
As a number of media outlets noted, the program pitched attendees into a smorgasbord of metaverse-themed discussions — most of which seemed designed to generate maximum FOMO, as a parade of tech evangelists took to the stage in Spain, armed with a new generation of acronyms and luridly coloured slide-decks, urging the audience not to sweat the detail of whatever this metaverse thing is (or isn’t). And just focus on monetising it before someone else does.
A slew of companies used MWC to show off their metaverse experiences that will allow users to connect with each other, attend events far away or enter fantastical new online worlds.
For example, French wireless company Orange gained media influence with its metaverse demonstration, where users were transported to a futuristic neon-hued technoscape with lightning bolts, giant robots and a falcon carrying a green orb in its talons. Journalists called It a dazzling display, though what consumer purpose it had was not immediately clear.
But doubts about the viability of the metaverse have been creeping in as the initial hype wears off. Sales of virtual reality headsets in the U.S. slipped 2% by December from the previous year. Reality Labs, which makes Meta Quest headsets, posted an operating loss of $13.7 billion in 2022.
4. Telco makes a strong shift towards B2B
The media debate gave the impression of a more business-focused event than in previous years. Historically, compared to CES, MWC has always been more business-focused, but this year it was even more evident. This might also be because the consumer part of the automotive and connected mobility market is not as exciting as it used to be for the mobile market. In other words, it is not the show that has shifted, but the market’s perspective and where the money comes from.
While there’s still a place for B2C PR, especially with brands picking the event to show off their concept products, MWC shaped up as a mainly B2B affair.
For example, the most flash-worthy news at the show was Nokia’s new B2B brand strategy announcement. Nokia revealed a new brand identity — the first major redesign of the firm’s logo in nearly 60 years. The idea was to launch a new brand that is focusing very much on the networks and industrial digitalisation, which is a completely different thing from the legacy mobile phones.
Announcing the news made Nokia’s CEO Pekka Lundmark the most influential spokesperson in the conversation:
“There was the association to smartphones and nowadays we are a business technology company,” Pekka Lundmark told Reuters in an interview.
5. ChatGPT helps reposition chip companies as AI brands
AI has caught the world’s attention like never before thanks to the dramatic advances in new tools like ChatGPT that can hold conversations and generate readable text.
For some companies at MWC, the explosive popularity of ChatGPT was an opportunity to show off the capabilities of artificial intelligence on smartphones. For example, chip company Qualcomm’s CEO Cristiano Amon told CNBC that this was the milestone he’s been waiting for to establish Qualcomm as an AI company. Qualcomm recently released videos of text being used to generate AI images on an Android phone, which it also demonstrated at the conference.
Meanwhile, many publications noted that Nvidia dominates the market in specialised chips known as GPUs, which happen to be ideal for training AI programmes like ChatGPT. This has helped make Nvidia the biggest company in the sector — and one of the biggest firms of any kind in the United States — with a valuation of $580 billion.
It’s been a wild few years for the microchip industry, recovering from a long-term supply squeeze only to be thrust into the centre of a US-China battle to control supply lines of the valuable technology. But an industry long associated with volatility is quietly getting excited that artificial intelligence could be the key to some longer-term stability.
Photo credit: https://www.mwcbarcelona.com/