Finally MWC has stopped wanting to be CES and is instead reclaiming its identity as a show all about phones and the boxes that connect them to the world.
Sunday saw the release of 4 phones from HMD (Nokia), 3 from ZTE, 2 from Samsung, tablets from Huawei and one from LG.
Huawei didn’t launch a phone as it has its own separate event in March. Furthermore, with a shiny new radio technology to hype, 5G is likely to be all that the infrastructure vendors talk about this year.
In going back to its roots, MWC can move out from the shadow of its much larger, one-time rival and reclaim its true place on the conference circuit. While most of the phones launched were nondescript, Samsung is attempting some interesting differentiation via the camera but is unfortunately doubling down on the hopelessly outclassed Bixby.
The most interesting looking devices so far are coming from HMD (Nokia branded) which is making good progress in reclaiming some the old Nokia design heritage.
The 5G hype wagon will be cranked up to fever pitch this year as the first specification has been set and the base station industry badly needs a new product cycle.
The real question is whether the market needs this new radio standard or if 4G be enough. In some specific areas, I find that 5G makes a lot of sense but these are not the areas where everyone is looking to deploy it. For example, I see a great use case for fixed wireless access in the USA as the deregulation of Internet access raises the possibility of monopolistic pricing in areas where consumers have but one choice.
5G fixed wireless access could finally bring real competition into the last mile and allow the free market to operate as it should.
At the same time, I find the case for 5G in autonomous driving to be deeply flawed and I struggle to find an economic return from the expense of a new radio overlay for this use case. Either way, this theme is going to dominate the conference for the next few years and in this area, CES will never be able to compete.
All we need now is a return to conducting meetings on yachts and the revival will be complete.
This article was first published on RadioFreeMobile.