MWC 2022 has arrived and the star of the show is definitely not 5G

mwc 2022
Image credit: GSMA

Mobile World Congress returns in earnest, and MWC 2022 will prove to be a real test of how much damage the lockdown and video conferencing has done to in-person events.

The GSMA is expecting 40,000 – 60,000 attendees with 1,500 exhibitors which is considered to be an optimistic forecast. For context, 2019 had 110,000 attendees and 2,400 exhibitors meaning that MWC 2022 will be a more subdued event but much busier than 2021’s vestigial effort.

I think that the GSMA is right to be optimistic as vaccination and Omicron have effectively put an end to the pandemic and everyone except China is trying to get back to normality.

As anyone who has visited MWC a few times knows, the value of this show (and any show in reality) is to be found on the floor, in the chance meetings while wandering around, the gossip and the face to face meetings with clients, colleagues and suppliers.

Being locked up for two years led many people to forget why we endure the overpriced hotels and challenging transport, and I think 2022 is the year where those who venture out will serve to remind those who do not. Hence, I am confident that 2023 will return CES and MWC to their usual chaos.

This is the story of MWC 2022, and given how bad the digital options and exhibitions are, I think the GSMA is right to be optimistic.

The most boring story of this show is going to be 5G which is quietly chugging into the mainstream with 1 billion connections expected by the end of this year.

Much more interesting will be investigating how exhibitors leverage the ‘metaverse’ word to gain some attention for their wares (whether they are related to the metaverse or not).

Also of interest is automotive – the digitization of the vehicle is in full swing and is starting to gather momentum, and I am curious to see whether MWC 2022 will be able to capture any of that.

Samsung and Huawei – Computex?

Samsung and Huawei played lip service to MWC 2022 and launched devices that have very little to do with mobile networks in events that felt to be more about keeping their spots in the limelight.

Samsung’s short 15-minute event launched two new laptops that were pretty unremarkable other than the fact that they use Intel’s 12 generation processors. These are on the 7nm node and take a leaf out of Arm’s book by having both efficiency and performance cores that aim to deliver performance when needed but also battery efficiency. These processors have been pretty well received and mark a step forward for Intel in its turnaround, but they have a long way to go to catch the M1 family.

Samsung also spent some time extolling the bloatware that it puts in its PCs that is intended to create a digital ecosystem of seamless cross-device Samsung devices. It remains to be seen what Samsung users think of it and whether I need to revise my pejorative term.

Huawei was a bit more prolific and launched a laptop, a tablet PC a desktop and an e-paper note-taking tablet. However, just like Samsung, these have very little to do with mobile networks and seem to be more about making some noise than advancing the cause of mobile technology.

This is because there does not seem to be that much to say about 5G, other than it works and it is rolling out in volumes and that presumably the use cases will come.

One of these will undoubtedly be the metaverse, which is one use case where 5G’s superior performance on latency makes a difference. This is why everyone has used virtual reality to demonstrate the benefit of 5G over 4G for the last four years.

Hence, I expect the MWC 2022 stories will be centered around digitizing more device categories (automotive) and the metaverse, which is the buzzword of the moment.

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