Mobile World Congress 2016 Recap
After all the meetings have finished, the jamon has been eaten, Rioja has been drunk and all the world’s Mobile Carriers have returned from Barcelona, what have we learned? And does it fit with what we expected? As predicted, Mark Zuckerberg chided the industry for focusing too much on IoT connections (who would not open new Facebook accounts), but he also spoke about spending more to connect to people in the developing world (who would open new Facebook accounts).
The vendor community heard the Carriers loud and clear when they asked for everything to become virtual. Heavyweights like Ericsson announced the virtualization of their entire Radio Access Network (RAN). AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said that white box networking was “the big prize” (Read no more proprietary HW). Many vendors have now moved down the path from just getting the basic functions to run on white box servers to addressing next level problems like how to orchestrate and secure large scale virtual networks.
IoT (Internet of Things)
There were a lot of IoT demonstrations for different verticals and to me; the most interesting was the focus on IoT in agriculture. We saw connected vineyards, connected farm animals (see below), and smarter agriculture networks that monitor soil, water, and fertilizer. They optimize the right days to plant, water, fertilize and harvest and then optimize the logistics to bring the crop to market. This is a great step in innovation to eliminate world hunger and also creates a massive agriculture intelligence network to secure.
VR headsets were the wearable of choice with demos from Samsung, HTC, LG and other smaller players. But by far, my favorite wearable was for COWS! This was a great example of unexpected usages for mobile tech. In this case, a wearable measured increased body temperature in the females to determine the optimal time to bring down the bulls from the fields for mating.
As expected, the Apple court case and privacy issues associated were major topics. As well as vendors discussing how to actively monitor and manage security in a completely virtual world where entire telecom networks are reduced to a series of NFV server farms. Nokia had a great demo where they spun up an entirely virtual EPC and then detected and isolated virtual instances that had been attacked and compromised. The missing piece, of course, was how to spin up mitigation resources to fix the issue, but that’s entirely achievable today.
All in all, MWC 2016 was true to form with the issues expected in an industry entering a multi-year transformation from physical to virtual. Mobile tech is raising security and privacy issues that are interesting and will need to be resolved.