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MWC 2019 Preview: Manufacturers Look Beyond the Handset

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5G will take centre stage at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week, but with global sales of smartphones stalling for the first time last year (sales of 1.43 billion was a 5% drop on 2017, according to Strategy Analytics) manufacturers are looking beyond the handset to connectivity in the enterprise as 5G begins to take root.

The show remains the main launchpad for the latest flagship smartphones and there will be innovations in foldable designs from Samsung, Huawei, LG, and others, as well as the first Android handsets with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 chip capable of two-way Gigabit speeds, computer vision, and neural network capabilities to support the surge of AI voice, gaming, and extended reality experiences over 5G networks.

But with connectivity for mobile phones saturated in many markets, it’s not just about connecting smartphones anymore: There’s a need to connect everything from self-driving cars to high-performing industrial robots.

The telecom network is evolving and is quickly becoming integrated into every kind of industry. According to Ericsson’s November 2018 Mobility Report by 2024 the number of connected devices will exceed 22 billion.

Connected vehicles are the current fastest growing connected vertical outside of phones, according to research firm Chetan Sharma Consulting in its Q3 2018 report. AT&T already has the highest number of connected cars “in history” at 27 million.

The introduction of driverless cars over the next few decades is predicted to open up an infotainment market worth anywhere from $800 billion in 2035 to $7 trillion by 2050, according to Strategy Analytics. Computer, internet, and consumer electronics companies are jockeying for a piece of the pie.

The mobile operator’s lobby group GSMA calls this the era of "Intelligent Connectivity," and it’s clearly an opportunity that operators are chasing. Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile are all implementing network technologies like NB-IoT and LTE M which are designed to power smaller, inexpensive gadgets like watches and other devices.

At MWC, expect to see telecom service providers going to the next IoT level, by offering enterprises not only the ability to manage connected devices, but also managing and securing those devices’ entire lifecycles. 

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