The Samsung Galaxy S9 will be the biggest consumer announcement at Mobile World Congress 2018, but it won’t be the focus of many of the show’s hundred thousand-plus attendees.
As the year’s most influential bunch of carrier executives, government officials, and technology professionals mill around in Barcelona, they’ll be talking about 5G, AI, and the Internet of Things, the GSMA’s chief marketing officer Michael O’Hara suggested in an interview with PCMag.com.
“We’re very conscious of this whole artificial-intelligence world that’s emerging and that trend,” O’Hara said.
AI and 5G tend to link up because 5G networks, with their massive systems of sensors and internet-connected things, will need very powerful algorithms to control and direct them. (When people say “artificial intelligence” nowadays, they often mean “algorithmic decision making.”)
“I want our event to be seen as the intersection between connectivity and intelligence moving forward,” O’Hara said. “We want to get that broad community that certainly cares about connectivity, artificial intelligence, and how that intelligence is applied across that connectivity.”
MWC’s strength has always been that it’s where business gets done. Having gone to 12 shows by now, I agree. Unlike CES, which always seems to be jam-packed Monster Cable sales reps, MWC brings together hundreds of global wireless operators, ministers from many countries, and hardware and software providers. Everybody there, not just the folks on stage, are experts.
But hot smartphone announcements at the show help to drive traffic and attention. There have been some murmurs that Samsung’s Galaxy S9 launch may have driven other consumer releases away from the show, but O’Hara said he “hasn’t heard the reaction that it’s challenging to other consumer brands.” For what it’s worth, I’ve heard that flagship phones from LG and HTC just aren’t ready yet, and Huawei wants a day to itself for the P20. Take a look at our list of all of the new phones we think are coming at MWC 2018.
Get Ready for a Net Neutrality Smackdown?
MWC has always been a global show held in Europe, which gives it a different spin from the US-focused CES in Las Vegas. That may result in some sparks as FCC Chairman Ajit Pai sits on a panel with the CEOs of DT and Vodafone, and a European Commission exec. FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who disagrees with Pai on net neutrality, will also be at the show.
European regulators have been championing net neutrality rules, which Pai opposes, but at the same time, European wireless operators have been “zero-rating” and offering tiered pricing for applications. “That whole debate on the net neutrality conversation is something I’m going to be interested in,” O’Hara said.
Pai will be followed by a bunch of high-profile leaders on the stage, but none will be quite as big-name as Mark Zuckerberg, who has presented at MWC before. O’Hara says that’s on purpose. Instead, we’ll see the CEOs of McAfee and Red Hat, and the president of CNN, among other execs. “If we put celebrities on stage, we get a torrent of ‘don’t do that again’ feedback. We get constant feedback on, ‘Get challenging people up there,'” O’Hara said.
PCMag’s parent company Ziff Davis is a major media sponsor of MWC; we’ll have full coverage starting Saturday, Feb. 24.