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TickTockTech from Mobile World Congress 2023: Accelerating the Pace of Change

March 9, 2023
By Claire Jones and Melanie Dias

The world of mobile is unrecognizable since the first official ‘GSM World Congress’ was launched in 1990 to just a few hundred attendees. Thirty-three years later, the most recent edition of the mammoth connectivity conference once again underlined just how fast the sector is evolving. It’s logical the organizers chose the theme of ‘Velocity’ to convey the message for this year’s event. 

Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2023 convened more than 88,500 attendees from 202 countries to unveil, demo and discuss the latest innovation across 5G, 6G, immersive technology, fintech and much more. Here are just some of the most exciting and significant trends we identified emerging from this year’s show – plus takeaways that communicators should think about going forward:  

Prepare for the unexpected: As described by Reuters, the “potential uses of generative AI systems such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT certainly took center stage at this year’s show”. However, the key message from speakers and media alike was that the future potential was still largely unknown. Lauren Kunze, CEO of Iconiq summarised it best: “2022 was supposed to be the year of the metaverse but was in fact the year of generative AI”. As companies, governments and individuals across the world experiment with use cases, we can only guess what will hit the stages next year.

TAKEAWAY: New tools like ChatGPT will continue to dominate headlines as they promise everything from automated content generation to improved operational efficiency. However, it’s important to exercise caution with all evolving technology – expected and unexpected issues around authenticity, information accuracy and content quality will be top of mind when it comes to generative AI. We’ll just have to keep watching…

Platform for public policy: MWC has increasingly become the place for policymakers to share important news and announcements, with the knowledge it has a captive audience of key industry stakeholders with whom they can engage far more effectively. The European Commission chose the event to present a set of actions aimed at making Gigabit connectivity available to all citizens and businesses across the EU by 2030. Thierry Breton, commissioner for the Internal Market, reported he held constructive meetings with telco CEOs and called for a shared vision of building the networks of tomorrow and financing the infrastructure for a connectivity revolution.

TAKEAWAY: Key industry tradeshows are increasingly becoming a backdrop for some of the most important – and global – policy conversations in the industry. Tech-focused communicators with a narrative touching any element of infrastructure, connectivity and/or mobility should stay aware of MWC for not just news but networking with key policymakers.

Operator revenue models: A well-debated issue was how to make the economics of network investment work for operators, now and in the future. Total Telecom highlighted how “5G is helping service providers increase market share,” but Telecoms.com shared commentary from Ericsson that 5G revenue generation would take time. Either way, Computer Weekly explained how 5G connections are set to double over the next two years, driven by network deployments in over 30 countries in 2023 alone, according to GSMA data. The future was beautifully illustrated by Light Reading, which explained that, despite the ongoing questions surrounding sustainable business models, networks will “endure, grow and evolve into something even more sophisticated (6G sensing networks, 7G sentient ones)”.

TAKEAWAY: As networks and devices continue connecting and expanding at increasingly faster speeds, questions around sustainability and ROI will only grow. Experts disagree on the timeline for economic ramifications, but it is certainly a notable issue to keep an eye on in the upcoming year.

Future services via virtual reality: There was a huge array of demos and experiences allowing delegates to get hands-on with tomorrow’s technologies, such as SK Telecoms’ flying taxi service, as reported by CNBC. But not all journalists were convinced; TechCrunch stated the “rides felt more retro than next-gen – harking back to arcade (or fairground) simulator rides from the 1980s”. Orange’s metaverse experience was also well covered, with AP News remarking “it was a dazzling display, though what consumer purpose it had was not immediately clear”.

TAKEAWAY: For all the discussion around virtual reality, the technology is still a work in progress. MWC remains a destination to get first-hand experience with the latest technology evolution. It’s also a good reminder that communicators should experience the technology in-person to get a better understanding and perspective when preparing content and strategy.

Handset innovation: A MWC mainstay is the host of handset launches you can expect at the show. This year’s announcements did not disappoint, with theMoto rollable phone and Z Fold 4-like foldable handset featuring in ExpertReviews’ ‘Best of MWC’ list. Wired UK described how One Plus kept its cool with new liquid cooling technology to reduce smartphone temperatures by up to two degrees when gaming. The Register featured a handset launch from HMD Global that had a novel design concept of repair by its owner. While some may be skeptical, the view of analyst house CC Insight was that “the ability to repair a smartphone without too much difficulty could become a key differentiator in the market”. One to watch for sure.

TAKEAWAY: Major trade shows like MWC have always offered that exciting “first look” at the it products and solutions for the year ahead. With tradeshows back in full swing, it goes without saying that attending is an effective way to gain key insights and stay on top of what’s popular and trending for perspective audiences in your work as a communicator.

Although MWC 2023 has concluded, our global FleishmanHillard team will continue to keep their fingers firmly on the pulse of the latest mobile news, innovation and trends. As communicators, it is imperative we keep looking ahead so we can advise clients on how to cut through in a busy media landscape, looking beyond products to how new technologies will continue to impact economies and humankind.

After all, one thing we know for sure is the pace of change will continue unabated. As Mats Granryd, director general of the GSMA, told a packed auditorium in his opening keynote: “We are at the beginning of a new era of exploration. Those that dare can lead the way”.