Mobile World Congress: Barcelona, 25 to 28 February 2013
I attended the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona from 25-28 February. This is the biggest mobile event in the world and it’s so much more than just a conference. MWC also incorporates the world’s biggest trade show and exhibition for the mobile industry, perhaps the world’s entire technology industry. In the world of mobile, MWC was the place to be – and I had the privilege of representing the Scottish Government at it.
The world’s press reported exciting new product launches such as Samsung’s new tablet, the Galaxy Note 8.0. With a few notable exceptions, every name in the mobile world had a presence: Samsung, Nokia, Telefónica, Vodafone, LG… the list is endless. But it’s not just about big names. Of the 1,500 companies which exhibited at MWC the vast majority are probably unknown to the layperson. These are the apps developers, the handset manufacturers, the telecoms infrastructure vendors and every other part of the supply chain, no matter how small. They are all equally important – and MWC gives them the platform to showcase themselves to the world, to do business, and, to firmly secure their position as an integral part of the global mobile industry.
Scottish Development International (SDI) supported a group of innovative 21 Scottish companies at MWC. It is expected that the international business opportunities for these companies will help them to achieve an expected combined turnover of £16 million over the next year, rising to £103 million over the next three years.
Barcelona itself is certainly worthy of its accolade – the Mobile Word Capital – and MWC is clearly a big deal for the city. MWC banners graced the main thoroughfares including the Passeig de Gràcia (location of Antoni Gaudi’s iconic “La Pedrera”), and Barcelona has a new, permanent mobile exhibition. Mobile technology is prevalent, an example being QR codes displayed on tour bus stops: these enable easy access to information via smartphones.
For me, MWC was a golden opportunity to better understand the direction in which the mobile industry is moving and the trends driving mobile usage. It’s about infrastructure and networks, devices and software – and everything in between. It’s about understanding how each and every element of the mobile supply chain fits together. Most importantly of all, it’s about understanding how mobile must feature in Scotland’s world class digital vision.
Right from opening keynote which brought together the CEOs of a number of global mobile telecoms leaders, a number of important key themes emerged, and these recurred over the next few days:
Mobile is growing faster than ever before – and it’s smartphone and tablet usage which are the key drivers. According to one speaker, these devices have now put the PC industry in turmoil. Secondly, we’re moving towards using cloud-based services – which we can access from multiple devices from multiple locations. The chances are that you’re already a regular user of cloud services even if you don’t realise it: popular ones include Facebook, YouTube and the BBC i-Player. And finally, convergence. Devices are converging (tablets and smartphones are prime examples) – and moving forward, we will see heavier blurring of fixed and mobile networks. The ability to consume data-rich cloud-based services at any time, any place and on any device, will set an expectation for ubiquitous coverage of high-speed mobile networks. This is what Scotland must aspire to.