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Mobile World Congress Week in Review: Ericsson, Google, PayPal, Samsung

Mobile World Congress (News - Alert) – a major telecom and IT event that attracted an estimated 90,000 people to Barcelona this week – winds down today. Key themes of the industry gathering this time around included 5G cellular technology, big data, mobile payments, network virtualization, and wearables.

Perhaps one of the more interesting themes of Mobile World Congress this week was mobile payments, about which there were several presentations.

This discussion was also fueled by the fact that PayPal this week announced plans to buy mobile payments startup Paydiant, Samsung recently purchased mobile wallet solutions provider LoopPay, and Apple (News - Alert) Pay made headlines due to fraudster activity related to the offering. Also, Google at Mobile World Congress introduced a new framework called Android Pay, which Google’s Senior Vice President of Product Sundar Pichai at the event explained is an API layer companies can use to support secure payments on Android in store and via apps.

Wearables, which were white hot at CES earlier this year, remained in the spotlight at Mobile World Congress.

Among the new products introduced on this front in Barcelona was the HTC Grip, a GPS-enabled smart fitness tracker that HTC is delivering in partnership with fitness clothing company Under Armour. LG was also at Mobile World Congress this week promoting its new LG Watch Urbane, which AT&T this week announced plans to offer at its retail stores and on its website.

Huawei also unveiled a flurry of wearable devices this week in Barcelona. That included the Huawei Watch; the fitness tracker TalkBand B2; and the Bluetooth calling, music, and sports tracker device TalkBand N1; as well as a phablet called the MediaPad X2.

But while these devices are focused on consumers, telecom operators are turning their attentions to business applications of IoT solutions, as well as cloud services, as noted by Ovum.

“Two to three years ago telecoms operators started to talk about opportunities to expand into adjacent markets and to develop digital services,” according to Ovum. “At the time they were thinking about both the consumer and enterprise markets. In 2015, however, the focus is very much the enterprise market – more specifically, cloud services and M2M/IoT. Operator strategies in the consumer market are now evolving toward B2B2C and partnership models.”

Elsewhere on the Internet of Things front, Stream Technologies this week revealed it is the newest member of the ThingWorx Ready Partner program, integrating its IoT-X platform with the ThingWorx IoT platform to enable faster time to market and minimize development costs.

“Combining these two sets of technologies is truly ground breaking,” said Nigel Chadwick, CEO of Stream Technologies . “Together we are moving one giant leap toward an out-of-the-box offering for a staggering number and variety of enterprises that have business and industrial processes relying on connected sensors and devices.”

Elsewhere on device scene, Samsung this week made a splash at Mobile World Congress with its Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge. TMCnet guest columnist Rob Enderle, an industry analyst, called the new devices stunning, and added that although they are both far superior to the iPhone, Apple is still sitting pretty.

In other news relating to the Samsung Galaxy S6 announcement, Vidyo said its VidyoMobile mobile videoconferencing system will be enabled on the smartphone.

Meanwhile, Microsoft talked about Windows 10 and wearables, but noted it wasn’t able to deliver anything on this front right now, as Windows 10 isn’t set to launch until the second half of this year.

"What is true is that we have architected Windows 10 to work across the broadest range of wearables.... This is an architecture scaling from the very small to largest compute jobs," Greg Sullivan, marketing director for Windows Phone, commented during an interview in Barcelona.

To support all these new devices and applications, cellular and other wireless network operators continue to ramp up their infrastructure. Recently, we’ve seen the launch of 4G networks, and along with that, discussions about the use of small cells and virtualization to allow for better coverage and more agile and efficient use of resources. But although 4G networks have only fairly recently been turned up, the cellular networking space is already talking about what’s next, and what’s next is 5G.

Most sources at Mobile World Congress this week seemed to agree that 5G is overhyped at the moment, but that it will eventually arrive to help cellular service providers and their customers realize even greater connection speeds, lower latency, and the ability to enable new applications.

5G will become a powerful technological platform which will enable many new applications….” Huawei’s Ken Hu commented at the show.

On Tuesday at Mobile World Congress, the 5G Public-Private Partnership between the European Commission and European industry and research community unveiled a 5G Vision white paper. In a related effort that same day, leaders from Alcatel-Lucent, DoCoMo, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel (News - Alert), Nokia, Orange, Samsung, and Thales Alernia Space held a press conference in which they shared their expectations and perspectives about 5G.

“The start of commercial deployment of 5G systems is expected in years 2020+, following the R&D phase and the standardization and regulatory phases (e.g. spectrum in World Radiocommunications Conference - WRC),” according to the white paper. “Japan has committed to have a commercial system for the 2020 Olympics. It is too early for the European operators to commit to network rollouts but many are predicting the 5G commercial availability in 2020-2025. The exploratory phase to understand detailed requirements on 5G future systems and identify most promising technical and technological options has already started before 2014.”

Also among the 5G-related announcements this week at the show was Ericsson’s stated launch of 5G for Sweden, a research program through which the cellular equipment giant will work with leading industry players, research institutes, and universities to develop and integrate ICT solutions in products and services based on 5G standards.

As noted above, the arrival of 4G is among the developments that have helped usher in the age of virtualization in telco networks. As Ovum stated in a Mobile World Congress roundup comment it issued this week: “A number of large operator groups, including AT&T, Telefonica, and Deutsche Telekom (News - Alert), unveiled their technology and service visions for virtualizing their networks at MWC 2015.”

Add NTT DoCoMo to that group, as the company this week announced it has tapped Ericsson to provide it with the Cloud Execution Environment and Cloud Manager for its network functions virtualization efforts. The service provider is also working with Fujitsu and NEC on commercial deployment of NFV.

Not surprisingly, big data was also in the limelight on the Mobile World Congress stage, with Accenture’s Bob Sell, Alcatel-Lucent CEO Michel Combes, EMC (News - Alert) Chairman and CEO Joe Tucci, and VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger presenting in the session “Up Close & Personal: The Power of Big Data.”

In other Mobile World Congress news this week, The Eye Tribe demonstrated its Eye Tracking SDK for Android, and AT4 and Anritu reached an agreement to upgrade the LTE Advanced conformance test and carrier acceptance test capabilities in Europe, North America and APAC, supporting certification of mobile devices globally. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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