MWC 2014: the major trends

With its 75.000 visitors, 240.000 square metres of exhibition space and 1200 Wi-Fi hotspots, the Mobile World Congress once again created quite a buzz. Back from Barcelona, our three b<>com experts unveil for us the main technology trends from this 2014 edition.

Connected objects

Following on from the CES at the start of January, MWC 2014 confirmed the explosion in connected objects with two major components:  the Internet of Things and machine to machine communication. These connected objects now constitute a personal communication and service ecosystem which will plunge users into an augmented version of their relationship with reality. Operators, industrial companies and equipment providers are competing with each other to produce ideas to keep up with this profound transformation in usage. Depending on whether we want to keep an eye on our pets, measure our exercise levels, take part in a video-conference while driving our cars, send our blood sugar level at regular intervals or work in complete safety in an electricity power station thanks to wearable sensors, we'll have to sort the applications that make our daily lives easier from those that are just annoying gadgets!

Networks densification

To support the connection of these billions of objects by 2020, networks will have to support more and more bandwidth and offer users "Any Time, Any Where and on Any Devices and any Content" (ATAWADAC) connectivity. Networks will develop on several levels to keep up with these challenges.

  • Radio networks will offer more bandwidth over the air interface by: - Deploying denser networks (small cells, femto), - Getting 3G/4G and WifI systems to co-exist, - Aggregating frequency bands, - And by deploying standard developments as quickly as possible: broadband WiFi up to 600Mbits/s with 802.11ac, broadcast to mobiles with 3GPP E-MBMS and inter-vehicle communication with 802.11p, not forgetting the first steps in 5G.
  • Networks densification will mean that interference between users, cells and systems will need to be managed more intelligently. This intelligence will be integrated into objects, but above all into base station resource allocation and access points. To prevent networks congestion and reduce lag in usage accessibility, its functions will be moved away from the antenna and grouped together to handle more efficiently interface and resource allocation for all base stations.

Networks virtualization and orchestration

The explosion in uses and services will lead to growing demand for capacity and energy consumption and in networks complexity. Networks and service operators will have to deal with growing complexity in architectures and in end-to-end infrastructure and service quality management. Industrial actors (Cisco, Ericsson, NSN, Juniper, Alcatel-Lucent and so on) are starting to virtualize networks functions in order to reduce investment costs significantly and make it more flexible and dynamic. Therefore, they are seeking to standardize hardware infrastructure to deploy routers and gateways in virtual machines. While some equipment providers  still need to be convinced, other are ready to switch to fully virtual by the end of the year, in particular for elements that make up the mobile networks core. Virtualization also provides IT actors (IBM, HP, Citrix, etc.) an opportunity to enhance the Cloud experience to open up new markets. The objectives are now clearly being set on networks orchestration requirements. This involves piloting the deployment and configuration of virtual machines and the programmable networks via a global tool which should be able to interface effectively with operator IS. Networks will then become distributed and open platforms that can be enhanced according to an "as a service" approach. In conclusion, MWC confirmed the "Telco" market's revolution. While Yan Koum was announcing the future provision of voice services by WhatsApp, sweeping away in the process the established order in this historic market, Mark Zuckerberg was calling for free access to the Internet, warning telecoms operators that the revolution was under way. Timotheus Höttges, CEO of Deutsche Telekom, was appealing for cooperation between OTT and operators. The networks world is changing beyond recognition!