Mobile World Congress 2016 is underway in Barcelona. Here are our key takeaways from Day 1 of the festivities:
The murky future for carriers
It is apparent that carriers are struggling with their future position in the ever-growing and evolving mobile ecosystem. Many say behind closed doors that things are very much in flux, but when on stage make it seem as though everything is going just great and that they’re in wonderful shape for the future. But carriers are aware that they might get relegated to become just a “dumb pipe” if they do not reinvent business models.
Everyone’s talking about 5G. But this really isn’t anything new. Our Mobile World Congress 2015 Day 2 Recap (yes, that’s one whole year ago!) was entirely focused on 5G. And On Monday, a panel including Ralph de la Vega of AT&T, Brian Krzanich of Intel and Hans Vestberg of Ericsson all agreed that 5G probably won’t hit the marketplace until 2020. There’s no doubt that 5G speeds will transform our lives—downloading a feature-length HD movie in seconds will be quite awesome. But there are more practical needs as well. The IoT and self-driving cars really depend on faster, reliable connections. 5G will come, but it may not be for a few years. That gives Mark Zuckerberg and Internet.org time to progress in their stated goal of getting the entire world online before we concentrate on getting the rich even richer.
PayPal’s bold move
PayPal was one of the stars of Day 1. They announced a number of surprising partnerships and expansions the world over as they look to build a holistic finance platform. PayPal is looking to become more than just a payments platform and app, and they look to be on their way with announced partnerships with Vodafone, and America Móvil subsidiaries Telcel and Claro, which will serve customers in Spain, Mexico and Brazil, respectively. PayPal clearly wants to become a true one-stop shop for financial transactions, whether consumers need to make a payment at the store or to a friend. And PayPal’s expansion into emerging markets seems to be (or, at least, can be spun to be) serving somewhat of a philanthropic need; many on the low end of the income spectrum spend 10% of their income on various fees and interest rates. Access to PayPal and a more robust mobile payments ecosystem may be able to help those less fortunate save a little bit of cash.
Like 5G, VR is something that has been talked about over the past few years at a wide array of events: CES, MWC, SXSW. Things are starting to happen, but are they happening how we all thought they would? On Sunday’s Samsung Galaxy S7 launch it was announced that preorders for the new smartphone will come with a free Gear VR headset and the ability to download six free games. This is an aggressive push to get Gear headsets and content in the eyes, ears, and minds of consumers. But is Samsung admitting defeat? Either the headsets aren’t selling well at all, or there’s a bit of trepidation over the S7 to the point where they felt the need to bundle it with an exciting technology to ensure pre-orders. Either way, we’ll soon see more and more people with VR technology in their hands, and that can only be a good thing for an industry that’s still trying to find out exactly how and where VR is going to work best. There is surely more to come from the mobile world concerning VR this week, and we’ll be all over it.
Martin Lange, Global Consulting Partner, Digital Innovation Practice of OgilvyRED contributed reporting.