By Kavit Majithia

MWC20 to unlock limitless mobile opportunity

John Hoffman, CEO of GSMA Ltd, believes MWC Barcelona 2020 will prove to be a step change year for the industry, as the focus moves away from initial 5G launches to the possibilities offered by the next-generation connectivity era.

Speaking to Mobile World Daily ahead of the big show, Hoffman explained this year’s event tagline ‘Limitless Intelligent Connectivity’ builds on last year’s overriding theme, centred on the confluence of 5G, AI, IoT and big data, and puts the attention on results and expectations of all four elements coming together.

“We’ve moved from what-ifs to reality,” said Hoffman. “It is early stages of reality, but it’s still reality and we can look at the possibilities. And the possibilities are limitless. If we really think of the telecoms sector being voice and then being internet data, with 5G that palette expands across the board.”

Hoffman tipped seven key themes to shape MWC20 Barcelona; 5G, AI, customer engagement, industry X, media and entertainment, privacy and security and the planet.

Looking at 5G first, Hoffman said conversations will look at early results of the technology, with Korea and the US leading the way, and China’s recent roll-out adding scale in terms of infrastructure deployment and customer base.

However, with the technology now hitting the mainstream, greater attention will be placed on the impact of 5G across industry sectors and what’s coming next.

“There will be a lot of discussion on where 5G is going, with a look at the impact to manufacturing, AI, IoT, media, entertainment and sustainability,” he said. “Sustainability will be an important consideration. We are building more base stations for 5G, but are committed to meeting our sustainability objectives. We will have to do that in a way that decreases power consumption on a per unit basis. Those are the kinds of the things we are going to focus on this year.”

Global leadership

Sustainability will no doubt feature in the Our Planet Summit, which will be held towards the end of the week, looking at how the industry can bring next-generation technology and connectivity to the world in an environmentally friendly way.

Featuring keynote sessions, presentation and panels, the Our Planet Summit is a new addition to MWC.

Hoffman pointed to the industry’s work around climate change, which has been ongoing for many years, stating: “This is not us coming to the party now. We’ve been at the party and now we are showing global leadership around sustainability.”

He continued: “The rest of the world may be surprised about how committed our industry is to doing our part. We were the first industry sector to step up and commit to addressing climate change in a meaningful way. We’ve been doing it for a long time and are delighted to have led the way in expanding this important dialogue. We don’t have all the answers yet, but we definitely have the commitment.”

Walk the walk

As well as Our Planet, Hoffman highlighted two other additions to this year’s event that he has an eye on.

The Deep Tech EU showcase, located in Hall 8, will put the spotlight on four EU initiatives: Graphene, Human Brain, Quantum and Battery. All four will look at tackling societal challenges through frontier science and technological development to transform the fields of AI, data mining and more.

“The EU invests a lot of money in research and advancement, so the programme is going to be exciting,” said Hoffman.

After MWC20 Barcelona shuts its doors for the day, the GSMA executive is keen to check out ‘xside night’ in the evenings, a new initiative running alongside 4YFN featuring music from global DJs, interactive digital art and talks on the role of technology in creating immersive experiences.

Alongside the innovation in the programme, there are also events that the GSMA remains invested in like Women4Tech, the Glomo Awards and the YoMo programme.

“We’ve got a great mix. You’ve got the YoMo for 30,000 kids and educators. Then there’s 4YFN for the entrepreneurial sector and the more established ecosystem around MWC.”

Last but not least, on the keynote agenda, Hoffman highlighted Bob Bakish, president and CEO of Viacom, who will feature on a session on the transformation of the media and entertainment industry.

The hot topic of privacy and security will also generate interest, said Hoffman, with Eugene Kaspersky featuring in Monday’s big evening keynote. And there will be great interest in the 5G Global Surgery Collaboration keynote.

But, is there one standout? On a personal level, Hoffman is keen to take in all MWC20 Barcelona has to offer.

“I like to walk around and find what I consider my cool ‘gotcha moment’. I try not to schedule too many meetings. It’s important to find out what’s the buzz and hit the whole thing.”