With the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) behind us, the next big thing in the international mobile calendar is Mobile World Congress (MWC) kicking off on 22 February in Barcelona, Spain.

Every year, attendees at MWC produce some of the latest and greatest mobile and telecommunications technologies that get the attention of media and tech-savvy consumers around the world. Before the operators and vendors make their big reveals, here are the top five trends I expect to see come out of this year’s conference.

New breakthroughs in speed

The general aim of a mobile network is to deliver speeds that allow more people to reach speeds they need for what they are doing, rather than delivering one user a massive peak speed. There is plenty left in the 4G tank before 5G gets here so expect to hear more on the technologies that will increase 4G data speeds. At MWC this will include real examples of networks breaking the 1 Gbps barrier and new technologies that enable this, such as 256 QAM (carrying more bits at a time on the radio wave), Multiple Input Multiple Output (aka MIMO, which is where multiple antennas carry data to the end user) and Spectrum Aggregation (where many blocks of radio frequencies are combined to carry more data at the same time).

More stuff becoming connected

Get used to this phrase: “the Internet of Things”, or IoT. We’re sure to see a fair amount of news about IoT standards, network capabilities and low cost devices for connected ‘things’. The key here is a range of new standards (think of standards as the IoT language to make sure all devices can communicate in the same language and interact with each other) that will allow us to build cheap connections into sensors/appliances/meters at around $5 or less. These same devices will have battery lives of around 10 years and will work from further away and far deeper into buildings than conventional mobile networks. This is the beginning of the future where anything that we can connect, will be connected.

Much more talk about 5G

Even though 5G is still being defined and we don’t expect official 5G services to be in operation until around 2020, there is a lot of work happening today around spectrum, standards and testing of new concepts to be designed into 5G. Expect to hear a lot more about vendors and operators (maybe even Australia’s largest telco) working on the roadmap to 5G and, in particular, some early test networks. I’ve said too much.

Video and media is going mobile in a big way

There is a major shift towards all forms of media, video and advertising exploding onto the mobile screen. At MWC I predict we’ll hear a lot more about how this can be achieved end to end – from how media can be delivered more efficiently, to new business models in this space.

Record-breaking crowds

As you may have gathered, MWC is THE mobile event on the calendar each year. The conference itself has grown to enormous proportions since its early days as a 2G event. After outgrowing the French city of Cannes in 2006, it moved to Barcelona where numbers have increased from around 30,000 people to over 94,000 last year. MWC attracts people from around the world and tends to be a little bit formal so you see lots of black suits – sometimes I feel like a character from ‘Men in Black’ or ‘The Matrix’. Since it is such a mainstream event, the pace there is frenetic so it turns into a massive week of ‘speed dating’ to get the most out of the event. It can be pretty exhausting.

This year a new rail system has been built into the main conference venue, which will hopefully result in reduced traffic chaos and, if yearly trends are any indication, I expect we will see attendance reach over 100,000 people for the first time, which would be a great milestone for the event.

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