Beyond handsets, analysts ponder the 5G effect at Mobile World Congress 2017

With the whole of the mobile industry showing off the latest devices in Barcelona for Mobile World Congress this week, this year’s event is promising a lot more than the predictable glam and sizzle of new phone handsets.

“Mobile World Congress is changing as a show from phone to Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, [and] autonomous vehicles,” SiliconANGLE Media co-Chief Executive John Furrier (@furrier) noted in an MWC coverage kickoff conversation today on theCUBE with Peter Burris (@plburris) (pictured right), chief research officer at Wikibon, SiliconANGLE Media analyst group. TheCUBE is covering the event in two solid days of interviews and analysis from SiliconANGLE’s studio in Palo Alto.

The 5G effect

As the mobile industry pushes forward with 5G technology, Furrier and Burris called it “the enabler for wireless,” bringing in gigabits of speed to the phone. However, the “non-phone companies” featured at the show are viewing 5G as an enabler for IoT, they said.

At this year’s MWC there is an expectation that significant amounts of processing can happen virtually anywhere. “The Internet of Things … demands that we have very high-speed, secure, low-latency networks, and that is what 5G is promising,” Burris noted.

For Burris, the people’s demands can’t be underestimated. While the enterprise has high hopes for 5G, the consumer market is currently driving its development. Pointing out that the mobile industry follows consumer markets in order to achieve the volume that drives down costs, Burris sees MWC as a “representation of that symbiotic relationship between the consumer and the enterprise world.”

According to Burris, the consumer influences the way the enterprise looks at the value of use cases to dictate adoption of IoT, and especially what he called the Internet of Protocols. “It’s an interesting dance between consumer and enterprise, in which one fuels the growth of the other,” he said. The network edge, where 5G truly powers the devices and sensors needed for an IoT market, will transform the new network and application architectures, he added.

Burris pointed out an important distinction between IoT and IoP when it comes to the necessary adaptability of these new architectures. Building things for people and building things for machines are two different things, he said, highlighting the IoT’s focus on machine and industrial applications, whereas the user experience is prioritized in IoP.

Despite the promising perks 5G offers the business world, challenges remain. For starters, Furrier pointed out, there’s the seemingly insatiable appetite for bandwidth, which could be troublesome for edge-of-network computing.

“The physical realities, about taking time to move something from Point A to B pushes [data retrieval] out more to the edge,” Burris agreed. “With 5G as it relates to IoT, while we may get higher bandwidth speeds, for the most part 5G is going to provide a greater density of devices and things.”

Furrier and Burris also agreed a paradigm shift is taking place in today’s mobile-powered market. But Burris thinks a period of maximum turbulence will occur, as there is a range of unknowns for enterprise executives. Known factors include key technologies for delivering cloud and 5G capabilities; the unknown factor is how to best apply them.

Furrier and Burris also discussed other challenges for 5G, the rush to move more data to and from the network edge, and privacy and data management issues. Here’s the full video:

Photo: Embassy of Spain