Converging technologies for a connected world

MWC 2015 - a personal view by Andrew Skinner, Relationship Director for Barclays' Technology Media and Telecoms Team

Wearables obviously attracted a lot of media attention at MWC this year because of their appeal to the consumer, but for old hands, it will come as little surprise that a number of the more interesting conversations had were about what 5G means for the industry. After all, despite all the hype about wearables, what good is a connected watch when there's no network available for you to connect to?
For all the timelines being bandied around 5G remains largely conceptual. Yes, the Wireless Alliance tested a device on a 5G network, providing connectivity of approx. 5,000 times faster than on 4G. But we are still to define exactly what it is that 5G needs to be and the services it needs to enable, and the industry must move relatively quickly to put a framework in place to achieve the lofty goals that have already been set.
One of the major problems facing those charged with development of 5G standards and technologies at the minute is that they must do so in tandem with maximising the opportunities that 4G brings; not to mention 3G in the developing world. And actually, there's an argument in an increasingly globalised economy for focusing on the latter, or else risk widening the gap between the developed and the developing world. After all, there are still several countries in Africa, relying predominantly on GSM (2G), let alone the luxury of 3G.
One of the fundamental requirements of 5G is the need for ultra-high availability, but how much of that can be achieved by augmenting and optimising existing technology? Google announced its plans to launch a virtual mobile network in the US, enabling users to switch seamlessly between cellular, Wi-Fi, and different wireless carriers, to provide an optimum mobile experience for the end user. For plenty of telcos and hardware manufacturers, it seems like the biggest opportunity can be found in the convergence of cellular and Wi-Fi to achieve near universal connectivity.
The development of 5G for 2020, cannot be at the expense of advances made to fully realise everything that 4G was supposed to achieve. Some of the most interesting companies I found myself speaking to while out at MWC buy into this vision of the future, but understand that even if 5G is delivered to the market in five years' time, many improvements in connectivity can be achieved in a considerably shorter timeframe by focusing on the networks that are already in play.
And actually, that's all part and parcel of one of the shows other big themes; enterprise mobility. To properly take advantage of the roll-out of 4G services and integrate mobile into the work place, it is increasingly important that businesses employ mobility practices to provide the necessary support, infrastructure and security, to enable fully mobile ways of working. From robust BYOD policies, to delivering enterprise applications for collaborative ways of working, there are already so many different ways for businesses to mobilise their workforce.
The internet of things remains a hot topic and it's pleasing to see that we've moved significantly forward in terms of the hype cycle, to a place where practical deployments of machine to machine interactivity are becoming part of mainstream society. But for IoT to truly take off, the focus must once again be brought back to how we can make best use of 4G technology to deliver robust M2M deployments as quickly as possible.

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