Helicopter drones, security issues, and the carbon footprint: an international mobile industry summit revealed today’s technological hotpoints

AI-operated robots, helicopter drones capable of personnel transport, a Formula racer, and metaverse worlds were on display in Barcelona at the 2024 Mobile World Congress, the world's largest annual mobile industry event.  

Behind many of these fascinating curiosities was a focus on customer value: harnessing investments into increasingly advanced 5G networks for the benefit of the customer. 5G services are now available in 101 countries worldwide, and this global event provided an excellent venue for comparing lessons learned and plans for further development.  

The massive four-day event brought together over a hundred thousand participants, including operators, network and device manufacturers, and cloud service companies. I participated in a group of executives and experts from DNA and the Telenor Group. Here is a summary of a few of the event's key themes:  

1. 5G FWA (Fixed Wireless Access) was a topic broached often. Fixed-point installation to home or office environments yields speeds nearly equivalent to fiber optics, with added flexibility and affordability, and without the need to lay cables. The combination of stable connectivity, low latency, and high capacity enables everything from running critical business applications to playing online games with super-low latency. 5G FWA has long been a staple of DNA’s offering, and the technology is now gaining significant traction in many other markets.  

2. 5.5G is a step towards the era of 6G. Data speeds reached tenfold from before, signifying new use case possibilities and a significantly increased number of concurrent devices. The 5.5G standard will soon be ready for the market, and the ecosystem, including devices, is expected to evolve rapidly during 2024. DNA offered a glimpse into the possibilities of 5.5G even before the MWC event, as a demo environment built in Helsinki achieved transfer speeds of 10 gigabytes.  

3. As expected, AI (Artificial Intelligence) took center stage at the event. With AI, new services can be offered, existing functionalities improved, network performance optimized, and customer experiences enhanced further. On the other hand, AI increases the service capacity required from networks. At the event, Telenor announced a partnership with Nvidia, which will strengthen our investment in implementing AI into our operations in the Nordics.  

4. Security was more prominently featured than previously—no doubt in response to concerns raised by geopolitical tensions and increased risk factors. At Telenor's event at the MWC, Strengthening Nordic Digital Security: Protecting People and Networks, two ministers and the cyber security director of the Norwegian Armed Forces discussed prevalent topics. A key theme was boundless Nordic cooperation between governments and businesses to secure the region. Security is a collective issue that no single entity can solve alone.  

5. Sustainable development received significant attention in technology discussions. Modern 5G networks require less energy than previous technologies, and AI can be utilized to reduce network energy consumption while optimizing operations. From the operator's perspective, sustainable development combines reducing singular environmental footprints, requiring matching efforts from subcontractors and partners, and creating services enabling customers to reduce their carbon footprint.

Alongside many discussions on 5G networks, viewpoints stretched into the far-flung future and the era of 6G networks. However, we are still a long way from 6G standardization: a hot topic at next year's MWC, no doubt!