• News
  • People
  • Long Read
  • Opinion
  • Weekend Wrap


MWC 2018: 5G takes centre stage

Mobile World Congress has brought together the world’s best in digitalisation, under the theme of creating a better future.Credits: : Screenshot/MWC

If you wonder what the future looks like, step into the shoes of the people who make digitalisation actually happen. You will find it will be smart, better than the past and, most importantly, full of 5G.

Hype has different flavours. Among others, there is the intense and emotional hype of large sporting events. The Miracle on Ice at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid is a prime example of this.

Another peculiar hype is the startup hype, with its bold and playful tone. Finnish startup event Slush is probably the best place to feel these vibes.

Then there is the hype that nears with determination. Well, this is the type of buzz at this week’s Mobile World Congress (MWC), the world-renowned gathering of the mobile industry held in Barcelona since 1987.

For the people and companies who come together at MWC, digitalisation is not only about big talk or vague fantasies. Rather, it is mainly about practical things and concrete solutions that make it happen. For them, digital transformation is here to stay.

Finland can be a leader in machine learning, stated Nokia and F-Secure chairman Risto Siilasmaa (right). Image: Lauri Kangasniemi

Joining the movement at MWC this year are also almost 50 Finnish exhibitors – 27 of them via the Finland Pavilion, which is organised by Business Finland.

“The SMEs we have here do not pale in any comparison,” says pavilion head Hanna Marttinen-Deakins. A regular attendee of the event over the years, Marttinen-Deakins is also director, head of ICT Industry at Business Finland.

“It has been great to notice how much value our SMEs can create for their customers and how unique their solutions are,” Marttinen-Deakins comments. “That is the way to stand out in a massive event like this. Besides, the word ‘Finland’ obviously has a well-known prestige in the tech sector.”

This elevated profile was apparent on Monday, when Nokia and F-Secure chairman Risto Siilasmaa visited the pavilion, highlighting Finland’s potential with new technologies.

“We in Europe should move faster with machine learning,” Siilasmaa said in his keynote. “Finland can be the leader during the process.”

5G – everywhere

In the weeks leading up to MWC, there was a lot of discussion about the featured topics and themes for this year’s event. Some suggested in advance that AI would steal the show.

Certainly, AI is one of the major buzzes across the hallways; however, it feels like 5G is the overriding theme for today. More or less everyone has something to say about it, ranging from industry specific keynotes to wild demos, such as the Japanese telco company NTT and their combination of robotics, 5G and VR.

Annual attendance at the event is generally more than 100 000 people. Image: Screenshot/MWC

And one cannot really blame them. 5G will deliver speeds that are approximately 10 times faster than the current 4G. Meanwhile, whilst a 4G network currently boasts latency that is roughly half of that of a 3G network, 5G would be even lower still.

Most importantly, higher speeds and decreased latency enable altogether new commercial applications. These will be the common denominators for the likes of VR, large scale IoT and autonomous driving.

In a way, 5G is the technology behind all the cool stuff. One needs 5G first; everything else comes after that.

According to Jarno Pinola, who works as a senior scientist at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and is coordinating the 5G Test Network Finland activities, we are starting to see the emergence of the first phase of 5G.

“The first versions of the standards are ready,” he says. “This will mean an increasing volume of pre-commercial pilots and roll outs. In the first phase, the emphasis will be on higher data speeds and new frequency ranges.”

Nevertheless, this is just the beginning.

Finnish company Anaxeos proved that wearables are not just for humans, but also dogs such as Pava. Image: Lauri Kangasniemi

“It only covers a thin slide of all the potential with 5G,” Pinola adds. “One could roughly say that the ultra-reliable low latency connections and energy-efficient connectivity for massive amounts of IoT devices are still in the making. We will have to wait for these in the years to come.”

Changing game

The effects of 5G are not limited to the tech itself, its performance or functions. At MWC, one clearly senses that a huge transformation is taking place in the traditional mobile industry and its subsequent business models. All the actors are searching for their position in a 5G world.

“When you walk around the exhibition areas, you can see that the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution has already created a massive ecosystem of players from across very different industries,” says Marttinen-Deakins. “You have, for example, automakers and operators showcasing robotic cars and related mobility services. Similarly, you can find healthcare services in mobile operators’ portfolios. The game is changing really quickly.”

“In this situation, our overwhelming advantage is in our size,” she underlines. “Finland is small enough to be agile in utilising the technologies in a most advanced and user-friendly manner across different sectors in the society, as the transformation only heats up.”

A work of art. Japanese company NTT’s robot replicated the brush strokes of a human painter in real time, creating a perfect duplicate. Image: Lauri Kangasniemi

Good News from Finland is published by Finnfacts, which is part of Business Finland.

By: Lauri Kangasniemi