MWC 2019: 5G underlines the essential value of 3G and 4G

By Fabio Murra, SVP Product & Marketing.

Now that the dust has settled on MWC 2019, it’s time to reflect. Mobile is spearheading a global drive into an era of mass connectivity and seemingly at such breakneck pace that it is worth pausing to consider the implications for business today.

As anticipated, the conference and exhibition halls in Barcelona were dominated by talk of 5G but it’s also clear that 5G is not being ushered in alone. We’re being carried to the era of smart connectivity and super-speed broadband by 5G – which is itself a marriage of wireless and fixed network technologies – simultaneously with the maturation of Cloud, Machine Learning and the IoT.

It would be foolish to second guess the long-term outcomes of these giant advances but, applied in different combinations, it seems likely that they will bring tremendous opportunity and perhaps even a transformation in the way we all interact with machines and with each other.

Much of the focus at MWC 2019 was on the industrial scale benefits of low latency ultrafast broadband to the enterprise: in agriculture, healthcare, automotive production or city planning.

The consumer trends that caught the headlines were related to innovative foldable phones and the first devices fitted with 5G chips.

In truth, though, 5G won’t be a mass consumer proposition for some time. The $1000+ cost of 5G phones and the unknown premium rates to be charged for initially very limited 5G network services will keep 5G aspirational for the majority.

What didn’t hit the mainstream radar at MWC to the same extent was the increasing availability of sub-$200 4G-enabled smartphones and new phones designed for mobile gaming or streaming movies and TV. Sony’s latest Xperia, for example, has a large 21×9 aspect ratio screen. Most flagship phones have the ability to deliver better colour, higher resolution even native HDR.

This is important, since outside the multi-billion-dollar glare of 5G, most operators have still to rollout 4G, others have yet to monetize their investment in 3G spectrum. In rural areas – large parts of Africa for example – there are plenty of telcos still rolling out 3G and 4G. Coupled with cheap devices that enable more data to be consumed, this will unlock a massive latent demand for mobile entertainment that telcos can fulfil – if they have content.

Video already dominates traffic over the internet and its share of the data-pie is set to increase. So, making 3G and 4G work even more efficiently – while operators deploy 5G- is vitally important.

V-Nova was present at MWC, showcasing with Xilinx, a specialist in FPGA. Our combined solution increases the efficiency of video transcoding in the cloud by up to 4x, significantly reducing the cost per unit of video delivered. That’s absolutely relevant today for any operator which has invested in high quality content and believes that video will be an important part of their offer going forward.