This year’s Mobile World Congress, once again, was an important indicator of where the industry is heading – from new innovations to the evolution of existing tech and plans to create more resilience and opportunity.
Over four days of interactive experiences, innovations, discussions and product launches, we were inspired by the solutions and approaches under the spotlight that focused on creating meaningful progress in an industry which has remained relatively stagnant over the past few years. Here are four key areas we’re exited to see gain traction in 2023:
1 - Reducing the Digital Divide: Through sharing Economies and Accessibility
Roughly one third of the global population remains unconnected to the internet and digitally excluded. The importance of addressing this #UsageGap was emphasised during the first keynote, by Mats Granryd, GSMA Director General. He called for governments and organisations worldwide to work alongside the mobile industry and make digital inclusion a genuine priority.
"“Removing barriers to mobile internet adoption will boost economic recovery, improve social mobility and gender equality, and transform the lives of millions worldwide.""— Mats Granryd , Director General, GSMA
Amongst the innovations focusing on the usage gap were World Mobile Group’s aerostats. These unpowered balloons were developed using blockchain to provide ubiquitous coverage and affordable internet to remote communities in a way that is both sustainable and profitable. Not only are aerostats enabling connectivity without huge infrastructure overhauls, but they’re also championing the sharing economy: they put people back in control of their communications and the excess energy they produce can power ancillary services or be sold for a profit.
We also saw Telefónica’s Making Smart Agro Happen, an installation highlighting how to reduce the digital divide in agriculture through new technologies such as NB-IoT connectivity, cloud platforms and artificial intelligence capabilities. With this tech, farmers can make informed decisions to optimise inputs such as irrigation , fertilisers and pesticides – helping to make agriculture more efficient, competitive, and sustainable.
For the second year in a row, DeafTawk provided sign language interpretation services at MWC. The GSMA Innovation Fund for Assistive Tech start-up showcased its real-time service, which is powered by AI and machine learning, as it advocates for greater inclusion of deaf people within the tech industry.
2 - Responding to Customers: Through a New Era of Personalisation and Customer Experience
There were clear signs at MWC of companies moving away from simply providing products, towards focusing on partnerships that explore new ways of doing business.
"We are seeing a growing appetite for new business models, there is this desire for more flexible, solution-driven products and services."— Pekka Lundmark , Nokia President and CEO
"Consumers want to change their behaviour, but they just don’t know how, and they’re looking for different types of solutions."— Amy Wettenhall , Group Owner for Mobility at Telstra
Partnerships with product and experience companies such as Kingfisher aim to respond to change in customer behaviour, providing a faster more accessible way to help customers make more sustainable choices.
The desire to enable stronger forms of customisation within the industry has opened up huge potential for AI chatbots such as ChatGPT and variations of it to better serve customer needs. Gilly Perry of D-ID spoke about the accessibility impacts the technology could bring to the mobile industry.
"The switch from text interface to speaking face-to-face makes the experience more impactful, enjoyable, and engaging and helps people better understand the information it delivers. With chat.D-ID, conversations with AI will become accessible to a far wider audience, including children, the elderly, people with disabilities, and billions of people worldwide beyond the tech community."— Gilly Perry , CEO and Co-founder of D-ID
"It’s like you’re chatting with a friend, where you’re solving issues that you encounter in your daily life."— Eric Davis , Vice President at SKTelecom
3 - Extending Ownership Cycles: Through Resilient Design and Innovation
When it came to sustainability, attendees focussed their attention on different things – with four distinct areas emerging: Samsung focused on recycling, showcasing the process of using old fishing nets for speakers; Ericsson on building more energy-efficient networks and optimising devices through networks as a platform; and Vodafone on using open APIs to extend the battery life of a device.
Meanwhile, HMD demoed home self-repair kits that enable consumers to extend the life of their phone.
"It’s important because people are saying they want to keep their phones longer than ever before."— Adam Ferguson , Head of Product Marketing at HMD
Beyond sustainable hardware, many talked about progress or ambitions to reduce emissions at source across scopes 1, 2 and 3. Device software was also under the microscope, with Google and Samsung both guaranteeing up to five years of security updates with their latest models.
4 - Driving Customer Experience: Through Industry Collaboration and Awareness
Developing more sustainable choices and new ways of doing business requires more collaboration across the industry. This too was a talking point at MWC.
"We [need to] speak the same language, that we reach consensus on global technical standards to manage the integration of new technologies like AI and IoT into our networks so that we can make them more connected, efficient, sustainable and accessible."— Doreen Bogdan-Martin , Secretary General at International Telecommunication Union
This was also underscored by Vicki Brady during her keynote. She encouraged operators to embrace partnerships and co-creation and be comfortable with not always being in control of the end-to-end solution.
"We have to partner…with our customers, with technology leaders, with industry leaders and experts to be able to co-create solutions for our customers. This requires a very big mindset shift."— Vicki Brady , CEO of Telstra
Maya Ormazabal from Telefónica and Hastings Singh at Kingfisher also addressed industry collaboration during their panel discussions. Focusing on enabling devices to have second lives, the panel spoke about the need for closer collaboration between carriers, OEMS and the entire device ecosystem to provide the best possible solutions and choices for customers.
Looking Ahead: Future Sustainable Innovation
As the dust settles on a busy four days at MWC, we’re looking ahead to what’s next. Moving beyond new product launches, 2023 is set to be a pivotal time for the mobile industry as new product and service innovations and collaborations promise to shape the customer experience landscape. For 2024, we look forward to seeing how the experiences become more personalised, inclusive, and accessible.
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