Author(s): Geoff Blaber
Ben Wood, George Jijiashvili, Jasdeep Badyal, Kester Mann, Marina Koytcheva
This is the third of our daily reports from Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona.
Divided into six research areas, it contains a round-up of the show's notable announcements followed by initial comment by our team of analysts.
Cyanogen introduces MOD platform and partner program
CCS Insight: The MOD platform is compatible with Cyanogen OS 13.0 or greater and allows third-party apps to integrate more deeply with the operating system. For example, a user could integrate apps such as Skype into the phone dialler rather than being limited to the experience ordained by the manufacturer. We believe Cyanogen is poised to become a highly disruptive force in the Android ecosystem.
Meizu launches Pro 5 Ubuntu Edition smartphone
CCS Insight: Meizu's decision to offer an Ubuntu-flavoured variant of its Android Pro 5 underlines the challenges of differentiation facing smartphone manufacturers. The device will appeal to a niche of Ubuntu enthusiasts and is the fifth Ubuntu device launched in the past 12 months, but the operating system will continue to fight for any broader relevance in the global smartphone market.
Cheetah Mobile launches smartphone
CCS Insight: In a smartphone market where hardware differentiation is very difficult and only accessible to a few companies with extensive resources, app developer Cheetah Mobile is trying to capitalize on its brand and familiarity among its large community of users. We are sceptical that the company will achieve significant market share, but the move confirms the maturity and commoditization of the smartphone market.
Gionee unveils S8 smartphone
CCS Insight: The Chinese manufacturer's latest flagship features a pressure-sensitive display, and dual WhatsApp and dual WeChat software capability. The latter allows users to have two instances of the apps open at once, associated with different accounts. This, along with the "3D" touch display, is the peak of innovation for the device — underlining the difficulty of differentiation that faces manufacturers today.
Fiat Chrysler showcases augmented reality car configurator
CCS Insight: Marketing high-value goods and services is among the principal uses that will drive adoption of virtual and augmented reality by enterprises. Automotive companies are expected to be among the pioneers in taking up this new technology. They will use it in not just in marketing, but also in design and after-sales customer service.
Internet of Things
Open Interconnect Consortium rebrands as Open Connectivity Foundation and adds members
CCS Insight: This is a significant development for the Internet of things. The addition of Microsoft and Qualcomm to the initiative is striking given that both companies focus on rival specification AllJoyn from the AllSeen Alliance. This is a positive development that points to a realization of the need to cooperate and converge efforts to address the fragmentation of device discovery protocols. It is unclear what this means for the AllSeen Alliance but a merger should not be ruled out.
AT&T in talks with Ericsson to expand distribution of Digital Life platform
CCS Insight: AT&T has made significant investments in its Digital Life home security and automation product. The connected home still faces significant fragmentation and lacks scale which is essential to success, so this move is a logical one. Ericsson would use its sales channels and expertise to help grow adoption of Digital Life beyond the US. This follows an agreement between AT&T and O2 in the UK to offer the service.
Intel and LG to develop 5G telematics for cars
CCS Insight: Intel and LG are not synonymous with the automobile industry but this collaboration underlines the opportunity ahead for both companies as cars become connected. The partnership will see LG combine its connectivity assets with Intel's broad capabilities in the Internet of things, including sensor fusion and deep learning. With cars likely to have significantly more silicon in them than smartphones within a few years, this market represents a huge opportunity that a host of semiconductor companies are seeking to address.
GSMA and operators launch initiative to close gender gap
CCS Insight: Closing the gender gap in the adoption of mobile Internet access and mobile money in low- and middle-income countries is a commendable goal. It could be one of the steps toward economic prosperity in those countries, where women lack exposure, or face less exposure, to technology and business financing. As a global industry body the GSMA is in an excellent position to not just open new market opportunities for the industry but to promote gender equality as a human value in its own right.
Deutsche Telekom continues 5G push
CCS Insight: Deutsche Telekom has been the most vocal European operator on the topic of 5G technology at Mobile World Congress. Until recently, operators in Europe have preferred to focus on maximizing returns from investment in LTE. While this is still a primary concern, it is encouraging to hear a more bullish tone on 5G technology given the aggressive roll-outs already planned in leading Asian markets and the US.
Deutsche Telekom launches pan-European network
CCS Insight: The operator is investing strongly in migrating European infrastructure to IP technology, with a primary goal being the centralized operation of all networks. Deutsche Telekom says that this approach will improve efficiency, speed launch times and drive innovation. So far, three networks have been connected to a standardized platform: Deutsche Telekom's operations in Croatia, Hungary and Slovakia.
Orange confirms launch of VoLTE and Wi-Fi calling in Europe
CCS Insight: Orange's launch of voice-over-Wi-Fi follows a number of deployments in 2015 as operators focus on improving voice coverage in hard-to-reach locations such as in deep inside buildings. In contrast, VoLTE roll-out in Europe has been slower than expected, with pioneering markets so far being Japan, South Korea and the US. However, CCS Insight expects to see a greater number of deployments in Europe in 2016.
MediaTek and Ericsson complete Wi-Fi calling interoperability test
CCS Insight: This illustrates MediaTek's commitment to deepening its collaboration with infrastructure and carrier partners in order to ensure its chipsets have a sufficiently robust set of features as connectivity demands become ever more sophisticated. This will be crucial if MediaTek is to succeed in its ambitious attempts to compete with Qualcomm in the high tier.
Ericsson and Qualcomm demonstrate MulteFire
CCS Insight: With spectrum a finite resource and data traffic growing as more devices become connected, unlicensed spectrum is going to be critical alongside licensed bands for capacity and performance. License Assisted Access (LAA) will shortly be finalized under 3GPP Release 13 but requires an anchor in licensed spectrum. MulteFire takes this to the next level by enabling full LTE deployment in unlicensed spectrum. It will enable anyone, from stadium owners to enterprises, to provide service. LTE-U and LAA have proven that the technologies can co-exist harmoniously with Wi-Fi. MulteFire will soon further deployment options for LTE in unlicensed spectrum.
Ericsson to deploy LTE category M software for AT&T network
CCS Insight: LTE category M1 and M2 are critical developments in 3GPP Release 13 and beyond. They refine LTE for low-power low-data rate devices. Although Mobile World Congress is abuzz with discussion of 5G technology and its role in the Internet of things, low-power wide area network capability in LTE-Advanced is an important stepping stone. CCS Insight expects to see the technology gain significant adoption in networks over the next two years.
Verizon and Ericsson unveil results from 5G field trial
CCS Insight: With the use of technologies such as beamforming and MI-MIMO, Verizon and Ericsson achieved peak throughput in excess of 10 Gbps. This is further reassuring evidence of the industry's commitment to testing 5G technology in real-world environments and accelerating commercial deployments. However, it will be critically important that the standards-based approach to developing 5G is followed closely to avoid the pitfalls of previous generations and deliver a harmonized approach to technology implementation and spectrum utilization.
Huawei and Deutsche Telekom demonstrate 5G E2E network slicing
CCS Insight: These demonstrations will form an important part of the 5G standards process. Network slicing will be a prominent component of 5G as the Internet of things sees usage diversify into mission-critical applications that require low latency and assured quality of service.
T-Mobile USA and Ericsson partner for 5G pre-standard trials
CCS Insight: T-Mobile USA has joined the growing momentum for 5G trials in 2016 following Verizon and AT&T. However, there is clear divergence in the timing of commercial launches, with AT&T and T-Mobile USA committed to maximizing its investment in LTE and pursuing 3GPP standardization timelines for the next-generation technology. By contrast, Verizon is aiming to launch in 2017.