US-based Mobile World Conference 2019 Kicks off in Los Angeles, Doubles Down on 5G, AI, and IoT

October 22, 2019 by Gary Elinoff

MWC2019 Los Angeles begins today, giving us a chance to reflect on the past 10 months in connectivity.

While the original MWC2019 was held in Barcelona in February, the states-side version of the event kicks off today in Los Angeles.

When comparing the two events, it's easy to identify that both focused on three major topics: 5G, AI, and IoT. This time around, Automotive, FinTech (financial technologies), and most noticeably "Media and Entertainment" will receive more attention.


Image from GSMA Events


At press time there were over 22,000 registered attendees from over 100 nations.

Mobile World Conference, is hosted by the Global System for Mobile Communications or GSMA, the industry group representing the interests of over mobile operators and related concerns.

In this article, we'll give you a 1,000-foot view of the conference and what is being discussed there starting today.


From the Front Page – What Event Topics Relate to You?

As I mentioned, the show is divided into six sections:

What seems to be new this time around (compared to Barcelona) are the last two, “Media and Entertainment” and “Fintech.” Unfortunately, there don't appear to be pages that directly explain each focus, but you can see a listing of the related events if you click the links above.


Conference Themes and Tracks

The show is vast and, beyond the front page, I found the website difficult to wrap one’s hands around. Determining what belonged to each theme required navigation from the AGENDA point.

Click any of the days of the week an all that day’s AGENDA items will be visible. Choose FILTERS and then you can opt for a THEME and/or a TRACK.

Themes include:

  • 5G
  • Disruptive Innovation
  • Everything Policy
  • Immersive Content
  • IoT

Tracks include:

  • 4YFN ("Four Years From Now")
  • GSMA Seminars
  • Networking Events
  • Open Summits
  • Partner Programs             

The “Everything Policy” Theme is a particularly important one, given that 5G seems like it FINALLY may be getting ready to take off—and strong, clear regulatory policy will be vital. There will be talks by FCC Commissioners and by an NTIA administrator that fit this narrative.

GSMA Teleco Cloud Summit, part of the 5G Theme, is an educational initiative sponsored by VMware, Dell Technologies and Intel. It will deliver front-line perspectives on 5G and the migration of telecommunication to the cloud. Notable participants will include Linux Foundation, Dell, Facebook, and Deutsche Telekom.


Keynote Addresses

As of press time, there have been a total of 22 Keynote Addresses scheduled, including some given by notable industry leaders:

  • Ajit Pai - FCC, Chairman 
  • Michael Combes - Sprint, CEO
  • Kenneth R. Meyers - US Cellular, CEO
  • Ricky Corker – Nokia, President, Customer Operations for the Americas
  • Tami Erwin – Verizon, EVP & Group CEO 
  • Asha Keddy – Intel, VP & GM Next Generation and Standards and 5G Executive Officer
  • Thomas Gewecke - Warner Brothers Entertainment, Chief Digital Officer
  • Robert M. Bakish - Viacom, President and CEO

While the show’s website does provide biographies of these significant individuals, we aren’t told what the topics of the talks are.

In any case, the address by Mr. Pai, FCC chairman, is bound to be of great significance, given that a major “theme” of this show is “everything policy.”


Open Summits

There will be a series of Open Summits Scheduled over three days. In this context, an "Open Summit" is listed as open to all conference attendees and also as "Immersive content," implying that interaction with peers is the most important aspect of these events. 

Most notably, there is an emphasis on 5G Entertainment represented among the forums:

  • Tuesday
    • 5G Entertainment Summit
    • Connected Vehicle Summit
    • Harnessing the Power of AI in the Telco Sector
    • Latin America Intelligent Connectivity Summit
  • Wednesday
    • Applied AI Forum
    • 5G Entertainment Summit
    • 5G Security Summit
    • GSMA Telco Cloud Summit
  • Thursday
    • 5G Entertainment Summit



MWC19 Los Angeles Event Features

There are several event features which may catch your eye as an engineer.

DARPA’s Spectrum Collaborative Challenge. Spectrum scarcity is a real problem, but AI may hold the solution. Frequency hopping, directed by AI, can serve to quickly divert communications to momentarily unused frequencies. In this event, featuring $4,000,000 in prize money, Darpa will challenge the experts to come up with solutions

4YFN stands for 4 Years From Now. This event features promising startups from all over the world. A showcase for technologies not yet commercialized, it is also an opportunity to explore partnerships with key players from anywhere in the tech ecosystem.

Women4Tech. This event focuses on the values diversity brings to corporate culture.

Partner Programs. Thought-leaders in mobile technology will present insights, solutions, demonstrations, case studies workshops and product launches. The keynote here is Jensen Huang, NVIDIA's CEO, speaking about advances in AI. 

Other standouts include The Road to 5G: Urban Densification and Taking 5G Indoors, presented by Fierce Wireless and 5G NR Evolution–What is Dynamic Spectrum Sharing?, presented by Rohde & Schwarz, who is anticipating a new frequency division duplex (FDD) mode for 5G in mid-2020.


A Slow March to 5G?

As I mentioned earlier, one of MWC19’s Event Features is 4YFN—four years from now. I found this very appropriate because, unlike other conferences, there have been few solid new products announced. For example, in Media and Entertainment, seven out of 18 topics were listed as 4YFN. Where many will see this as a focus on the future, engineers may be tempted to call this hype.

Despite this, there is no public 5G in the US, aside from a few Potemkin Villages. The idea of a fully autonomous, driverless car that can be turned loose in a major urban center anytime soon is unlikely at best. From where I'm sitting, we only may be able to expect drivers' aides in the next few years. And they may well be useful aides, if only because the driver’s attention may be diverted from the road by all of these infotainment systems.

While engineers all over the globe are being gainfully employed to develop many of these technologies, it appears that nothing has drastically changed in the world of 5G since February. 

Are you at MWC2019 Los Angeles? Does your perspective differ from mine regarding the state of 5G technology? Share your experiences and expertise in the comments below.