Your guide to the top stories from the first day of the event
Our team of analysts on the ground at the Barcelona trade show offers highlights from the opening day of MWC 2022. Today’s picks include activity in Open RAN, standalone 5G, green networks, smart home and more.
Ericsson Launches “Green Seven” Radio Access Network Refresh
A major update to radio access network (RAN) technology from one of the leading network solution providers is always significant, but this is the first to position sustainability and energy-efficient networking so prominently. It runs through all seven of Ericsson’s new RAN products like a green seam — almost overshadowing their technical capabilities.
As mobile operators struggle to get a grip on their own rising energy usage and costs, driven by rising data on their networks, they desperately need lower-power networks solutions designed with energy efficiency in mind.
Ericsson’s new RAN additions exploit cloud-native optimization as well as compact designs and an arsenal of options for operators to attack the challenge of lowering carbon emissions from their networks. Green networking is a major theme of infrastructure announcements at the show this year and other providers such as Huawei are also showcasing sustainable network innovations.
Rakuten Symphony and Qualcomm Combine to Open Up Open RAN
Drawing on the experience of Rakuten, the poster child for Open RAN-based networks, the Symphony solutions business growing from it has teamed up with Qualcomm to develop a next-generation 5G radio unit with massive-MIMO capabilities and distributed units using the chipmaker’s X100 5G RAN Accelerator Card and QRU100 5G RAN Platform.
The move is part of a push to accelerate adoption of cloud-native, open and software-based mobile networks by delivering a diverse range of open interface products. The fact that this partnership combines a scalable technology platform with a solutions road map gives it a joined-up feel. Although it will need to prove it can fundamentally reimagine the mobile network equipment supply chain, the announcement reinforces the gathering momentum for Open RAN.
HMD Global Unveils Three Nokia C-Series Smartphones
The Nokia C2 2nd Edition (from €79), Nokia C21 (from €99) and Nokia C21 Plus (from €119) are further additions to HMD Global’s line of affordable Android smartphones. They aim to boost the company’s efforts to migrate the hundreds of millions of users of Nokia feature phones to entry-level smartphones.
The new phones will receive two years of quarterly security updates. Although this is less than the monthly updates offered on HMD Global’s more premium products, it’s a significant benefit compared with rival ultralow-cost Android smartphones.
HMD Global also indicated that its “soft lock” software solutions, which allow users to buy smartphones on payment plans, putting down as little as $20 as an initial payment, are growing steadily and helping fuel growth in key markets such as sub-Saharan Africa.
In addition, the company recently announced the Nokia G11 and G21 mid-range Android smartphones. These will offer three years of monthly security updates and two generations of Android operating system releases.
HMD Global is becoming increasingly confident and has undoubtedly benefited from the opportunities presented by Huawei’s setbacks, particularly in Western markets. HMD Global underlined its current strength by announcing that it enjoyed its first full year of profitability in 2021. Competition remains fierce, particularly from the likes of Realme and Xiaomi, but the outlook appears strong for Nokia-branded smartphones at present.
Honor Debuts Magic4 and Magic4 Pro Smartphones
The Magic4 Pro is a new flagship smartphone from Chinese brand Honor, which was spun out from Huawei in November 2020. The Honor Magic4 Pro is a premium device that aims to go head to head with rival high-end phones like Oppo’s Find X5 Pro (see MWC 2020, Sunday 27 February). Prices start at €1,099.
The phone includes Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip and a triple camera array that includes a seven-piece periscope 50-megapixel camera with 3.5-times optical zoom. The device also features 100 W fast charging — a capability that has been a popular inclusion for all Chinese smartphone-makers attending MWC.
Honor also announced the Magic4 smartphone, which will start at €899.
Both products have competitive specifications and striking designs, but Honor’s challenge remains its ability to secure deals with distributors wary of the company’s previous close ties to Huawei.
Samsung and SK Telecom Complete First 5G–4G Standalone Option 4 Trial
The significance of this industry-first trial, in which SK Telecom used Samsung’s standalone 5G core, 5G radios and 4G radios, is that standalone 5G Option 4 is a dual connectivity technology that connects both 5G and 4G radios to a 5G core in advanced standalone 5G mode. This is a more advanced option than the existing standalone 5G mode, Option 2. It provides the equivalent level of speed and quality as non-standalone 5G, using the specialized functions of standalone Option 2 such as network slicing.
Evolving network slicing is crucial in realizing the full potential of 5G because it creates multiple virtual networks in a single physical network infrastructure, optimizing network resources to meet performance needs for various services including automated vehicles, remote control for heavy equipment, remote-controlled robotics and more.
Oppo Demonstrates Two Approaches to Smart Glasses
Oppo displayed two of its recently unveiled smart glasses devices. Its Air Glass is a compact, lightweight notification viewer, which clips onto the side of a pair of compatible frames using a magnet. Users can view a range of content through the monocular single-colour display, such as calendar reminders, travel directions and language translation. Furthermore, the workplace is seen as a fruitful area of use, with Oppo offering a tool allowing a presentation transcript to run on the device.
Separately to this, the company displayed its AR Glass prototype, which is a more heavy-duty device with spatial computing capabilities thanks to on-board cameras. This results in a full 360-degree augmented reality experience rather than a head-up display, with the demonstration at MWC allowing users to try apps such as an interactive map of constellations as well as play games.
Both these devices are promising, but both have drawbacks. The Air Glass is more power-efficient thanks to its simple display, offering three hours of battery life on its own. But this creates a far more limited user experience, and the basic interactions at the company’s stand failed to make a strong impact (see also Instant Insight: Oppo Looks to the Future at Inno Day 2021).
In contrast, the AR Glass is a far richer offering, but is a heavier design that needs smartphone tethering. Ultimately, the true promise of augmented reality smart glasses is at the intersection of these two designs, but right now, slim-and-light and powerful-and-immersive appear to be frustratingly mutually exclusive.
Qualcomm Bolsters Its Connectivity Credentials
Qualcomm’s keynote address was one of the major events of the opening day of the show. The firm gave several updates seeking to enhance its reputation in several areas of connectivity. Most visibly, a new Snapdragon Connect badge will begin to appear on products offering best-in-class capabilities. Highlighting a major strength and giving it a clear brand identity makes a lot of sense, particularly as competition increases from others with inferior capability in cellular, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Specific technology launches included Qualcomm FastConnect 7800, a Wi-Fi plus Bluetooth connectivity system that includes the latest Wi-Fi 7 technology and offers connection speeds up to 5.8 Gbps and sub-2 millisecond latency; and updates to Snapdragon Sound, which will now support stereo recording through earbuds and offer optimized Bluetooth Low Energy along with 25% lower latency when in use for gaming.
Qualcomm talked about its success with its Snapdragon XR platforms, highlighting the particularly fruitful partnership it has built with Meta. Intriguingly, it then moved to announce a new partnership with ByteDance; not only is this the parent of TikTok, which is posing a strong challenge to Meta’s social platforms, but it bought virtual reality headset company Pico in 2021. The new deal will see the two companies collaborate on hardware and software.
In mobile computing Qualcomm pointed to its continued investments in Arm-based computing on Snapdragon chipsets. It launched the Snapdragon X65 and X62 5G M.2 modules, which will bring the firm’s latest 5G connectivity to laptops and PCs. It highlighted the launch of the Lenovo ThinkPad X13S, the first laptop to use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 computing platform.
It also announced a raft of enhancements to 5G network deployments and several strategic partnerships, including a new RAN automation platform and partner programme, collaboration with Microsoft on end-to-end 5G private networks, a partnership with Mavenir on massive-MIMO radio units, and a deal with Fujitsu on Open RAN.
Deutsche Telekom Announces Global Internet of Things Service
The main focus of the service, called T-IoT, is on simplicity, as it involves just a single service-level agreement and pricing scheme. It was developed in conjunction with T-Mobile US and uses more than 150 roaming agreements. A range of technologies are supported, including NB-IoT, LTE-M, LTE and 5G.
The vision for T-IoT is that it will allow businesses to manage global Internet of things connections over several platforms, including the T-Mobile Control Centre and Deutsche Telekom’s M2M Service Portal. Early partners of T-IoT include Mercedes-Benz and Biotronik, a leading global medical device company based in Berlin.
Realme Debuts GT2 and GT Neo 3 Smartphones
Realme showcased two smartphones at MWC, its latest flagship, the GT2, and the GT Neo 3. According to CCS Insight’s quarterly market analysis, Realme has experienced 42% growth in mobile phone shipments during 2021, following a successful expansion in its core markets, alongside its strategic focus on building its brand in Europe.
Realme’s GT2 is the first smartphone to be launched in Europe with Qualcomm’s latest premium system-on-chip, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. Qualcomm joined the phone-maker’s press conference, highlighting the growing importance of Chinese smartphone manufacturers outside emerging markets.
The GT2 features a flat 2K display with low-temperature polycrystalline oxide (LTPO) technology, enabling dynamic changes in screen refresh rates and optimizing battery life despite the use of a power-intensive screen. Realme claimed the combination of a 2K screen and LTPO is a world-first. The device is set to launch at €649, a price far lower than flagship smartphones from the likes of Samsung and Apple, providing high-quality specifications for aspirational consumers.
Realme also showcased its upcoming GT Neo 3, highlighting the inclusion of 150 W charging, which can bump battery charge from 1% to 50% in just five minutes.
Poco Launches Powerful Low-Cost 5G Smartphone
Xiaomi’s former low-cost sub-brand Poco, which was recently spun into an separate company, launched two smartphones on the first day of MWC. The X4 Pro 5G — the latest iteration in Poco’s highest-end smartphone series — features a mid-range Snapdragon 696 chipset and supports 5G. It launches with a price of €299, targeting price-sensitive consumers, but promises a premium experience focussed on its gaming, imaging and media abilities.
With Poco representing the lowest-cost smartphone brand in Xiaomi’s range, the X4 Pro 5G leaves significant headroom for the mid-range Redmi and premium Xiaomi brands, whilst still delivering a strong product for Poco’s specification-hungry users.
Poco also launched the M4 Pro at €219, featuring 4G connectivity and a MediaTek Helio G96 chipset. Launched with the tagline “maximized for your fun”, the smartphone offers good value for money, but leaves a significant performance gap compared with the Poco flagship.
Truphone Offers e-SIM for Free to Chip and Device Manufacturers
This could prove a long-awaited catalyst for e-SIM as it helps overcome one of the main barriers to adoption: cost. All cellular products from Apple now include e-SIM by default, but concerns about cost and complexity have held other device-makers back from launching the technology at scale.
Truphone is calling for the abolition of SIM cards, saying e-SIM will not just offer customers greater choice and flexibility, but also lower carbon emissions and minimize supply chain problems. Truphone already counts 45 operators as partners, including BT, KPN and Etisalat.
Telefonica Strengthens Its Digital Home Service with Zoom
The operator is partnering with the communications platform to enable customers to make and receive video calls, including the option to do so through voice commands. The move builds on an existing agreement between the two companies; the operator is already the official distributor of Zoom Meetings, Zoom Webinars, Zoom Phone and Zoom Rooms throughout Telefonica’s locations. Smart home is an important focus on Telefonica’s stand at this year’s MWC.
Advances in Battery Life with Oppo SuperVooc Charging
Oppo announced its latest advancements in battery charging with SuperVooc flash charging. This delivers 150 W charging, capable of charging a 4,500mAh battery from 1% to 50% in five minutes, and 1% to 100% in 15 minutes under lab conditions.
SuperVooc also offers a “battery health engine”, which addresses battery degradation and health issues, extending battery lifespan. It features two key technologies, a smart battery health algorithm and battery-healing technology. The former is a software provision to ensure the battery health and safety of the new technology. The latter optimizes the lifespan of the battery’s chemistry, improving the electrolyte formula, with the electrodes being continuously repaired during the charge and discharge cycles. Using a small amount of polar solvent, the technology is able to retain a healthy battery chemistry, claims Oppo.
Oppo says its SuperVooc technology is safe in terms of heat dissipation, using a “charge pump” that directly outputs energy into a two-battery design. The brand’s next step in SuperVooc charging will reach 240 W, with a proof of concept displayed at the show.
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