Our Expectations for MWC 2022

Stage set for updates in foldables, 5G, Li-Fi and sustainability

CCS Insight is excited to be returning to Barcelona at the end of February for MWC 2022 — the largest in-person instalment of the event since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The GSMA was forced to cancel MWC 2020 and scale back in 2021, but this year the organizers are hoping to host up to 50,000 attendees and 1,500 exhibitors. Although considerably less than peak numbers of the past, it’s still a promising line-up. As one of the biggest events in the mobile technology calendar, MWC is often the focal point for major announcements in mobile and related technologies. This article sums up our expectations; a report with more detail is available to clients here.

We expect a busy news flow, with lots of announcements to keep up with, but it’s fair to say that we’re also not expecting one “breakout” idea or concept that steals the headlines. Instead, there’ll be updates from each segment of the market, with a greater focus on refining and developing technologies that are already available.

For example, 5G is expected to see a shift in focus. This is already obvious in smartphones, as manufacturers rarely feel the need to highlight their 5G-capability anymore because the technology is becoming so ubiquitous. We predict the conversation will turn to what else 5G can deliver, for example, how it can help close the digital divide. In areas such as the Internet of things and mobile infrastructure, other technologies including Open RAN and Li-Fi are seeking to develop their credentials and deliver more valuable solutions to customers around the world.

In the devices space, news looks likely to be dominated by smartphones. Increasingly affordable devices with flexible displays will be on show, with major Chinese brands such as Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi expected to flex their muscles — don’t be surprised to be see plenty of prototypes of foldable and rollable phones being touted. Wearables and virtual and augmented reality products look set to have quieter shows, with announcements focussing on wider ecosystem development. In this vein we expect the metaverse to feature heavily, with many players expected to use the term in some shape or form.

Other wider themes will include sustainability and the environment, which should get top billing as companies aim to demonstrate their commitment to tackling climate change. This should proliferate throughout a range of keynote presentations and discussions helping paint the show green.

More broadly, this is arguably the first major tech industry event in Europe since IFA in 2019; we expect that a lot of MWC’s value will be delivered by helping companies and other participants nurture industry relationships after a long time apart. Recent years have highlighted some of the challenges in delivering an impressive and meaningful trade show online, where many of the social elements are lost and it’s practically impossible to serendipitously discover an emerging star of the tech world. In this regard, MWC has some weight on its shoulders.

Added to this, we believe that a good turnout of attendees and exhibitors at MWC 2022 will be very important in ensuring the viability and success of future iterations of this event — and others — following years of disruption. Event organizers have been at pains to stress the role of trade shows in bringing together an industry that fuels global communications, but it remains to be seen if MWC will live up to its promise of delivering a “very physical show”.

At the time of writing, MWC doesn’t appear to have been hit by the same level of exhibitor cancellations as CES in January, despite the withdrawal of Asus, Lenovo and Sony. But, we acknowledge that travel restrictions to and from mainland China will dampen attendee numbers.

MWC has often provided an important staging post for the year in connected technology, and for many it’ll be a relief to see the event return in some force this year. CCS Insight’s analyst team will be providing analysis and insight throughout the show, with a full event report following its conclusion. We expect updates from many key segments of the tech industry and, perhaps more importantly, for the event to act as a catalyst for collaboration and innovation. There may not be fireworks, but the show still has an important role to play as it seeks to keep the fire burning for in-person events.