Patrick Rona
Mar 4, 2019

Believe the 5G buzz: Report from the Mobile World Congress

The impact 5G will have on business and commerce was on full display at last week's Mobile World Congress, according to McCann Worldgroup's chief digital officer.


100,000+ attendees. Thousands of vendors across 30,000 square meters of space. Everything from mobile radio masts to humanoid robots to connected moss (seriously). Mobile World Congress Barcelona is the world’s largest trade show for the mobile industry. 

So, as an ad man (albeit a digitally centric one), why am I here? Because mobile devices are the way people interact with, buy from, and demand service from brands. In other words, from my clients’ businesses. And nowhere more so than in Asia. 

So, here are the top three trends I’ve seen this year at Mobile World Congress. 

1. 5G is here and it’s real

After several years of hype and poorly designed demonstrations of what 5G might enable people and businesses do, this year, there were a number of great demonstrations of what 5G actually does enable people and businesses to do.

This is where the connected moss comes in. City Tree is a joint venture between Deutsche Telecom and a start-up called Green City Solutions, whose aim is to help improve the air quality of cities. It turns out that moss not only filters many of the particles in air pollution, but it actually breaks down these particles. So there is no waste to worry about. But moss needs very specific conditions to thrive.  Conditions that can be monitored and remotely adjusted via 5G connections. And, since this needs 5G connection points, they can also serve as convenient WiFi hotspots and charging points for electric scooters and vehicles. 

City Moss

On the other end of the spectrum, NTT Docomo had a fantastic live demonstration of two musicians—one in Barcelona and one in Tokyo—performing together, simultaneously, over a 5G network.  While this was pretty cool in itself, it demonstrates how 5G technology enables people and machines to work together, remotely, in real-time. With no lag. 

2. 5G makes the world frictionless

In other words, things that are now complicated, slow, expensive and frustrating, can be simple, instant, cheap and joyful. Take shopping. Few things are more frustrating than having to fight your way through a crowded shop then wait in a long line to pay. A Chinese company called Cloudpick, in partnership with Intel, and completely enabled by mobile technology, has developed a completely frictionless shopping experience. You simply scan a QR code when you walk into the store, browse and fill your basket, and then use the same QR code when you walk out of the store. No lines. No scanning. And, related to ‘5G is real’, Cloudpick has already launched 30 of these stores across China. 

3. Asia is leading the mobile revolution

This year, more than any of my four previous years at Mobile World Congress, the presence and leadership of Asia was impressive to see. From Korea Telecom and NTT Docomo’s 5G live streaming technologies and real world demonstrations, to Cloudpick’s frictionless store, to Huawei and Samsung’s first fully bendable mobile phone screens, there is no doubt that Asia is leading the ongoing mobile revolution. 

Adios from Barcelona. 

Patrick Rona is chief digital officer at McCann Worldgroup Asia Pacific.


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