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AI, 6G, and More. Hot Topics as Mobile World Congress Returns.

Artificial intelligence is likely to take center stage at Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest mobile and communications trade show, which is back in Barcelona next week.

MWC has traditionally been a stage for smartphone launches and some hardware is likely to be on show. However, it is increasingly moving beyond phones to become a broader tech show. In recent weeks, all anyone wants to talk about in the tech industry is AI and MWC is set to be no different.

With last year’s edition still clouded by the Covid-19 pandemic, organizers are hoping MWC will return on a big scale. Around 80,000 attendees are expected—that’s down from more than 100,000 before the pandemic but with chief executives from companies such as

Lockheed Martin

(ticker: LMT),


(NOK), and


(MAERSK.Denmark) attending, it’s still a place to do business. 

Here are some of the big topics likely to draw attention: 

Artificial Intelligence Stealing the Show 

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Artificial intelligence announcements from the likes of


(MSFT) and Google-owner


(GOOG) have sent the stock market into a frenzy in recent weeks. AI is likely to get plenty more attention at MWC, with at least 10 panels focused on the topic and plenty more likely to feature executives talking up their progress in the hot sector. 

The trick will be separating hype from reality. Away from the debates about whether chatbots are becoming sentient, AI’s most valuable contribution for telecoms businesses right now could be eking out more cost savings and efficiencies in the face of a global economic slowdown. 

Eyes are likely to be on whether executives are willing to put their money where their mouth is. In a recent survey of 400 telecoms executives, only 3% said their companies spent more than $50 million on AI in 2022, according to a survey conducted by chip maker


(NVDA). That might need to change quickly. 

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Making Money From 5G  

Fifth-generation, or 5G, networks have disappointed compared with their 4G predecessors so far. Whereas 4G networks coincided with and enabled the spread of the smartphone and its video-streaming possibilities, 5G is still yet to make its mark in everyday life—despite promising connections up to 100 times faster. 

That’s frustrating for telecoms companies that have invested heavily in enabling 5G such as


(VZ) and


(T)—the latter said recently it would spend $24 billion in capital expenditure this year. However, private 5G networks for industrial and business applications could hold the key.

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Mohamed Kande, PwC vice chairman, explained to Barron’s: “3G and 4G were really important for the consumer. Is 5G going to be the killer application for enterprise? That’s what the next set of discussions are going to be.” He pointed to the possibilities for automated manufacturing, relying on wireless connections with virtually no delays. 

Business-intelligence firm ABI Research has estimated that by 2030, manufacturing and industrial companies worldwide will have more than 49 million 5G connections inside their facilities, generating $2.4 billion in revenue. Companies will be using MWC to pitch for their slice of the pie. 

Looking Ahead to 6G 

If making money from 5G is hard, there’s always the advent of 6G. It’s not coming soon—estimates for commercial 6G network launches tend to settle around 2030—but that doesn’t mean telecoms executives won’t be thinking and talking about it at MWC. 

In the words of Swedish telecoms equipment provider

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(ERIC), 6G technology is set to enable a “future ubiquitous cyber-physical continuum.” It’s not clear what that means yet, but some of today’s most-talked about technologies—the metaverse, smart cities, driverless cars—are likely to be built on 6G networks. Who will pay for them is likely to be a topic of debate. 

The race to claim a leading position is already on. South Korea’s government said this week that it hopes to launch a 6G service as soon as 2028, looking to seize on the technological capabilities of local companies such as Samsung Electronics. China has also said it intends to push 6G development this year, with Western sanctions on Chinese telecoms equipment provider Huawei still roiling the industry. Expect plenty of calls for government support for 6G networks.

Write to Adam Clark at

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