​MWC 2018 preview: IoT, 5G, B2B take center stage

Mobile World Congress used to be the land of the latest smartphones, but today is more about digital transformation, 5G and using the Internet of things to revamp cities and multiple industries.

Mobile World Congress used to be the place where the latest greatest smartphones were unveiled. Today, MWC is all about business and enabling next-gen networks, platforms and sensors designed to make everything smart.

Yes, Samsung will use MWC to gobble up the smartphone air time with the new Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus on Sunday. After that launch it's pretty much all business. Here are the key themes to watch for business. Also see CNET's MWC coverage

5G

The biggest question about the rush of 5G-related announcements from telecom equipment and networking companies will revolve around timing. You can expect Intel, Ericsson, Nokia, Qualcomm and damn near everyone else in the wireless ecosystem to talk up 5G. We all know what 5G means: Broadband-like wireless connectivity as well as less latency on Internet of tings networks. 5G will also mean more intelligence at the edge of the network. Add it up and MWC is likely to include plans for 5G laptops and PCs as well as interoperability efforts.

Pilots for 5G networks have been underway and commercial rollouts are expected in the latter half of 2018. For now, 5G utopia isn't quite here yet, but rest assured business will take the lead with use cases initially.

Internet of things

At MWC, IoT will garner a lot of attention around core themes such as management, connectivity and sensors that utilize compute at the edge of the network to make everything smart. There will also be a heavy dose of applications that can manage all of these sensors that are proliferating in the field. On the MWC agenda, "connected intelligence" is a term used heavily. Digital transformation powered by IoT is also a core theme. Naturally, you can't talk IoT without mentioning big data and artificial intelligence. IoT security and where blockchain fits in will also be in the forefront.

What is the IoT? Everything you need to know about the Internet of Things right now

Smart cities, transportation and health care

MWC has multiple tracks on industries and how they play into mobility and intelligence. How IoT impacts a community is also a session. When you plug these moving parts together you have the core functions of a smart city. Nokia already launched its smart city platform ahead of MWC and plans to outline its network portfolio to manage cities better. While smart cities can be a lucrative market for technology vendors, the buying cycle is longer. As a result, technology vendors are positioning their smart city tools as ways to drive revenue and services for communities. When budgets are tight, driving incremental revenue is a core concern for cities.