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MWC 2017 : Day 3: Drones, Robots & 5G

by Ken Hyers | Feb 28, 2017

Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2017, the world’s largest mobile communications trade show, kicked off earlier this week in Barcelona, Spain. Strategy Analytics’ devices team is there, covering handsets, smartphones, drones, robots, 5G and other connected technology.

Our Day One coverage, focusing on smartphone launches from Huawei, LG and Nokia (HMD) is available here.

Our Day Two coverage, focusing on smartphone launches from Sony, a new licensing partnership by Jolla / Sailfish, the return of BlackBerry, Alcatel budget phones and ZTE and Gionee, can be found here.

We are also hosting invitation-only client presentations at MWC 2017 (attend), and a post MWC Webinar on March 6 (register).


With Days One and Two out of the way, and all of the major new smartphone introductions out of the way, we turn our attention to emerging devices and technology introduced at the show.

DJI Introduces M200 Enterprise Drone with ADS-B

While drones are not a typical staple of MWC, they are beginning to pop up at the show, especially as they begin to be used for specialized tasks within the mobile industry. From industry leader DJI came the announcement of its newest Matrice 200 (M200) series commercial-grade drone, which will come with an ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance broadcast) receiver, letting it detect aircraft that use ADS-B beacons and to take evasive action to avoid flying into the way of those aircraft. 

DJI M200 Enterprise-Grade Drone

 DJI M200


DJI is the clear leader in consumer drones with more than 50% marketshare in terms of revenue, and by some measures by volume (excluding toy drones). The introduction of the M200 is a clear indication that DJI intends to step up its focus on the enterprise drone sector, where drones are used for purposes ranging from photography, survey work, agriculture, cell tower inspections, search-and-rescue and even as flying cellular transmitters / COW (Cell on Wings). With the M200 DJI clearly intends to dominate the enterprise drone market in much the same way that it already dominates the consumer camera drone market.


Huawei Unveils Wireless Charging and augmented GPS Concept for Drones

Huawei unveiled a plan to let cell towers wireless charge drones at MWC 2017 as part of its X Labs initiative. The idea is that while drones can replace humans to perform inspections of cell towers (climbing towers to inspect them is one of the most dangerous jobs for workers), the combination of interference and the length of time it takes makes this a difficult job for drones to perform. The most challenging part of using a drone to inspect a cell tower is that signal interference from the tower can interfere with the drone’s ability to maintain a GPS lock, which can contribute to faster power use by the drone.  Huawei hopes to develop a wireless charging technology that can provide additional power to the drone while it’s flying around the tower, and also hopes to have the tower boost GPS data sent to the drone. While Huawei acknowledges that the technology is still years in the future, it says that it would improve drone performance and safety. If developed, the solution would also appear to have broader uses, perhaps in other types of building inspection and to improve overall drone navigation in areas where GPS signal interference is an issue.


PAL Robotics Showcases its Premium Tier Robots at MWC 2017

Robots are another technology that is appearing more often at Mobile World Congress. For Barcelona-based Pal Robotics it was an easy journey to the floor of the Fira where it showcased its humanoid robots at the Ubuntu booth. Partnering with Ubuntu to appear at the show made sense, given that its robots run on Ubuntu, with the open source ROS (Robot Operating System) OS overlaid on top.

Pal Robotics Humanoid Robot

Pal Robotics

Pal Robotics robots are premium tier service robots for use by businesses and educational institutions like universities. The robots cost north of 200,000 Euros, and come in both legged and wheel-base versions.


5G New Radio is Coming Sooner Than You Think

And finally, no blog post about MWC would be complete without at least mentioning 5G. To that end, we can announce that while no 5G phones were unveiled at MWC 2017, a host of equipment and tech companies announced that they’re closer than you might think.

AT&T, NTT Docomo, SK Telecom, Vodafone, Ericsson, Qualcomm, British Telecom, Telstra, Korea Telecom, Intel, LG Uplus, KDDI, LG Electronics, Telia Company, Swisscom, TIM, Etisalat Group, Huawei, Sprint, Vivo, ZTE and Deutsche Telekom combined to announce that 5G New Radio (5G NR), a version of the next generation network standard, would be ready for large-scale deployment in 2019, a year earlier than previously expected.

5G, which promises to support data speeds up to 100 times faster than 4G while offering lower latency and higher capacity, is an evolving standard. The fact that nearly two dozen of the most important mobile operators, chip makers and network equipment providers have agreed on a basis for the standard means that development, via the 3GPP standards group, will move more quickly (all of the companies listed are part of the standards group).

Strategy Analytics projects less than 1 million 5G handsets will be shipped in 2020 – but by 2025 global critical mass will be reached as most of the major operators around the world will have deployed the technology on a widespread basis.

You can tune into our Day four update tomorrow and can find our first blog about our expectations for MWC 2017 across smartphones, display, technical innovations and others here.

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