Wi-Fi 7 and XR to set the agenda at MWC 2022

Crowds teeming through the conference hall at MWC
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Mobile World Congress (MWC) will return to the Fira Gran Via exhibition centre on 28 February in the fullest possible way for the first time since 2019. In the intervening three years, the world – including the tech industry – has changed unfathomably. Beyond mandatory FFP2 face masks and health certificates, however, we’re yet to see how COVID-19 will affect the annual Barcelona-based event.

Two of the biggest talking points at MWC 2022 – 5G and a new flagship Samsung phone – makes it seem as if time has stood still. Only when you scratch the surface does it become clearer how much has actually changed. In early 2019, 5G was only on the cusp of reaching UK smartphone users and businesses. Three years on, though, it’s being used to enable artificial intelligence (AI) and power the metaverse – a term which might as well have been considered alien in pre-pandemic times. Rather than another Galaxy S smartphone, too, which was actually announced at the beginning of February, we can expect a more affordable alternative from the ​​Galaxy A and M ranges, according to Forrester VP and principal analyst, Thomas Husson.

With 5G among the key topics of this year’s event, coverage surrounding 6G is coming off as rather underwhelming. This is especially surprising given the recent developments on that front, including record speed tests and international partnerships. Although MWC’s agenda includes sessions such as the Future of 6G and the Road to 6G, actual concrete announcements for potential 6G-related products, whether on infrastructure or the technology powering it, seem to be missing in action. Should we file a missing cellular network report? Give us until next week to decide.

On the flip side, the future of Wi-Fi seems to be in safe hands. Although the benefits of Wi-Fi 6 are only just starting to be realised, we’ll see some big announcements regarding Wi-Fi 7 and its capabilities. Another major theme will be extended reality (XR), which is likely to steal some attention from its constituent cousins augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

In keeping with tradition, meanwhile, the wide-reaching conference will summon the biggest manufacturers from across the world – although the majority of them may hail from Europe. The rise in COVID-19 cases in China might affect travel plans for some of the biggest Chinese tech giants, which have historically been front-and-centre at MWC. To resolve this issue, CCS Insight chief analyst Ben Wood predicts that companies including Oppo, Vivo, and Xiaomi aim to deliver a strong MWC presence by deploying their European-based staff. For one particular Chinese company, Huawei, the return to MWC tastes much different.

The firm has taken a hit like no other in the last two years, facing significant infrastructure restrictions in a number of Western countries, including the UK, and taking a 30% revenue hit in 2021. Huawei might see MWC as a chance for redemption – at least slightly – on European turf, as its focus lies on “surviving” the next five years.

From Wi-Fi 7 to XR, this year’s MWC is set to be a welcome break from covering international tech events from the kitchen table. Remote working is one thing, but missing out on hands-on experience, new friends, and free drinks? Barcelona, here we come.

Sabina Weston

Having only graduated from City University in 2019, Sabina has already demonstrated her abilities as a keen writer and effective journalist. Currently a content writer for Drapers, Sabina spent a number of years writing for ITPro, specialising in networking and telecommunications, as well as charting the efforts of technology companies to improve their inclusion and diversity strategies, a topic close to her heart.

Sabina has also held a number of editorial roles at Harper's Bazaar, Cube Collective, and HighClouds.