On June 29th, 2016, Steve Brumer moderated the Driving Sustainable Smart Cities session at Mobile World Congress Shanghai which hosted over 70,000 attendees this year.

Prior to the session, Steve was interviewed by the Mobile World Congress daily newspaper to discuss the latest trends in mobile technology. He was joined by Stuart Carlaw (Chief Research Officer at ABI Research), Mohammad Chowdhury (TMT consulting leader at PwC) and Bryan Ma (VP of Devices Research of IDC) to provide insight and thought leadership in the mobile world.

What will be the key themes discussed in your session?

Steve: We will be discussing the current state of smart cities, the implementation challenges, citizens and their role, and how we can all make money from this new boom area of mobile

Stuart: 5G and in particular the early roll out of the technology for the Pyeongchang Winter Games and the Tokyo Olympics. Asia looks set to be the early test bed for 5G and it’s going to be interesting to see the results.

Mohammad: IoT, especially with a focus on opportunities in the enterprise sector.

Bryan: We’ll be talking about innovation in hardware, such as VR, wearables, and smart homes, as well as how different vendors are bringing these to market.

What do you think will be the hot topics at the conference and the exhibition?

Steve: For the international audience coming to Shanghai, the hot topics are IoT and smart cities. We’ll be looking at what are the latest products and services around these areas and how can they be brought to the rest of the world.

Stuart: Definitely 5G, M2M and IoT. I would expect some discussion on narrowband communications, unlicensed spectrum and also LTE machine type communications.

Mohammad: The roll out of 5G networks, low power wide area networks, VR, big data and analytics, and IoT.

Bryan: There will of course be the usual topics of 5G, IoT and devices. But as we’ve seen in many other trade shows in the first half of the year (including MWC in Barcelona), we’re likely to see a lot of interest in areas like VR as well as self-driving cars and drones.

What are top challenges mobile operators face in Asia?

Steve: Increasing long-term value to their subscribers, increasing ARPU and understanding how to sell into this new marketplace.

Stuart: The biggest challenges are all surrounding them having to bridge the chasm. We are seeing the fall off in consumer markets and smartphone related upgrade cycles dwindle. The times of rapid value creation through subscriber growth are over.

Mohammad: Sustaining the rapid growth of the past ten years; monetizing new revenue streams from data growth; managing local market consolidation and market share/scale challenges; and building the organization and operating model fit for the digital world.

Bryan: Asian operators face a number of challenges, most notably 4G upgrades in certain countries as well as laying the groundwork for 5G in others. Networks need to be architected for SDN/NFV, and of course operators are always trying to find new revenue streams to fight off the erosion in their core businesses.

Where do you see the biggest opportunities for mobile operators in the next 12 months?

Steve: Finding new products and services to sell to existing and new subscribers that provide something exciting (because people still buy emotionally) and that push them to use carrier services.

Stuart: Small and medium-size businesses are massively underserved and need some attention, especially in APAC. There is a huge opportunity for a derisked and modular service play in this segment.

Mohammad: Tapping new smartphone users to take up data packages and services, finding one to two IoT instances that can scale beyond the pilot stage, and exploring new operating models that are fit for the digital world.

Bryan: There are a lot of opportunities for mobile operators in Asia in the next 12 months, including cloud and managed services for enterprises, as well as 4G access revenues.

What is the most overhyped technology in 2016?

Steve: Augmented reality (AR)…let’s see what the numbers are at the end of this year as they relate to mobile.

Stuart: On one hand it’s 5G, which is positioned as the panacea to all ills. In reality it will unlikely meet most of the expectations of the market. The second thing is fully fledged IoT that uses all of our data to shape our world and crosses segments and customizes our experience for us. This isn’t happening at present.

Mohammad: Virtual reality (VR), which might take a few years to mature and scale.

Bryan: I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it is overhyped, but we do need to be mindful of this huge rush into VR from vendors of all sorts, be they device vendors, semiconductor companies or content producers. This is a new area that takes a number of years to settle, not just in terms of technology, but also usage models and social norms.