The main theme at this year’s MWC in Barcelona was ‘intelligent connectivity’ and those two words found themselves emblazoned across the show’s billboards in bright lights and headlining a key demo space.

But what is intelligent connectivity?

The honest answer is that it can mean different things to different people, but there is a consensus that mobile connectivity is on the cusp of changing the way we live thanks to mobile networks’ march towards 5G.

Fast download speeds and machine learning

The industry estimates that 5G download speeds will be 1,000 times faster than current 4G networks, so we are talking about potentially more than 10Gbps – so a user can download a 700MB entire movie in less than a second. So while that is all very well and good, what is intelligent about it?

MWC was awash with Artificial Intelligence (AI) use-cases and existing solutions. While we are mobile, the apps and devices that we use can leverage the higher speeds of 5G to do more processing with data. And the new machine learning and AI platforms that are being developed can apply this to make smarter and more agile networks.

Network agility and adaptability

The smart part comes from the network understanding what is happening to traffic flows and adapting how these are allocated on the fly – fully automated and without human and manual intervention.

An example might be a security breach taking place, whereby the network will identify malicious traffic such as a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, syphon off that traffic based on signatures and scrub it clean.

Software-defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) are also more intelligent and agile than before, supporting, for example, traffic slicing applications for robots running off 5G in manufacturing environments or assisting autonomous cars and sensors in internet environments with traffic prioritisations.

The innovation city

Intelligent connectivity was also the theme behind the GSMA’s Innovation City at this year’s MWC (ie, previously the Mobile World Congress).

The GSMA’s innovation centre was referred to as “an immersive exhibition space” by organisers who sought to demonstrate how combining 5G mobile, the internet, AI and ‘smart platforms’ offered tangible benefits across many industries.

The GSMA space featured demos by over 40 companies including global heavyweights Google, Huawei, KT Corporation, Sierra Wireless and Turkcell/Lifecell Digital.

Connectivity in action

Below are just a very small handful of examples of how intelligence is becoming more pervasive in connectivity:

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• South Korean provider KT demonstrated its 5G Skyship Platform for disaster and safety management, an autonomous vehicle city ‘K-City’ for test and research purposes, and AI robots that target the hospitality industry vertical.

• Sierra Wireless presented a data-driven solution that allows companies to manage assets far more effectively than ever before. The solution securely extracts, orchestrates and acts on data from assets at the edge to the cloud to give near real-time asset visibility.

• Vodafone and Juniper demonstrated the 5G ambulance that is being deployed in Catalonia, Spain. The service features connected ambulances with advanced communication services. Vodafone has provided 5G connectivity for dedicated communication, which sees speeds of up to 5Gbps, provides lower latency for communications and sending data and enables network slicing for urgent needs. This dedicated emergency service network can be used in medical emergencies to guarantee service and capacity to communicate, regardless of the number of users in the same communications cell.

Clearly, at MWC 2019 there were hundreds upon hundreds of examples of how 5G, the internet, software-defined networks and AI, fuse together to support intelligent connectivity.

As 5G networks rollout out during this year and next, we expect to see a positive impact on society. The fact is security remains a concern, but intelligent-connected networks will have tools and features added to them to help thwart cyber-crime. It is imperative that businesses and governments follow policies strictly to be properly protected.

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