A new G comes to MWC

Ten years ago.

MWC 2008 was ten years ago this week. Here’s one of those Twitter threads but not deployed as a twitter thread, but as a thread of tweetable links. And why not?

At #MWC08 the strategic debates were  about operator control versus online players. Software on phones versus hardware optimisation. Content.

Nokia was making the move to services with Share on Ovi and Maps2.0. It brought out the N78 multimedia handset and the Nokia 6210 Navigator N96.

At its press conference it was pretty defensive about its lack of a touchscreen. ”It’s important you don’t bring out gimmicky touch products.”

This was the second MWC since the iPhone launch. Winner of the best Phone at the GSMA awards was the Sony Ericsson W910 Walkman. Sony celebrated by launching the Xperia X1… on Windows Mobile.

This was the year the first Google Android demos appeared – either on prototypes or boards. Here’s an example of the excitement.  

One preview said. “Apple will only ever make up a small proportion of a market running at more than 1bn mobile handsets a year. Far more important is the arrival of Google in mobile.”

Content was king (and queen). The GSMA was in one of its star-gazer phases. Robert Redford, Isabella Rossalini and (er) Will.i.am were guests at the Awards . There was some sort of competition to make “shorts” specifically for mobile.

Vivienne Reding was there to give official support to a GSMA initiative to counter distribution of child abuse images on mobile phones. After, Reding led journalists to the steps outside the conference rooms and held an impromptu press conference slamming operators for their high roaming charges .

In networks, the excitement was about LTE. Ericsson made the world’s first demonstration of an end-to-end phone call enabled by Long-Term Evolution  – System Architecture Evolution (LTE/SAE). Nokia Siemens Networks launched its LTE solution for radio and core networks , including the new Flexi Multimode Base Station, Mobility Management Entity (MME) and System Architecture Evolution (SAE) Gateway.  The demo UE hardware going around was still the size of a PC motherboard.

LTE was not the only 4G game in town. Oh no. Intel’s press kit was all about WiMAX. All about WiMAX.  The company put up four Motorola WiMAX (2.5GHz) base stations on rooftops in central Barcelona connected via microwave backhaul. 

Nortel was for LTE or mobile WiMAx. It wasn’t too fussed, it just wanted you to buy its 4G stuff of either flavour when the time came. 🙁 Here’s an honest Scott Wickware: “It’s the last day of 2008 MWC in Barcelona and I am absolutely exhausted .”


And that was MWC 2008. The sharp of mind will have noted that we are at pretty much the same stage in 5G as we were then in LTE – with the first standards-based demos on prototype devices. Apple sold a few phones and touch turned out not to be a gimmick. Android did… rather well. It took almost all the intervening ten years but roaming premiums in the EU are now dead. Nobody makes short films just for mobile because devices and networks outgrew that ambition. In part because LTE has been a huge, in retrospect almost startling, success story.