Tech Transformers

Samsung to 5G: 5 things happening in tech this week


Mobile World Congress, Europe's biggest consumer electronics show with an expected 95,000 attendees, kicks off next week.

It's a show where the world's biggest electronics companies show off their latest devices that could make or break their year.

Firms from Samsung to Huawei have scheduled events on Sunday, just before the official start of the conference on Monday and while much of the focus will be on the big players, themes from the future of 5G to driverless cars will be in focus.

CNBC takes a look at what to expect.

Samsung, Huawei launches

Sunday is a day packed full of launches and two of the biggest are Samsung and Huawei's.

Samsung is expected to unveil its Galaxy S7 smartphone and S7 Edge, the latest flagship handsets in its range. The world's biggest smartphone maker warned of possible softer earnings this year due to a slowdown in the market and is looking to new areas such as virtual reality (VR) to fill the gap. In a video teasing the event, Samsung showed a person putting on their newly-released Gear VR headset and reaching out towards a slightly open box.

Huawei has had an impressive year with Smartphone sales up 44 percent year-on-year in 2015. Rumors about the company's next device have been swirling around the internet, and Huawei will be looking to build on its success from last year.

Xiaomi is also making its first appearance at MWC, hosting a press conference just after an event in Beijing where it is expected to show off its latest handset, the Mi 5.

"We continue to believe that Chinese players such as Alcatel OneTouch (TCL), Huawei, Lenovo, Xiaomi and others are the companies to watch in this space as traditional players like HTC, Microsoft and Sony lose market share," research company CCS Insight said in a note.

5G: How close is it?

A lot of the chatter at MWC will be around 5G, the next generation of mobile internet that will not only power our smartphones, but also the so-called "Internet of Things" (IOT). That includes your washing machine wanting to send you a message and anything else connected to the internet.

The number of IOT devices will number 38.5 billion in 2020, up for 13.4 billion in 2015, a 285 percent rise, according to Juniper Research. But the current network infrastructure will not be able to cope.

That's why the industry is pushing forward with 5G, with fairly ambitious targets. The year 2020 has been touted as a deadline of the arrival of 5G, but there is still no global standard for the technology. That's what players from network equipment makers to semiconductor firms are trying to establish.

"You'll see demonstrations from vendors and from the handset guys to show the kind of speeds you can get over 5G networks," Michael O'Hara, chief marketing officer of GSMA, the organizers of MWC told CNBC.

Driverless cars

An increasing number of automakers have been attending consumer electronic shows recently as the driverless car comes closer to being sold on the car lot.

Google is testing driverless vehicles and a number of tech players and car manufacturers have touted the potential of the future autos.

"Cars are emerging as one of the largest near-term opportunities for connected devices beyond mobile phones. Numerous partnerships and technology initiatives will be highlighted at the show," CCS Insight said.

Virtual reality

It's been a big buzzword for the past year, but virtual reality (VR) has been thrust into the mainstream. Device makers from HTC to Samsung have released VR devices while content is on the rise.

Samsung is expected to focus heavily on VR in its launch on Sunday.

CCS Insight said VR products are "poised for explosive growth in 2016".

Connecting the unconnected

Billions of people around the world are still not connected to the internet and trying to change that will be a big a topic at MWC.

"You'll hear from the operators about how they are hoping to connect the unconnected," O'Hara said.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is giving a keynote talk on Monday evening and will likely discuss the company's project to beam internet from the skies using solar powered drones. The social network's boss might also talk about its "Free Basics" program, which recently suffered a major setback in India.