MWC 2017 has been filled with giant stands proclaiming the imminent arrival of 5G. Everything will be connected at breakneck data speeds, from your car, to your home and your new gigabit enabled smartphone.
One of the key takeaways from the show is that 5G will quickly provide the networks that tech companies need to support the next stage of technological innovation. However, amongst all the future gazing, the most popular stand does not belong to the future, but to the past, and to Nokia’s reimagined 3310, the modern-day version of the charming original.
The handset itself is more 2009 than 1999, running Nokia’s series 30 operating system and even packing a colour display and camera. However, the response to this nostalgia-inducing phone has been astonishing, especially given that it only supports 2G GSM connectivity, a technology which is dying across the western world.
In the United States, for example, T-Mobile is the last network which could support the handset. In Australia, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore the technology is either gone or soon will be.
The UK’s mobile networks, on the other hand, are still made up of a colourful combination of 2G through to 4G, with each operator offering different services on each different technology. 5G, rather than replacing existing networks, is going to add another layer of wireless technology over the top.
Currently the 2G network in the UK looks to be in a relatively secure position, filling gaps in voice and text coverage and facilitating M2M communication functionality, but the network operators will not want to support this over 20-year-old network for much longer. It is taking up spectrum which can be better used for 5G purposes, and as 3G and 4G continue to evolve and grow, new solutions like narrow-band Internet of Things (IoT) networks will rise to take 2G’s place.
The new Nokia 3310 is billed as having a super long battery life (31 days in standby mode) and would make a great option for a back-up phone. Unfortunately, the reality is that within the next 5 years, the network it relies on will be obsolete. The good news is that Snake (the real reason anyone will buy the phone) is not dependant on 2G at all.