Can Mobile World Congress Barcelona Deliver A Better Wireless Future?

By Will Townsend - February 20, 2018

“Creating a better future” is the mantra for this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. From February 26th through March 1st, over 100,000 attendees are expected to descend upon the picturesque city for the premier wireless tradeshow. Their end-goal? To learn more about the latest in wireless devices, infrastructure, and services—and enjoy some great wine and paella (yum), while taking in the city’s surreal architecture and beautiful sculpture gardens.

The show organizer, GSMA (Global System for Mobile Communications Association), has divided the show into eight core themes to help attendees find the most relevant information to their areas of interest: The 4th Industrial Revolution (I guess I missed the last three), Future Services Providers, The Network, Digital Consumer, Tech In Society, Content and Media, Applied Artificial Intelligence, and Innovation. I want to dive a little deeper into two of these themes and highlight what I expect to hear more about at the show. Future Services Providers It’s no secret that MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) are struggling with an ever-changing industry and competitive landscape. To survive (and more importantly, thrive), they must find new ways to monetize network services and transform the very way they conduct business. OTT (Over the Top) content delivery and disparate messaging services such as WhatsApp and WeChat are piggybacking on network “dumb pipes,” and return zero revenue and margin to the carrier and operator bottom lines. On this note, at the show I’m expecting to see third-party enablement for services based on future 5G, as well as present LTE, Advanced LTE and Gigabit LTE. I believe unified communication and collaboration on the enterprise side and video streaming/content on the consumer side will be stand out use-case applications. I anticipate enterprise will be the more difficult segment to crack—I recently wrote an article about US carrier T-Mobile ’s struggles in that realm, which you can read here if interested.
The Network
There has been lots of discussion around 5G in the past year since the last Mobile World Congress Barcelona show. I’ve written previously about its potential impact to be a game changer from many perspectives—if interested you can find one of those articles here. I expect 5G to be front and center at the show this year, especially since the final specification was ratified in late 2017. However, I also expect to see plenty of “love” lavished on LTE. Qualcomm has been pushing its Gigabit LTE as a densification to pre-5G deployments, and the reality is that 5G will take time to fully deploy on a global scale.
Cloudification, composability, and virtualization of wireless broadband networks have also been a subject of intense interest recently. I expect to see many more solutions at the show focused on SD-WAN, SDN, and NFV, along with news of real world deployments. Given the debate on net neutrality in the United States and its subsequent “deregulation,” I also expect to see third parties promoting enablement around network slicing, which promises deliver higher quality of service for applications such as mobile AR, gaming, and video streaming. In conclusion I’m looking forward to Mobile World Congress Barcelona and all of the new smartphones and cutting edge mobile devices that are likely to be on display. It’s no secret that I geek out on that stuff and spend hours every day on my iPhone—probably too many, to be honest. What I’m really looking forward to, though, is seeing new solutions that have the potential to revolutionize wireless services and the networks themselves. I can remember the early days of the Internet, my T-Mobile Sidekick device, and the wonderment of having the world at my fingertips (and in my pocket)—albeit slow and clunky by today’s standards. Just think what the near future holds for all of us.
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Will Townsend manages the networking and security practices for Moor Insights & Strategy focused on carrier infrastructure providers, carrier services, enterprise networking and security. He brings over 30 years of technology industry experience in a variety of product, marketing, channel, business development and sales roles to his advisory position.