What to Expect at Mobile World Congress Americas 2018

Kathryn Weldon – Research Director, Business Network and IT Services – Americas

Summary Bullets:

  • MWCA will focus on the latest advancements towards 5G services from operators, infrastructure equipment providers, device OEMs, and other members of the supplier ecosystem.
  • Other key areas of interest for enterprises will include demos and sessions on LPWANs, data analytics, AI, business transformation, and security of all types from UEM to multi-layer IoT security, to fraud prevention.

Anticipating the key themes at MWCA this year is not too difficult when we look at what things have and haven’t changed in the wireless industry over the past year. Clearly we are closer to actual 5G rollouts, so all vendors and operators that participate in the 5G value chain will be touting their wares, anticipating/touting possible use cases, and amping up the excitement for adjacent technologies that will be advanced by 5G such as AR/VR, enhanced video broadcasting and streaming, and advanced interactive gaming systems. On the pure B2B front, vendors will be discussing and demoing technologies that will benefit from low latency such as autonomous driving, robotics, and real-time video surveillance, while noting new business models, service tiers, and applications to be derived from 5G network slicing. 5G readiness, security, fixed vs. mobile broadband services, and regional and global insights will also be discussed, compared, analyzed, and otherwise dissected in panel discussions, presentations, and keynotes.

But 5G isn’t the only news in wireless. The session structure and agenda at the show provides insights into other topics of interest. The different tracks offered for MWCA sessions in 2018 reflect the key themes and trends in the wireless industry, as well as the broader telecom market. This year there are five main tracks: the 4th Industrial Revolution; Everything Policy; The Network; Media and Entertainment; and Innovation. There are also separate mini-conferences on topics and technologies such as IoT, blockchain, and edge computing. Security is top of mind across networks and technologies, so there are sessions on cyber-security, device certification, fraud prevention, and security in a connected world. Infrastructure vendors will be debating topics such as RAN innovation, the impact of NFV and SDN, and network optimization strategies. As machine learning and AI are infiltrating all aspects of technology and are enablers of innovation, there will also be vendor demos and panel discussions debating the pros and cons of AI and we expect that exhibitors will be showing off the benefits of AI-enabled factory automation and predictive maintenance, medicinal applications, automated customer service, and network optimization. MWCA also features “Partner Programs”, which are sessions led by a particular company or alliance on diverse topics ranging from specific products, specific industries or particular problems or issues such as “using data analytics to drive growth”.


The vertical summits at MWCA reflect those industries that are most affected by rapidly evolving wireless and digital transformation technologies. This year, summits and sessions include Connected Car, Digital Health, Smart Cities, and Digital Financial Services.


The exhibit hall at MWCA 2018 is divided up this year by country pavilions and also by technology zones including: an App zone, a drone zone, an IoT zone (by far the largest), and a “NEXTech” zone. In all, 1000+ exhibitors will be demoing wares. In addition, there is GSMA’s Innovation City sponsored this year by KT (Korea Telecom) and BMW and showing off a little bit of everything across smart home, smart city and smart industry applications.


So what else is new?


5G Closer to Reality. Aside from the hype, we expect that MWCA sessions will acknowledge the importance of offering differentiated services and capabilities beyond those of 4G, and will serve to educate potential business customers on what to expect as 5G services are launched.


IoT Moves on from LPWAN Hype. Last year LPWAN roll-outs were fresh and new and there was monthly news as well as insights at MWCA about which operators had rolled out which technology, to which countries and cities. This year that steady stream of news has settled down to a low hum. In fact, now that many of these networks are actually in place, there is surprisingly little information in the public domain about customers, use cases, and LPWAN connection growth. We expect that some of the sessions at MWCA will note success stories, while acknowledging existing obstacles in deploying IoT across traditional cellular and LPWAN networks.


Industry Movers and Shakers. Last year the Sprint/T-Mobile merger was not even in the wind. This year it is inching toward a resolution that may shake up the U.S. wireless industry. The opening keynote at MWCA features the COOs of both companies. As many of the heavyweights in the telecom industry will be at the show, we expect there to be some interesting new services, capabilities, technical advancements and novel applications announced and demonstrated.


Any Real Surprises?


MWCA and many other telecommunications and technology trade shows get a lot of their momentum from the consumer side, as new devices and phones and gadgets and games and real-time video demos are, let’s face it, more exciting than B2B applications, network optimization discussions, and panel sessions about what kinds of services can be deployed over 5G NR. However, the advent of AI and 5G are actually pretty compelling on the enterprise side as well, and there is a lot of money to be made. One of the achievements of a trade show like MWCA is to educate. Enterprises know little about 5G at this point because they can’t yet see it or buy it. MWCA should help them envision the kinds of things these new technologies can do for their businesses.


Vendors don’t necessarily wait for MWCA to make major announcements, although one never knows. Any of the following might be possible: a revolutionary new IoT platform that makes it easy to develop a wide variety of 5G-enabled applications; a new vendor or alliance that allows seamless and inexpensive roaming across different LPWAN technologies and spectrum types; acquisitions of application-or vertical-specific software vendors by ITSPs or operators; or truly new, revolutionary B2B use cases for 5G that solve big problems like easing world hunger, curbing global warming, or achieving world peace.



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