Operator Trends at Mobile World Congress 2018

Artificial Intelligence, IoT and 5G to Dominate Announcements

With the countdown to Mobile World Congress 2018 now in full swing, here I share some thoughts about what to expect from the event in the area of network operators and connectivity. To view CCS Insight's broader predictions for the show, click here.

Firstly, don't anticipate many major new themes to emerge in Barcelona. The leading areas of discussion will mostly be the same as in 2017, dominated by 5G, the Internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence. Despite this, there should be plenty of news about progress in these areas.

In 5G, there will be more noise than ever before. After the completion of the first formal standard in December 2017, it will seem as if everyone wants to put out a message about 5G. Cutting through the hype will prove an onerous task and I wonder if any CEO will be brave enough this year to speak out negatively about the technology.

But I'd like to look on the positive side. The Winter Olympics in South Korea — which finish the day before Mobile World Congress officially begins — may offer a much-needed glimpse into early consumer applications of 5G, as companies are using the games to showcase some of the potential that the technology holds. I'm also eager to hear more about plans for 5G as a fixed wireless solution, a path being trodden by US carriers Verizon and AT&T. Mobile World Congress also represents a great forum for engagement of mobile connectivity within vertical market sectors. This is a crucial opportunity for 5G, so hopefully we'll hear some announcements.

Last year, artificial intelligence was the only new leading topic of conversation among network operators. I expect that this time we'll see more developments in this area, with voice assistants and chat bots prevalent on many stands. Of particular interest will be an update from Telefonica on Aura, its cognitive platform and the operator's leading announcement at the show in 2017.

Few people would consider mobile operators as pioneers in artificial intelligence, so it'll be interesting to see how these companies position themselves. It could be that predicting faults to optimise network performance emerges as the main benefit in the long run.

Low-power wide area technologies such as NB-IoT and LTE-M will again feature strongly on exhibition stands. This year, early deployments should bring a dose of commercial reality to demonstrations at the show. But with connectivity still representing only a minority of the total value of an IoT project, it's time that debate focussed on how operators can better monetise their investment.

Among other topics, we could see fierce debate over Net neutrality. The Monday evening keynote session featuring the chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, will be a hot ticket in the wake of his controversial policy to overturn previous regulation in the US. There's also a conference track on customer care. This is a theme that has been shamefully neglected in the past, but could offer huge rewards if operators get it right.

If I were to make one plea, it would be that European CEOs refrain from using the show as a platform to lambast authorities over burdensome regulation. This has become a tedious and repetitive message in recent years. With the eyes of the world on Barcelona, operators should be seizing the opportunity to advocate the potential of upgraded LTE technology and imminent 5G networks that will be central to reinventing our personal and working lives in the future.

Lastly, how network operators position themselves in the future could be an underlying theme. At the event in 2017, VimpelCom made a surprise move by launching an entirely new business model (see Veon Seeks New Template for Operator Business Models). It remains to be seen whether any of its rivals will be bold enough to present something equally disruptive this time around. One thing's for certain, the future relevance of a service provider is under scrutiny like never before.

See you soon, Barcelona!

Click on the graphic for a larger version.

This entry was posted on February 14th, 2018 and is filed under Mobile World Congress (MWC). You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed or you can leave a response.

Posted By Kester Mann On February 14th, 2018

(There are no comments yet)
Leave a Comment

Hot News

Team Tweets

CCS Insight
Despite only having a sliver of the US market, @comcast's Xfinity Mobile service delivered a noteworthy performance… https://t.co/0TctMBICl2
Follow CCS Insight
Shaun Collins
Want to know what will be the big news at Mobile World Congress 2018? Be sure to follow our analysts at the event a… https://t.co/XvoeGWcT0U
Follow Shaun
Ben Wood
Coolpad expanding into wearables in US market. Initially kid watches but more products planned after that. Be inter… https://t.co/gjSIa8zITf
Follow Ben
Martin Garner
@Arm launches Kigen family to provide eUICC integrated SIM and ID server for the cellular #IoT world. If we're head… https://t.co/shNCZD21vf
Follow Martin
Geoff Blaber
RT @nickmcquire: Remember China’s State Council $150BN “New Generation #AI Development Plan” launched in July? Well, it’s advancing... FAST…
Follow Geoff
Marina Koytcheva
@geoffblaber Technology can be used in a good way or in a bad way. The question is: who decided what is good and what is bad.
Follow Marina
Nicholas McQuire
RBS hires “digital human” Cora on probation > Another #IBMWatson banking customer with big plans to automate ~50% o… https://t.co/Cj4n69w359
Follow Nicholas
Paolo Pescatore
Another punchy Sky Mobile bundle including Sony Xperia XA2 & PlayStation 4 for £25/month (and Gran Turismo Sport) https://t.co/AYE1ZBF5Ch
Follow Paolo
Kester Mann
O2 UK follows Vodafone in launching data roll-over on PAYG. Follows tariff refresh earlier this year in face of str… https://t.co/0y50x6pirr
Follow Kester
George Jijiashvili
Nokia doesn’t "see a path" for its Digital Health business. Very sad development for Withings team who make excelle… https://t.co/BmIEdkg6xM
Follow George
Laura Simeonova
RT @CCSInsight: Optimization for artificial intelligence defines competitiveness in mobile chipsets in 2019 and beyond #ccspredicts https:/…
Follow Laura
Katie Taylor
Synthetic biology: Strange medicine https://t.co/OorKQv5nFi via @TheEconomist
Follow Katie

Recent Blog Posts

Blog Post
The First Million Is Always the Hardest Xfinity Mobile Joins the Big Four Carriers in Net Additions ... Read more
Blog Post
Intel's Push to the Edge Xeon D-2100 Brings Data Processing to the Network Edge Inte... Read more
Blog Post
Smart Building Market Gathers Pace in Europe New Forecast Expects Sales of Smart Systems to Triple by 202... Read more
More blog

Latest Company News

Blog Post
CCS Insight Forecast Predicts Apple Watch and Hearables to Fuel Growth in Wearables Research firm CCS Insight forecasts 71 million smartwatc... Read more
More news