MWC 2020 preview

Some of the headline topics for MWC 2020 appear pretty generic – connectivity in the 5G era and the commercial implications of the (fairly meaningless) industry X concept – reflecting the continuing desire to create the broad church of the mobile ecosystem. However, some aspects of the industry-X concept undoubtedly point to mission-critical themes such as an absolute focus on security in a rapidly evolving digital ecosystem.

From what Real Wireless is hearing from clients, however, we are expecting meetings and discussions around more focused themes like connectivity in the context of transportation, and the implications of regulatory developments related to shared spectrum access and rural reach. And here’s why.

Transportation: Once again it’s a safe bet there will be a strong emphasis on connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) in Barcelona this year, along with a slew of mid-life crisis supercars on the floors of the Fira. Which is as it should be given the marketing emphasis of MWC, but finding those that are considering the technical underpinning of the development of the CAV market can be tricky.

The rapid drive for connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) demands robust wireless infrastructure to realise its potential and Real Wireless has already played a significant role in partnerships focused on scoping out requirements and solutions. But this is a sector that still has big questions to answer if it is to scale. For example, CAV features multiply the sensor and wireless connectivity requirements for vehicles. This means integration challenges are significant on highly price sensitive vehicle product platforms and with standards rapidly evolving the SoC supply chain has its work cut out to enable the sector to scale at the required pace. In addition, it remains unclear if and how 5G and ITS-G5 might interwork. Given the size of the infrastructure investments involved the industry should avoid a BetaMax/VHS showdown. Our expertise in this sector underpins some interesting and challenging projects in the pipeline later in the year.

Shared spectrum access: Globally, there are welcome moves to open up spectrum for enterprise, manufacturing and alternative service providers, to ensure that every industry – not just telecoms – can benefit from innovative wireless technologies, including 4G and 5G. However, following the lead of its MNOs, European regulators give the impression of being uncoordinated and lukewarm on the subject. A number of factors are playing into this impression; tensions with incumbent spectrum holders, industrial strategy and an inclination to wait-and-see how the approaches develop. There are variations in the approaches taken and I recommend keeping well informed on the approaches of Ofcom, USA’s 3.5GHz CBRS and Germany’s award of 100MHz in the 3.7GHz band for industrial use. Real Wireless is keen to engage with both businesses and the regulatory community to help forge robust and progressive approaches that can support enterprise and innovation in this space.

Rural connectivity: After years of talk, it looks like rural coverage is finally receiving the focus it deserves. The UK has seen a commitment by the ‘big four’ and the Government to deliver reliable 4G coverage to 95% of the country within five years. Recent developments imply some tensions in the joint approach, but such teething problems are to be expected considering there are cultural as well as business and technical challenges. Elsewhere, we have worked with regulators in Ireland and Austria to look beyond short-term auction returns to establish the real economic implications of long-term thinking that benefits both governments and end-users when improvements in coverage are built into the spectrum management strategy of the regulators. There is plenty to learn from our experiences with the regulatory frontrunners.

Opening the RAN: Governments are continuing to apply pressure to their incumbent mobile service providers to justify their supplier choices and provide guarantees on the security of communications. Now is therefore the time for new and Tier 2/3 vendors to showcase their capability to enter the trusted supply chain and establish their credentials as a trusted partner for mobile operators, neutral hosts and private network builders. We spend a lot of time keeping ourselves informed of the supply side and welcome invites from those who would like us to be informed of their product lines so we can advise procurement approaches that ensure a wider supply side choice. We are also happy to advise vendors on how they can tune their offerings and refine value propositions.

Other key issues we’ll expect to be bubbling just below the surface-hype in Barcelona include the barriers to network densification and strategies (commercial and technical) for private networks for sectors like ports, stadia and factories. To find out more, you can download a free copy of our state-of-the-industry Wireless in 2020 predictions.

But better still, arrange to meet up with Real Wireless COO Oliver Bosshard and myself in Barcelona. We’d love the chance to have a catch up, discuss your coming projects and how Real Wireless might support them. Look forward to seeing you at the show.