Intelligence Brief: What mattered at MWC19 Shanghai? - Mobile World Live

Intelligence Brief: What mattered at MWC19 Shanghai?

03 JUL 2019

Going into MWC19 Shanghai, predictions for the event were easy to come by. If nothing else, Mobile World Live’s blog covering what to expect from the event provided great pointers.

And how did they do? Was the crystal ball on point?

Pretty much. Broadly, the expectation was set for news around the ongoing supply chain security battles (for example, potential limitations on Huawei), along with insights into Chinese 5G launches. And, broadly, this is what we saw.

China Mobile talked up its 5G targets and investment plans, highlighting the role of 5G as an “engine to drive the economy” based on plans for sub-$300 5G devices by the end of 2020. News swirled around potential Chinese demands for an end to the ban on Huawei and the ways in which some companies were sidestepping those bans.

Ericsson announced plans to expand 5G infrastructure production in the US in order to support a “flexible supply chain” while Nokia distanced itself from executive comments disparaging the security of Huawei kit. Amidst all of this, and perhaps summing up the implications, China Telecom warned against 5G becoming an “arms race” focused on national competition.

The revelation, from last week’s G20 Summit, that the US Administration would allow Huawei to buy products from American suppliers, took many people by surprise. However, most of the themes from MWC19 Shanghai were known in advance. What wasn’t known, however, is how they would manifest themselves.

That’s why it was great to see so many exhibitors and attendees there to understand the specific direction the industry was moving in. And it’s why we sent a full roster of GSMAi analysts. While the news can give you a feel for what happened, it’s important to be on the ground to capture the nuance and understand what’s contributing to the trends.

Because each of our analysts captured different aspects of the show, I’ve asked them to share their top takeaway.

5G goes vertical – Pablo Iacopino, director – Ecosystem Research
Interest in 5G applications for vertical industries is reaching unprecedented levels. To a large extent, this comes as no surprise. Nearly 70 per cent of operator CEOs globally agreed enterprise is the most important opportunity for incremental revenue in the 5G era.

During MWC19 Shanghai, Chinese operators and vendors were eager to show the latest developments in pretty much most of the targeted verticals. But the insights weren’t just about China. There was also a fair amount of interest in understanding what the latest applications and use cases are in other regions, including Europe.

Trials and demonstrations across a number of verticals in the Old Continent (Europe) spanning automotive; media and entertainment; energy; and healthcare were highlighted as the region seeks to re-establish its technology leadership. Tracking 5G developments, partnerships and early lessons across industries will keep us busy for a while.

IoT versus the 5G hype machine – Sylwia Kechiche, principal analyst – IoT
We all knew 5G would steal the show in Shanghai. But that doesn’t mean there was a shortage of IoT products and solutions.

And what was new this year? Real life use cases of NB-IoT for a range of verticals, from smart cities with connected manholes, lights and parking, through to industrial applications and dancing robots. But more importantly, platforms that use AI and can make sense of all the data these connected devices capture, no matter the technology and protocols.

Leading an IoT Tour at the show gave me unique insights into what attendees want to know about IoT, and what vendors want to tell them. This year, the IoT conversation moved beyond connecting things to making sure that the real value of IoT can be achieved. And, oh yeah, 5G IoT modules are already here.

The mobile economy beyond China – Jan Stryjak, senior manager – Core Mobility Research
5G in China was always going to dominate the discussion in Shanghai this year. In the rest of the region, however, the 5G opportunity is more long term, largely because there is still a lot of headroom for 4G.

Across developing Asia Pacific, 4G became the dominant mobile technology in 2018 (surpassing 50 per cent of total connections) and it will continue to grow, reaching 70 per cent by 2025. It is unclear whether people in many of the region’s emerging markets will potentially pay more for a 5G service, particularly when 4G will meet their needs in the majority of cases.

While this might not be good news for 5G suppliers, it’s great news for societies which can leverage a mature technology as they look to push advancements in areas such as digital commerce and payments, identity and cross-ecosystem collaboration to help create the digital societies of the future.

The cost of building 5G – Alla Shabelnikova, senior analyst – Financials
On the heels of our 2025 Capex Outlook, MWC19 Shanghai provided a great opportunity to further test and validate our assumptions.

The message from all network vendors, at least, was clear: the money lies in the enterprise use cases, hence the operators will have to build networks with that in mind.

To fully see the benefits of 5G, transport infrastructure will need to be upgraded, operators will have to reorganise existing sites (reducing opex) and plan for densification. The next, then, is upgrading to universal core infrastructure which will support 5G, along with legacy network generations. Rakuten was given as an example of an operator that is building its network with the above logic in mind.

The problem? It will be hard for operators with legacy networks to be agile, and it will be hard to build a future-proof network without a clear business plan. And, as we also heard, spectrum availability, telecom industry regulation and the network deploying financing will also complicate rollouts.

What we learn from awards – Dennisa Nichiforov-Chuang, lead analyst – Spectrum
Day two in Shanghai brought us the Asia Mobile Awards, with categories including Mobile Tech, the Consumer, the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Social Good.

While the categories reflect what’s going on in the industry and what challenges it is facing, the awards themselves are a barometer of where the industry is heading.

Three awards, in particular, stood out: SK Telecom’s roaming technology “baro”; Telstra and Ericsson’s NB-IoT implementation; and a “Large-scale NB-IoT Electric Bike Protection” solution from Huawei and China Mobile. Together, they highlight the reality that as we move into a 5G era, some basics of the mobile experience will remain the same: the need to deliver solid coverage (as with IoT in Australia) and the importance of cost-effective roaming.

At the same time, fully executing on things like coverage and IoT will require the use of data analytics that reaches across sectors, an important, but difficult, proposition.

The 5G focus on simplicity – Radhika Gupta, head of Data Acquisition
MWC19 Shanghai was all about “5G is ON” and “5G is here,” with plenty of consumer and enterprise use cases on display.

It’s probably not surprising, then, that the industry was ready to talk up what comes next: the move from NSA deployments to SA networks. While Chinese operators have been vocal about their SA intentions (and are upbeat about getting there by 2020), the conversations stretched beyond them and continued once the show as over (see this week’s news from SK Telecom).

The headline values of SA are well known and were repeated in Shanghai: support for URLLC applications, network efficiencies and lower device costs. More broadly, however, the message was one of simplification leading into discussions around converged core architectures and AI in support of (manageable) service enablement and network/service security.

– Peter Jarich – head of GSMA Intelligence

The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members.