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MWC from afar…

Posted by Todd Mersch on 6 March 2018

After more than a decade of continuous participation I have taken the last two years off from MWC. For a company of our size it is difficult to carve out a position, expensive and too broad. With our current primary focus on Wi-Fi and in particular enabling operators to deliver the best in-home Wi-Fi experience on existing and new Wi-Fi equipment, we tend to put marketing dollars towards more focused events.

That being said, the last two years I have felt a strange combination of relief, FOMO and a bit of sadness (from not getting to see many dear colleagues and friends) during the MWC week. This year I decided the best remedy for that ailment was to consume as much MWC news as I could while sitting comfortably at my desk, couch, kitchen counter… you get the picture.

Unfortunately, this was a bit easier than I originally expected. Maybe it’s marketing directors’ fear of being drowned out, but it seemed like the news was of much less volume this year. Unlike other reviews I’ve read today, though, I’ll not go so far as to say that the lack of volume was only surpassed by the lack of substance. To the contrary, I thought there were a number of interesting developments, so I figured: “Why not summarize?”. So, if you’re like me and missed the event, or like the me of old and had no time during the event to come up for air, here are my cliff notes

1. 5G Wars – I personally enjoy watching operators talking smack to one another and once again the USA is leading the way. The big four MNOs all had a 5G rollout plan to hype and spent at least part of their time talking down to the competitors. The smaller guys are always feistier, with T-Mobile calling out AT&T’s plans for deploying in Waco, TX versus big cities (TMO plans for Dallas, New York, LA, etc.).

2. Constant Call to Operators to “Do Something” to Keep Up – whether it came from AI specialists, AR/VR leaders or even operator CEOs (see Turkcell) themselves, the age-old call to keep up rang true once again. To paraphrase Kaan Terzioglu, Turkcell CEO, we’re the only industry that complains about steadily increasing demand. It’s a tough nut to crack, but at least there seems to be an acceptance (the first stage to recovery) that things need to change and it has to start with operator organizations. We need to break out of the age-old five nines mentality and be willing to deploy, gather feedback, and adjust like almost every other technology sector. Okay, stepping slowly off my soap box…

3. CBRS Devices TBD – I may be wrong, and I admit I didn’t read every device manufacturer’s announcement, but from what I did read none supported CBRS. Once again, the chipsets are there, the network technology is there, but the devices lag. While Ajit Pai was excitedly championing 5G frequency auctions later this year, there was no clarity on when the 3.5GHz licenses and framework would be finalized. Shared spectrum is a huge step in the right direction that should be getting more love.

Beyond these three takeaways, there were of course the obligatory product, partnership and progress announcements. Too many to summarize, but notionally fewer than I remember from before. Who knows, maybe it’s the bright sunshine of the brutal SoCal winters blinding me through the slider in my office, or maybe players are starting to dodge the MWC noise to give their news a better opportunity to be heard.

If you attended or skipped like me – what are your thoughts on the world’s biggest telecom/mobile event?

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