MWC is never a minor affair, and this year’s headcount of some 107,000 proved the point once again. You certainly could feel the squeeze in the Fira Barcelona metro at peak hours, and the streets as the halls in the Gran Via Fira Barcelona conference hall were no less congested.
Certainly the weather wasn’t keeping anyone away – a Siberian cold front smashing up against a Mediterranean warm front and the next thing you knew it was actually snowing in Barcelona – the first time since 1962! If odd weather is on a 50-year cycle in the bustling capital of Catalonia, the MWC is on a 5-year cycle when it comes to stormy disruption. Certainly that was the forecast we were hoping for, and though it was a great show for us on so many fronts – winning the US and EU patents for Network Slicing not the least – there wasn’t much new to see. Of course the 5G hype machine was in full rotation, and plenty of demos packed pavilions that promised to wow even the most ardent skeptics, but 5G still seems to be a solution without a clear problem, or better to say, a clear business model.
Cars Are Phones
Or at least that’s what you might have thought walking the halls of the tradeshow. From Bugatis to Smarts, Seats to F1 racers and near every big brand in between, the connected car was one of the biggest themes at #MWC18. Interestingly for us, and timed quite uncannily with our patent announcements, was the California DMV’s announcement of upping the ante on what the state will allow vis-à-vis driverless cars. Ever a state with some of the strictest standards – particularly when it comes to emissions – automated vehicles will be no exception. The DMV last week declared that no driverless car will be allowed on the road without failsafe mobile connectivity wherever they are. Certainly that’s not easy, but it is definitely impossible without dynamic network slicing. Making this connection, our US patent and the CA DMV’s announcement heard above the din at MWC was not easy but it seemed we did manage to pull in some ears from the larger US car manufacturers, who could immediately connect the dots between a US patent and the country’s largest new car market. Interestingly, though perhaps not surprisingly, autonomous cars have been in play in Finland for years. Go Finland!
One of the more surprising gaps at this year’s show was the dearth of actual 5G devices. Now, I am not going to constantly be a 5G naysayer, and certainly this generation will come, but simply having a tablet on a demo table demonstrating a video call, even if it very high definition does not a 5G device make. From conversations I had with a few tech heads, most seemed pretty unsure if they were looking at an actual 5G device or simply a 4G+ one. From this it seems quite certain that the 5G ecosystem won’t begin to rise and reveal its relief this year, and even 2019 seems a bit optimistic. This is a bit of a chicken or the egg problem with most US operators noting that we need to have 5G end devices before they can roll out networks to support them.
And Then There Was Network Slicing
So many great conversations, presentations and debates on this subject were had at MWC that it seemed, at least from where we stood, this was the winner word of the show, rising from some obscurity over the last few years to a MUCH clearer path for everyone, at least in the infrastructure ecosystem. While every player seems to have their unique take on it, we were pleased to come in to the show with a clear story, and solid proof points that network slicing is not only very doable in 4G, building out the “multiple virtual network upon a single physical one” paradigm, but that that will be the path to 5G, and generate revenues along the way. We were also thrilled to start off the week with news that we had won our 3 key Network Slicing Patent claims in Europe and the US. Network Slicing was mentioned in many presentations and demoed on booths. It looks like everybody is doing it. Cloudstreet announce that we’ve got the first Network Slicing patents in Europe and USA. Network Slicing use cases are fairly well understood and need to have it on 4G also recognized. Providing many logical network from one physical network makes business sense.
Although, overall MWC18 was something of an MWC17 redux, we can see, albeit slowly the important use cases coming to the fore, more mature, better understood and even to some clearly monetizable. That said the industry needs to work together, collaborate closely and agree on the global business case for 5G, and that it must be understood as much, much more than simply an exercise in cost savings.