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Networks and Services at MWC 2022: What Will Be Hot

by Philip Kendall | Feb 24, 2022

As analysts from our Enterprise and Service Provider Groups finalize their plans for MWC 2022, we share thoughts from the team on topics we expect or hope to see covered next week in Barcelona.

The explosion of data, the increase in speeds with 5G, the blending of networks and distributed cloud computing technologies, virtual hardware, and the need for enterprises to deliver intelligent and immersive experiences to delight customers—all of these will dominate discussions around both IoT and other Private Enterprise services at MWC.

From an IoT and enterprise perspective, we expect the following to dominate MWC 2022:

  • MEC and Edge Services for Hosted and Private Enterprise
  • IoT solutions and use cases
  • AI/ML for Automation and Edge Optimization
  • Expanded Hyperscaler Initiatives for Enterprise Telecoms services (including Managed IoT)
  • Data Security Privacy for Private Networks (including Managed IoT).

We see 2022 will be a year for multi-access edge cloud investments and mobile private networks. MEC buildouts are being carried out by a broad cross-section of edge stakeholders - CSP, MVNOs, and Cloud Providers aka Hyperscalers, to deliver secure, latency-sensitive edge network services. Beyond connectivity, MEC buildouts could also provide opportunities for organizations to host applications both on premises and at the edge – especially for operators who can optimize storage, processing and bandwidth with AI /ML and distributed load management.

MWC also presents an ideal venue for Hyperscalers to highlight their expanded hosted telecom and IoT initiatives, as they continue to push into areas traditionally controlled by CSPs. One weak spot for Hyperscalers is ensuring secure access at the edge prior to allowing full host communications. Edge servers are often too small to run the software firewalls that Hyperscalers rely on and 5G mechanisms inherently guarantee pre-access authentication and the option of End to End (E2E) encryption.

As IoT accelerates, CSPs are also well positioned to address increasing concerns around security risk. IoT data privacy technology can now secure the data of cellular IoT devices, from pacemakers to asset trackers. Leveraging new SIM capabilities, data protection is available to all generations of cellular including 5G. eSIM is finally gaining traction as a de-facto standard mechanism for IoT and other user devices to enable enhanced connectivity and security. For IoT there are likely to be new conversations around iSIM and low power for Embedded NB IoT as well as the implications for smart sharing business opportunities at MWC 2022. We expect live demos and major announcements (on-site or virtual) from ARM, AT&T, Verizon, Orange, Telefonica, Telenor, KORE, Kigen, Giesecke+Devrient, ZARIOT etc.

We also expect significant excitement around new Radio Initiatives – Open RAN and new Energy efficient base stations. Specifically:

Open RAN will also be big news even if complete solutions are not yet fully commercial. The challenge for Open RAN is to match the scalability and performance of vRAN and Cloud RAN solutions as both new and legacy vendors leverage new processors and chipsets that we should see at the show. Several new semiconductor solutions to address this will be announced at MWC 2022 including Layer 1 processing that makes the remote able Open RAN Distributed Unit (DU) commercially viable. Expect the leading players in that space to make quite some noise. Key players include:

  • ARM, Qualcomm, Marvell in the semiconductor space
  • Parallel Wireless, Comba Telecom, Meta (facebook)/Telecom Infra Project (TIP), Radisys in the systems space
  • Orange, Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Rakuten Symphony/RCP, Softbank and Telefonica will likely demonstrate continued operator momentum.

We will also see O-RAN Remote Unit (RU) announcements. We also expect serious discussions around the RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) and interest in both non-real-time rApps for hybrid ‘Multi-Domain’ vRAN operations, management, and service creation, and experimental deployment of near-real-time xApps for physical connectivity, radio control and over the air scheduling.

Sustainability and Energy Efficiency will underpin many of the GSMA’s six key themes for the show. So we expect to see a lot of noise around energy efficient radios and what is happening to turn 4G and 5G green. There will be a healthy focus on how the industry can move networks down the path to carbon neutral and ultimately net zero operations. We are going to hear a lot about how 5G is more energy efficient per GB than 4G, although any energy savings will in fact be more than offset by total 5G traffic growth! We are likely to see a range of solutions positioned as green products, from cooling and power supply innovations to more integrated site designs, larger antenna arrays, and AI for site energy management.

One topic we are hoping will have some exposure, but that may have to wait for 2023, is how 5G Standalone (SA) can bring new revenue from a broad range of both enterprise AND consumer services including significant profitable growth in 2022/2023. We are seeing a wave of 5G SA network launches in 2022 and the winning operators will be the ones who can develop broad horizontal markets for 5G SA and avoid getting stuck in the ‘nichey’ application specific industry verticals so often discussed today.

We are also hoping to see some progress in End to End Network Slicing for security and privacy that supports the emerging Intelligent and managed Edge Services - both with and without Cloud Hyperscalers- across Hybrid Public/Private Networks.
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