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Summary of Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2024

GSMA’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) is one of the most anticipated and talked about events each year. The Who’s Who of the wireless telecom industry assemble at this annual event in Barcelona to compare notes, find out what’s going on, meet partners / customers / analysts / journalists / competitors, listen to keynotes and other talks, and just walkabout in general on the show floor to pick up nuggets of information here and there.

GSMA have published their show figures which mention over 101,000 attendees. We were prepared for the event and hence took a big team to make the most of it. We were really busy with customer meetings and many people coming to talk to us to learn more about our solution and private networks in general. 

Based on our discussions we can confidently say that many industries and enterprises are already working on modernizing themselves to adopt private 5G, automation and other digital transformation technologies to ensure they remain at the top of their game. In addition to all of the above, our team spent some time perusing the show floor to learn about what else is going on in the telecoms industry.

Here is a quick summary of some of the interesting things our team noticed at MWC this year:

AI and GenAI: Humanizing AI was one of the themes of MWC24. It wasn’t surprising to see both AI and GenAI (Generative AI – a type of AI capable of generating text, images and other data using generative models, often in response to prompts. For example ChatGPT or Microsoft Copilot) dominating many different demonstrations. Day 1 of MWC also saw the announcement of the formation of a new alliance, the AI-RAN Alliance, a new collaborative initiative aimed at integrating AI into cellular technology to further advance RAN technology and mobile networks. The initial set of members include many heavyweight service providers, vendors, hyperscalers and others. These members will leverage their technology expertise and collective leadership to focus on three main areas of research and innovation; advancing RAN capabilities through AI to improve spectral efficiency (AI for RAN), integrating AI and RAN processes to utilize infrastructure more effectively and generate new AI-driven revenue opportunities (AI and RAN), and deploying AI services at the network edge through RAN to increase operational efficiency and offer new services to mobile users (AI on RAN).

5G/6G: ‘5G & Beyond’ was another MWC24 theme and 5G was visible everywhere from components to devices to infrastructure to use cases. There was a passing reference to 5.5G and 6G but most of the show was heavily focused on making use of the existing 5G technology. Many vendors were showing smaller/lighter products with higher capability and efficiency than before. While Standalone 5G is still rolling out slower than expected in public networks, there was no shortage of innovation in private industrial and enterprise networks. Some of the 3GPP Release-16/17 features are starting to make it into products.

APIs: There was a lot of excitement regarding network APIs even before MWC. Finally there is something for service providers to bank on for new revenue sources so they don’t want to miss out on this opportunity. According to a presentation by Telefonica, 47 SPs, representing 65% of global mobile connections, have commercially launched APIs through Open Gateway. Orange had some cool demos in Hall 3, where they were showing how these CAMARA could be used for fraud prevention as well as for logistics/personal tracking. A Vodafone demo used APIs with O-RAN RIC to control the quality of video in cells that were congested. There are countless possibilities but it remains to be seen if APIs are able to deliver their promised revenue growth.

Open RAN and Diversification of Supply Chain: This is an important topic in many parts of the world, especially for public mobile networks that have become reliant on a few large vendors. Open RAN has allowed many new players to participate in the RAN supply chain that not only forms the basis for public mobile networks, but also for private networks. These solution providers and integrators now have an option to remove dependency from an individual vendor to be able to continue providing solutions even if the original vendors are no longer available.

Devices: No MWC can be complete without mobile phones and other devices. Obviously  ‘Mobile’ is the ‘M’ in MWC. In addition to all the new ultra-capable smartphones, Samsung’s new wearable, the Galaxy Ring stole the show. It offers the smallest wearable form factor for comfortable 24/7 wear. There were some robots as usual with optional connectivity. Autonomous cars were present as well with connectivity needed to entertain the passengers.

Smart Glasses and HMD: We are aware that many industrial private networks are either using or considering using smart glasses for training and debugging. It was nice to see that new form factors which are much lighter and far capable than previous generations were being demonstrated. 

Private 5G (and LTE) Networks: As usual, we saved the best for the last. Even though Private Networks wasn’t the main feature of the show, they were visible in many different forms throughout the show. There were component manufacturers and module makers showing new components/devices suitable for industrial settings with newer technologies and features. Many stands featured Private Enterprise 5G use cases to solve existing problems. It was heartening to see not just large scale networks being demonstrated but also networks that can benefit smaller enterprises, factories, warehouses and industries. 

Our experience from the show floor reflected the same when we spoke to enterprises that have never before used cellular networks within their enterprise setting. They wanted to understand the capabilities and what may be required to set a network up.

At Firecell, we aim to democratize Private 5G Networks by making them as simple and affordable as Wi-Fi so that they can benefit all enterprises, whatever their size. Please do get in touch to learn more about how we can help with your projects.