The dust is starting to settle after MWC Barcelona, but some of the conversations that were held during the event will continue to shape the 5G landscape in the year ahead.
The event was dominated by 5G – which was only to be expected given the recent momentum behind network launches that began in late 2018. However, the depth in which 5G infiltrated almost every aspect of the show took some by surprise.
Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins noted this depth during his keynote address. “Three or four years ago, what were we talking about? 5G. The year after that we were talking about, 5G. The year after that we were talking about 5G. And last year, something seemed to change. Last year, we seemed to talk about it a little differently. We talked about 5G!,” he said. “And here we are this year … and we begin to think about what’s possible not only from a business perspective, but from a human perspective.”
Yet aside from all the posturing and positive messaging, there are some big concerns. 5G is certainly not for the fainthearted, and vendors, operators, and enterprises are already wringing their hands over the cost of building 5G networks and how long it will take to recoup their investments.
Enter Rakuten Mobile Network. Described by its founder, chairman, and CEO Hiroshi “Mickey” Mikitani as the first end-to-end, fully virtualized, cloud-native mobile network that is also 5G-ready. It’s not clear what other mobile operators thought of this new upstart, but Mikitani hailed his venture as a totally new concept for mobile networks that will cost much less to build and maintain.
It’s the Use Case, Stupid
Meanwhile, there is growing consensus that 5G’s success will largely depend on its ability to enable new use cases for industry and enterprise, and how techniques such as network slicing and multi-access edge computing (MEC) can be applied to support the different characteristics of new applications and services.
The Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Alliance is one organization that has been trying to get its head around 5G use cases for some years, recognizing early on the role that collaborations between the mobile industry and vertical sectors will play. The alliance now holds a regular press conference at MWC to put a finger in the air and see which direction the wind is blowing.
Although two Vodafone executives, chief engineer Luke Ibbetson and CTO Johan Wibergh, who took part in a separate CTO panel, said they see high-speed mobile broadband services as the initial driver for 5G, some reasonably robust use cases are starting to take shape. For example, Deutsche Telekom highlighted its focus on 5G campus networks for industrial use cases, involving a “dual slice” combining public and private cellular networks and a local network edge that remains under the control of the customer. Other potential 5G use cases included augmented reality (AR) for industrial maintenance; 5G for smart power grids; remote medicine; and 5G for industrial automation.
Last but not Least
Huawei was, of course, everywhere at MWC Barcelona – as sponsor, industry partner, presenter, and tenant of a handful of booths spread throughout the convention center. It’s fair to say that the China-based vendor got its message across, and is ploughing on regardless of the current geo-political morass.
Huawei is losing no time in building on its momentum from the show as today it opened a Cyber Security Transparency Centre in Brussels, Belgium. The vendor said the move shows its willingness to collaborate with government and industry, and it has called for the establishment of “unified, objective cybersecurity standards.”
The center will serve three functions: to showcase Huawei’s end-to-end security practices; allow for direct communication between the vendor and cybersecurity stakeholders; and allow customers access to a security testing and verification platform.