In case you missed it: 5 key takeaways from MWC ‘23

Charlotte Newbury

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After the interruptions of recent years, you might have thought that trade shows were dying off. If Mobile World Congress 2023 is anything to go by, in-person events are back.

This year’s MWC welcomed a staggering 88,500+ attendees, from 202 countries and territories, there to hear from 2,400+ exhibitors and 1000+ speakers. Forgive the number dump, but it’s the clearest way to demonstrate the scale of the event. It is a very big show.

Packed full of gadget demonstrations, debate and thought leadership, MWC is a hotbed of news, innovations and trends. As expected, this year the floor displayed innovations in AI, AR, VR, mobile phones, headsets, batteries, 6G… and much more.

According to Paolo Pescatore, a Tech, Media & Telco Analyst at PP Foresight, there was “no real standout innovative tech” this year, but a few common themes definitely caught our attention. So, here are five, quick takeaways from MWC 2023:

1.    It’s better being green

Sustainability remained a key focus for many of the exhibitors. In the most recent Global Trends 2023 report, 80% of telcos rated energy efficiency as either important or extremely important to their planned upgrades.

Unsurprisingly, then, it was clear that the industry has made significant progress towards more meaningful and scalable solutions, ultimately making greener decisions more accessible for consumers.

We saw companies such as Bioo showcase nature-powered tech like their Bioo Panel – a ‘biological battery’ which uses soil to generate energy and save water – while Nokia unveiled a partnership to deliver more sustainable chip architectures.

2.    Developers unite!

The Open Gateway initiative launched by the GSMA during the first day of the conference signals a significant shift in the way the telecoms industry designs and delivers new and innovative services.

The Open Gateway comprises a framework for APIs for universal networks. The aim is to unite the telecoms industry around open APIs – allowing cloud providers and developers to launch and update services faster, using a single access point model.

The move turns networks into developer-ready platforms. Expect to see more on this in 2023.

3.    Networks and speed

As expected, 5G featured prominently – though there was a sense amongst attendees that it had yet to prove itself to be the profitable revolution telcos had hoped for. “Speeds are not what will ultimately sustain pricing premiums (and therefore revenue growth),” the GSMA reported (via IBC). “A ‘wow’ factor is required to attract new customers or incentivise existing ones towards higher spend.”

There’s hope that this ‘wow’ factor could be delivered by the range of AR and VR technologies on display. The Metaverse is expected to continue growing through 2023, and exhibitors showcased a diverse range of applications – from flight simulators to avatar-based virtual meetings.

6G was mentioned, too, though it did not feature heavily – with network providers focusing more on applications across the metaverse, and enterprise-focused developments like private networks (which arguably received more attention than 5G).

4.    A changing of the guard?

A new brand is not news. But it might signal something bigger?

Nokia’s rebrand captured the limelight – the brand is apparently now ready to ‘[unleash] the exponential potential of networks’ – but there were rumblings of reinvention under the surface of telecoms businesses, too. There were whispers heard throughout the event of upcoming CEO transfers – though little is known about who, where, or when. This is “one to watch closely over the next 6-12 months,” said Paolo.

It’s difficult to know how significant the changes could be, but a telco industry shake-up might be heading this way…

5.    Are big names playing ‘fair’?

As expected, the fairness debate concerning the funding of network infrastructure developments raged on. Attendees heard from both sides – from speakers including EU Industry Chief Thierry Breton, and CEOs from Orange (Christel Heydemann) and Netflix (Greg Peters).

A proposed solution is the ‘fair share’ involvement of tech giants, who would be charged alongside consumers for the data used by their apps. The top six tech giants generated over 55% of all telecom networks’ traffic, according to a report from the European Telecommunication Network Operators’ Association.

Unsurprisingly, these big tech players are against being required to financially support the rollout of telecoms infrastructure. Some have raised concerns about its potential to weaken European net neutrality principles, which are designed to ensure all internet traffic is treated indiscriminately.

Netflix CEO Peters dubbed this initiative an “entertainment tax.”

The European Commission launched a 12-week consultation in February, open for contributions until the 19th May 2023.

It’s a thorny topic, there’s no doubt about that. Keep an eye on this space!

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