Mobile World Congress continues to be the “must attend” event for the Telecoms industry. With over 107,000 attendees, from over 25 countries, 2400 exhibitors and 7700 CEO’s all there to share knowledge and demonstrate innovations. So, if MWC 2017 could be summarized as visions for the future, MWC 2018 was all about the practicalities. There was no more of the “pie in the sky” theories about Artificial Intelligence (AI), 5G and Internet of Things (IoT). This year the majority of the discussion focused on the steps that the telecommunication industry had been taking to achieve these goals, and what this year showed was that we are well on the way, but there is still a lot to do.
There were announcements about who was going to start testing their 5G networks and where, how AI was going to change the way we communicate and calls for cooperation when it came to industry standards, automation and virtualization.
Working together towards a fully virtualized future
Despite ONAP, and ETSI led Open Source Mano (OSM) taking their time to develop, we started to hear encouraging messages at MWC 2018 of how as a result of the Open Source initiative, vendors and operators are creating a dialogue and working together. There was the announcement that one tier 1 operator would be joining the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP), which was particularly significant as AT&T has developed it. Motivated by common goals, these supposed rivals will now work together to accelerate virtualization and automation across the industry. Indeed, as areas such as 5G, IoT, and AI start to pick up the pace, automation will play a vital role in managing the orchestration. Virtualization is, of course, a major element of any automation and as such, RADCOM was pleased to make two announcements during the congress.
The first was in relation to its collaboration with Red Hat, providing operators with full network visibility running on a Red Hat OpenStack platform. This meant that operators are enabled in attaining cloud-native network visibility by taking a standardized OpenStack platform and bringing it in-house, removing the hassle for operators of building their own network infrastructure.
RADCOM announced the launch of a fully virtualized Network Visibility solution which includes a fully virtualized network packet broker. This decoupled solution separates functionality from underlying hardware dependencies. It is highly scalable, cost-effective and delivers complete visibility and network intelligence for a smooth transition to NFV. Combining this with RADCOM’s service assurance solution, MaveriQ creates a new “Network Intelligence portfolio” which offers operators a fully virtualized solution, from a virtual tapping point to network insights.
Developments in 5G
5G dominated much of the conversation at MWC, but in 2018 we heard of real developments along the road to deployment. The US operators jostled over who would be the first to deploy, with AT&T announcing their first three markets as Dallas, Atlanta, and Waco, Texas. Verizon stated their first deployment would be in Sacramento with a further four unnamed locations. Yet it was T-Mobile who claimed they would be the first operator with a nationwide 5G footprint. North East Asia is said to be not far behind, but there was agreement that Northern Europe had some catching up to do. We heard announcements regarding 24GHz and 28GHz bidding sessions and plenty of discussion over the practicalities of 5G.
One such practicality is the need to transition to NFV as a prerequisite to 5G. With capabilities estimated to be 30-50 times faster than 4G, for example being able to download a full movie in around 15 seconds, the current network simply cannot support these requirements. It is therefore widely accepted that, in order to be able to sustain these speeds, a fully virtualized, agile network is what is required.
The future for IoT
The same goes for developments in IoT. With predictions that the market is going to see a “big bang” in 2018, there is still work to be done to make sure the networks are ready and assured. There was a clear message from those creating the devices that will be connected to IoT networks, that mobile operators need to be providing the infrastructure for these operations to take place. Whilst there is a focus on driverless cars, there is a feeling that this is still something rather futuristic, and perhaps more attention needs to be given to autonomous drones that will be appearing in our cities before the end of the year. With regards to these network developments, there have been 41 commercial launches based on both Narrow Band (NB) IoT as well as LTE-M technologies. There were predictions that we would see meteoric rises in the number of connections rising from 10 to 150 million. Several large operators commented on the importance of working together to create a mutually cooperative eco-system which keeps the customer in mind as well as embedding security into the design phase to make the network as safe and as possible.
Bringing AI to life
Finally, when it came to AI, there was once again a feeling that 2018 was offering real life scenarios to what was theory in 2018. There were discussions surrounding the dangers of AI and the need to regulate it properly but ultimately most operators and vendors realize benefits of AI. Whereas previously we weren’t able to capture the potential of AI, in 2018, due to developments in smarter algorithms and big data analytics, AI is poised to contribute to the virtualization revolution. AI will afford operators the opportunity to provide a superior level of customer service. With subscribers being able to manage their own digital experience through cognitive intelligence, the added values of this personalized experience will delight customers and surely redefine the relationship between them and the operator.
MWC 2018 left us full of anticipation for the year to come, with tangible developments and forward thinking. With our announcements around our Network Intelligence Portfolio, RADCOM, having disrupted the service assurance market with our cloud-native offering, we are set to do the same in the network packet broker market. As we continue to realize these in areas such as 5G, IoT and AI, we are excited to be playing a part in this ever-changing world.