While connectivity might seem like an obvious trend for an event like Mobile World Congress, it’s fair to say that – in terms of news coverage at least – it has often taken a back seat to funky new hardware, handsets and services.
If this year’s event achieved anything, it was to place connectivity back at the centre of everything. And not without reason: as speaker after speaker underlined, connectivity is at a defining moment. EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, used his keynote to describe how we’re leaving behind our long-standing perception of how networks operate, and seeing a transformation into network-as-platform, where connectivity and computing capacity converge – and APIs will make this new power easier to expose and monetize.
Collaboration is king
Following a decade during which connectivity providers were seemingly blindsided by ‘over-the-top’ players (OTTs) – the five largest traffic generators alone add a €15bn cost to networks, according to Orange CEO Christel Heydemann –telcos say the time for ‘fair play’ is here. Interoperability and collaboration are going to be king; as GSMA Director General Mats Granyard put it, “In today’s complex world, it takes more than two to tango.” Well, the MWC dancefloor was packed. But is everyone hearing the same music? Here are some of the talking points that stood out for us this year:
Open Gateway: 4G created the app economy but monetization was captured by the OTTs. The GSMA’s Open Gateway initiative seeks to reverse the ‘dumb pipe’ phenomenon by providing developers with universal network APIs, accelerating 5G service innovation. According to Telefonica CEO Jose-Maria Alvarez-Pallete, this will transform networks into a massively distributed supercomputer – and that will call for collaboration.
Building ecosystems: In keeping with the API trend, there was a lot of stress of the need to build new ecosystems that enable connectivity as a business model to scale. Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Hoettges said that, with six companies creating 60% of traffic on networks, it’s time for hyperscalers to step up and share the infrastructure load.
Thinking outside the box on sustainability: The only all-women panel saw CEOs, CIOs and Heads of Telecom discuss the challenges and opportunities of sustainability in telecoms – and how 5G and AI could enable this. There were some refreshing angles on how to drive change; Colt CEO Keri Gilder advocated for looking past the obvious green vehicles and circular economy and into racks of legacy equipment using energy on existing networks when cleaner tech is here now. She talked about her company’s “Closet Strategy” for dealing with it – when you bring something new in, you have to take something old out.
New possibilities for connected vehicles: The ‘New value from connected vehicle data’ session was an interesting walk through what the future of the connected vehicle looks like – and what sort of revenue models we can grow from it. We heard a lot of discussion on the ‘born connected’ proposition, what the optimum models for data collection and management might be and how automotive OEMs can make the most of the opportunities connectivity brings.
Uniform app store for in-vehicle infotainment: CARIAD’s world premiere of its new uniform app store gave us a first glimpse of what we can expect when its ‘One.Infotainment’ premium software goes live in July this year. In addition to exclusive apps from Audi, Porsche and Volkswagen, the new store will give customers in-car access to third party content including Spotify, Amazon Music, The Weather Channel and Webex.
The secret source for MVNOs: Cubic CCO Gerry McQuaid took the stage at the inaugural MVNO Summit to discuss what it really takes to be a successful MVNO in a fast-evolving connectivity landscape. Gerry talked about how connectivity has evolved into being so much more than a data pipe, and how today’s MVNOs have to walk a challenging line between regulation and governance. Success for Cubic has come from excellence in delivering connectivity in some of the world’s most difficult-to-reach markets and geographies, and Gerry talked though some of the complexities involved in achieving that.