Key Findings From MWC Barcelona and the Future of Mobile Connectivity
In this article
Our team was on hand to experience, explore and exchange knowledge – and to share our own exciting announcement that will affect the future of 5G.
Eager attendees were treated to a live, in-person, multimedia event staged over four days in the 7 million sq. ft. Fira Gran Via in Barcelona, Spain. MWC attracted a massive crowd of more than 90,000 diverse visitors comprising the world's mobile connectivity ecosystem.
In a shift from previous years, MWC 2023 featured more than just the mega-players focused on implementing big infrastructure solutions; rather, we saw a diverse mix of offerings from across the ecosystem, with many bold start-ups touting new approaches – showing how mobile connectivity innovation is on the rise. Another notable underlying theme of the event: an industry-wide resolve to focus on promoting sustainable practices as part of our technological evolution.
We even had a major announcement of our own to share at MWC: a new partnership to develop and promote the adoption of an Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) framework to advance the telecom industry – supported by the newly released 4th Generation Intel® Xeon® Scalable processor.
Clearly, MWC is once again a major industry event; now we'd like to share a few key post-show takeaways and what they portend for the future of mobile communications.
We expected to see many private 5G offerings from vendors large and small, and MWC attendees confirmed that expectation. As the name implies, private 5G wireless network technology provides cellular connectivity for non-public networks, such as private-sector businesses, third-party providers and municipalities. It offers an alternative to wi-fi and other wireless options such as long-term evolution (LTE) and public 5G.
Many expected private 5G to focus on "big" corporate visions – driverless drones and so forth – but the focus is shifting toward mainstream applications for a variety of commonplace but essential use cases. For example, consider the challenges of connecting devices in a dynamic warehouse. As the warehouse is reorganized, new ethernet runs are installed at considerable costs and Wi-Fi is challenging due to metal racking and inventory. But private 5G can offer better coverage, core-initiated roaming and ultimately provide a more reliable and less expensive connection to workflow devices than has been achieved from wired and Wi-Fi options.
With private 5G continuing to mature with labs and pilots, it gives customers more operational flexibility as well as cost-effective delivery and is a trend we expect to continue.
Just as the move from 3G to 4G was a generational change, the shift from 5G to 5G Standalone (SA) networks holds the promise to provide similar value and industry transformation.
5G SA networks include both 5G RAN and cloud-native 5G core, in contrast to non-standalone systems which rely on a 4G core. 5G cores enable standalone networks to perform critical 5G functions like reducing latency and improving network performance. In SA mode, the 5G network can operate independently of another network infrastructure.
Although SA has existed for several years, it has only been on the cusp of wider acceptance.
MWC attendees spoke widely of 5G SA, and how it could integrate with apps and services as a means of monetizing 5G service – especially important to hyper-scalers who want to ensure their apps run over a high-quality wireless interface to maximize quality of service (QoS), Quality of Experience (QoE) and accelerate growth.
One familiar example of a disparity between connectivity methods: a situation in which a teleconference participant's image and voice quality degrades, forcing that person to drop from the meeting and dial back in for a more reliable connection – better QoS and more reliable connectivity. Both work on the same IP network, but dialing back in enables the participant to leverage a better QoS class identifier (QCI).
5G SA technology is moving fast now and represents a major change in how wireless networks are being architected and used.
For those unfamiliar, the worldwide Open RAN (O-RAN) Alliance is dedicated to reshaping Radio Access Networks (RAN) to be more intelligent, open, virtualized and fully interoperable. Its automated and intelligent service management and orchestration (SMO) platform, applied at scale, is designed to minimize network complexity, improve network performance, enhance customer experiences and reduce RAN operational expenses.
One point of focus at MWC involved strategies for moving to a disaggregated infrastructure using automation and orchestration – and retaining excellent integration skills to make it happen. We engaged in multiple meetings on the topic with Tier 1 operators. Those customers expressed keen interest in how to build an automation framework so that their next technology transition goes smoothly, minimizing OpEx and CapEx.
Five years ago, the talk around Open RAN was barely a whisper. Now, we used this global industry event to reveal our partnership with VMware, HPE and Mavenir, forming a multi-vendor Open RAN framework to free up innovation.
To meet the needs of mobile network operators and communications service providers, our team's automated, software-based framework will support cloud-native architectures. And, it will not be limited by proprietary hardware, running multiple applications on commercial off-the-shelf systems.
The main goal of the framework is to accelerate O-RAN commercialization by enabling large-scale integration and delivery, mitigating potential financial risks, and providing a sustainable life cycle management and support structure. What's more, this open framework can be used with an O-RAN vendor mix of the operator's choice.
By creating a vastly different framework, the co-organizers are working to evolve the technology and accelerate an industry that's already eager for its benefits. Our objective is to make it easier to build and support disaggregated RAN solutions. The O-RAN alliance will help enable organizations to implement and manage an Open RAN architecture with a clearly defined model, leveraging a single integrator who can follow an iterative process to:
- Maximize beneficial impacts
- Minimize the risks of complexity.
- Enable friction-free integration.
- Ensure a timely, on-budget rollout.
MWC 2023 coincided with the rollout of Intel's standout new processor with a selection of built-in accelerators for network/5G/Edge workloads, as well as minimizing power requirements and reducing complexity – all critical to supporting the move to O-RAN. For example, Intel® Dynamic Load Balancer (Intel® DLB) enables the efficient distribution of networking data across multiple CPU cores for improved performance.
It should be noted that this new processor was designed from the ground up with sustainability in mind. In fact, all aspects of sustainability were hot topics for a great many MWC attendees, from OEMs to solution providers. These qualities in the 4th Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processor are an example of Intel's focus on a broad ecosystem of customers and collaborators as we all engage in contributing our part for seamless, end-to-end service.
Consumer needs are evolving and so are the technologies to meet those needs as new markets arise and fresh revenue-generating opportunities present themselves. The challenge going forward will be how to apply the knowledge gleaned at MWC to find the right path to monetize new service offerings made possible with innovations like O-RAN, 5G SA and private 5G, which is still an emerging technology with pilots underway for a variety of use cases.
With so many options and so much complexity, it is critical that organizations of every size perform due diligence in identifying their best solutions with the guidance of an expert advisor.
This is where solution integrators can provide value, helping to sort through the options, streamline offerings and enable customers to take advantage of the latest innovations in disaggregated networks.
In addition to helping implement today's and tomorrow's best 5G solutions, an experienced advisor can look forward beyond the horizon to the emergence of 6G – another hot topic that received much attention at MWC.
We are closely monitoring these and other future disruptors to the mobile communications landscape, and how organizations might prepare to leverage those shifting realities to increase revenues and/or conserve expenditures, form new ecosystem alliances, implement competitive new offerings, improve quality of service and make good on commitments to sustainability.
We will help you re-create the excitement of MWC 2023 by demonstrating these new 5G technologies, supported by the 4th Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processor, in the Advanced Technology Center (ATC), our multi-campus R&D ecosystem where you can engage with our own 5G development teams. Contact us to learn how you can leverage these latest emerging mobile connectivity technologies.