3 Insights from Mobile World Congress 2015
Mobile World Congress is a mammoth event, having attracted 90,000 attendees to the show in Barcelona this year. Throw in nearly 2,000 exhibitors and you have an environment that generates a lot of buzz… and a lot of noise.
You’ve already heard about the notable product launches (Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge and HTV Vive VR Headset), the acquisition news (HP to acquire Aruba and Mitel to buy Mavenir), and other interesting gadgets (wearables from FitBit and Garmin and the plethora of GoPro competition). But let’s cut through the hype. What were the carriers talking about at this year’s event? Where do their concerns lie?
- 5G Rollout – The big carriers just spent tens of billions of dollars on new spectrum. Despite lingering concerns in North America and Europe about shortage of airwaves, carriers need to figure out how they’re going to deploy the next generation of faster, more responsive mobile networks. 5G brings a lot of change for carriers, including more data to manage, new and updated devices, significant firmware changes, and packet core evolution. Many carriers spoke to virtualization initiatives that will help them dynamically allocate resources in their environment. Of all the 5G talk, Ericsson was pushing the hardest, in conjunction with trials driven by NTT DOCOMO and others.
- More Efficient Backhaul – In some respects, the U.S. is far ahead of other countries when it comes to building out backhaul networks. For example, it’s not uncommon to see bundled T1 lines running to cell sites outside of North America, as opposed to a 10GB pipe in the U.S. But Communication Service Providers in all regions of the world continue to express the need to improve capacity and efficiency of their backhaul networks. Vendors such as Ciena and Nokia Networks are working on solutions that leverage SDN and/or SON to create more efficient and automated ways of optimizing backhaul.
- Momentum Around SDN/NFV – Few carriers at the show were saying, “Look at what we’ve done this week with SDN and NFV!” Yet they are willing to dabble. The potential business benefits of NFV and its partner SDN continue to garner attention, even if few have committed projects underway. While some expressed concern that the uptick has not happened fast enough, let’s put this into perspective. Virtualized servers were hardly an overnight success. VMware was founded in 1998, but didn’t really gain traction until a decade later. As a comparison, Martin Casado didn’t start playing with OpenFlow until around 2006, so we may be getting close to crossing the chasm with SDN in the next couple of years. It certainly felt like we’re getting close to the tipping point at MWC 2015.
Flying home from Barcelona, one fact kept playing over and over in my head… the pace of innovation is moving faster than ever. But moving forward without having a firm blue print for how nascent technologies like 5G and SDN should work is daunting for carriers. Of course, it also places increased emphasis on the need for an infrastructure performance monitoring platform that is built to handle such large, dynamic, and complex environments.