When 88,500 people from your industry descend on your hometown from 202 countries around the world, it’s impossible not to be enthused and inspired by the energy, innovation and passion that comes with them. But more than that, for us at Infovista, Mobile World Congress (MWC) Barcelona was an opportunity to translate that energy into tangible, demonstrable, real-world solutions and use cases to help solve many of the questions industry figures came to Barcelona asking and drive our industry forward.
I was privileged to meet senior executives from our mobile operator customers, partners, industry analysts and media throughout the event. Over four days, all brought their own perspectives, experiences and approaches on how to make the most of their 5G and fixed line investments. But now, with time to reflect, we can distil much of what was discussed on the show floor, in meetings rooms, and in Fira and city’s cafes and bars down to four key takeaways.
5G monetization matters – but barriers remain
We opened the show with one big (albeit rather depressing) number in mind – only 14% of operators believe they have realized the ROI they expected with 5G so far. A global survey of CSPs by TM Forum conducted in late 2022 clearly showed that the last five years of network ROI and monetization have been well below expectations. This monetization comes from additional CSP revenue and from cost optimizations. Both are equally relevant and, with the absence of significant revenue streams (with the exception of FWA), network efficiency becomes a crucial lever.
Thus, it came as no surprise that helping our customers transform so they can optimize their 5G return on investment underpinned almost every conversation during MWC23.
So, what did they say? Well, they pointed to a recognised need for greater automation across different teams and functions in their organizations, with the objective of a better-aligned and more efficient organization.
The biggest enabler, as my colleague Muhanned Alabweh, SVP Solution Engineering at Infovista, explained to The Mobile Network, is having a common cloud-native platform that can automate the different stages of a 5G deployment, through planning and design, testing and deployment and then assurance of new services enabled by network slicing.
Get this right and, with their CTO teams re-organized and working together, mobile operators can unlock smarter CAPEX with additional revenue streams and 5G service monetization.
Automation will unlock new 5G use cases
This all sounds well and good, of course. But what does it mean in practice? Where previous MWCs have been about ‘the vision thing’, this year was all about proving it. Seeing it. Making it real.
The 5G operators we met with throughout the week understood that the need for digital transformation means traditional siloed systems and processes are no longer fit-for-purpose.
Next-generation cloudified networks such as 5G require cross-domain orchestration, AI/ML-powered automation and data-driven processes. Only by integrating data, workflows and analytics across and within the network lifecycle of planning, testing, assurance and operations can CSPs break the limitation of traditional siloed-solution approaches and unlock greater use case innovation, agility, and interoperability throughout and across their next-generation fixed and mobile networks. This makes the need for cloud-native solutions imperative and explains why our NLA’s portfolio gain so much traction and how O-RAN providers, hyperscalers and System Integrations become more relevant than ever.
At MWC23 our theme was “See 5G work smarter”. That’s why on our stand we demonstrated solutions and use cases that operators are using today to plan, deploy, operate and monetize their 5G networks.
Ending siloes requires a DevOps approach to 5G
But it was also clear from the conversations with both industry executives and analysts that technology alone isn’t the solution. The siloes themselves are institutionalized and embedded within the operator organization itself.
We clearly heard a sense of scepticism among industry analysts and a belief that, despite operators talking about digital transformation, these organizational siloes remain and will be hard to break down.
It was interesting (and encouraging!) to hear a growing understanding and appreciation that 5G requires new ways of working. A DevOps mindset is needed to leverage technology and cloud capabilities to their fullest.
For too long telcos have been criticized and held up as slow to innovate compared to their born-on-the-web Silicon Valley peers. But 5G brings with it a need for cloud-native architecture and closed-loop automation. The shift from manual processes to automation means planning, testing and assurance become DevOps workflows.
This helps operators streamline processes and take a smarter, more data-driven approach. It means supporting RF planners with real-world data from how the network is performing. It means enabling highly skilled engineers to focus on high-value tasks while orchestrating previously time-consuming drive testing remotely from HQ. And it means having a 360-degree view of network, service and experience KPIs so you can deliver – and monetize – differentiated customer experiences.
5G is driving new partnerships
And my final big takeaway from MWC23? Well, perhaps it’s the reason why 88,500 people came to Barcelona in the first place. 5G is a team game.
Cloudification, Open RAN, new enterprise 5G services … they all point to the need for alliances and partnerships. From the hyperscalers like AWS, Google Cloud and VMware, SIs and service providers such as BICS and Accenture, or network equipment manufacturers such as Ericsson and Nokia, it really is teamwork that makes the 5G dream work!
Despite all the buzzwords on exhibitor stands around the Fira (and I admit we had some of them ourselves), 5G monetization won’t be solved by technology alone. It’s about true transformation where business-outcomes drive decisions, and where those decisions are made based on data and insights from across the organization.
My colleague Faiq Khan, President Global Networks at Infovista, sums it up nicely:
“Everything an operator does with technology in the network, they need to make a revenue stream on it. Every change, every business idea they come up with, must have a revenue linkage to it. And that’s where we need to help operators focus. Everything needs to be use case-driven and a have business value proposition.”
To see a recap of our presence at MWC23, including interviews with our customers, partners and executive team, please check out MWC23 highlights page