MWC’17: The industry thinks it’s moving in the right direction… Only time will tell… Again

Three weeks to go until MWC’17 opens its doors to the world. Consecutive show number 12 for yours truly. So, what can we expect? Where is the global mobile industry at the present time?

The conference agenda reflects an industry still trying to make the most of what it has. This is especially true of the operator community and the vendors that serve it. Unsurprisingly there are entire sessions dedicated to ‘more effective monetisation’, ‘better consumer engagement,’ ‘better personalisation of services,’ and the evolution of existing services that require stimulation (messaging in particular).

All these sessions are united in their excitement around the power of operator data – both network and subscriber information. The good old ‘power of context’ argument again. It feels like the industry has been kicking this particular can around the car park for at least the last three years – so will 2017 herald genuine operator transformation to becoming digital services providers? Nobody mention the privacy bit and it might be ok (the subject of another session).

Well, yet again, we have some technology acronyms, some new, some not so much, that promise new approaches to well-worn opportunities. We are well aware of NFV/SDN. There’s a session dedicated to this topic which is intriguingly entitled ‘NFV: a re-examination.’ The sub-text here is that the industry has got so drunk on its own NFV ‘Kool Aid’ that it has actually forgotten what network and service virtualisation was originally intended for.

But that’s ok, as we become exasperated here, the rising prominence of virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence and machine learning will introduce a series of fresh new hype-cycles that will sustain us all for the next three years (sorry for the outrageous cynicism). Also, has anyone else noticed the ‘it’s far too soon to know’ narrative that dominates most 5G discussions? Well let’s not let reality get in the way of the aspirations of the large network equipment vendors, eh?  

To prove I’m not a complete killjoy, there has been some interesting progress in the emergence of IoT. There’s more focus on industrial use cases this year, which is interesting. I know building automation in particular is a cause for excitement. You also can’t help notice the usual representation of car manufacturers too (again) – BMW, Volkswagen, Mercedes, Renault Nissan and General Motors are all speaking in the conference. Good news in terms of demonstrating progress – it remains to be seen if operators will make any money from it all.   

So what about the perspective of the media landscape at the 2017 show from a slightly bemused telecoms PR man? Well what’s heartening is that our publishers are enjoying commercial support from the industry – most of our usual trade titles are reporting busy schedules in terms of paid for commitments. Great to see – a hack has got to eat after all… Paid media is having more impact on our client’s content marketing agendas – certainly a sign of things to come.

The industry thinks it’s moving in the right direction. The GSMA refers to it as the ‘next element’ – is it me, or is this marketing speak for ‘holding pattern?’

Only time will tell.

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