MWC17 conference programme light on network tech

Mobile World Conference conference looks light on network technology this year.

I’ve just added the Conference sessions I am interested in covering for TMN to the useful “my schedule” tool on the Mobile World Congress website.

I’ve added six conference sessions, which appears to encompass pretty much the whole of the mainstream Conference’s coverage of network technology. There are two sessions on 5G, one on NFV, one on optimised mobile video delivery, one on network analytics and one on mobile edge technology.

That there is just one session on NFV across the whole four days of the conference is surely surprising? There appears to be nothing on open source networking, on operator demands for Cloud native technologies, on new network security architectures (OK, yes there’s a session on Blockchain which is sort of tangential), nothing further that I can see that is dedicated to key technology building blocks such as LTE in unlicensed, in-building coverage, advanced antenna technologies, options for fronthaul and backhaul, mmWave modelling, massive MIMO and so on and so on. (Some of these will no doubt be touched on in the 5G session chaired by Current Analysis’ Peter Jarich on the Monday)

The networks of IoT? There is a session on the automated car which mentions the role of mobile networks and there are sessions on enabling business models around IoT, as well as on AR/VR, but unless I’m missing something there’s nothing specific on cellular IoT networks themselves – LTE-M, NB-IoT and the like. This seems a bit odd given the GSMA’s keeness to embrace the NB-IoT Forum, initially a Huawei and Vodafone initiative, within its arms last year.

Perhaps some of this is being taken care of in the keynotes, which are still left blank of detail, although a look at the speakers doesn’t necessarily suggest as much. My Scottish grannie (who really did exist and is not just deployed as a device to enable the deployment of faux folk wisdom) used to say, “Fools and bairns criticise things half done” – by which I mean that I am well aware that there may be more to come in terms of keynote sessions and perhaps some other extras. Also, I am not criticising the GSMA, more noting the shift in balance of the event.

It’s a mark of the change that has happened to Mobile World Conference and the audience it serves to note how little of it is now dedicated to the technology supporting the networks that the GSMA’s members, the mobile operators, invest in and seek to monetise. Instead, a great deal is given over to the way operators interact with the wider ecosytem – to the monetisation aspect itself, in effect.

To reiterate, there’s nothing at all wrong with that. No doubt everyone has their own MWC and the GSMA does an excellent job of serving the diverse priorities of the 90,000 (or whatever the number will be in 2017) visitors. My press ticket is free, so price doesn’t impact on me, but if I were a paying customer and coming to MWC to learn about, track and understand where networks are headed I would just get an Exhibition ticket (EUR800 vs EUR2200 for the cheapest Conference pass) and learn as much as possible from the demos and conversations to be had on the show floor.

I think this diversification and shallowing of the official programme also underscores the value of those media outlets that do seek out and report a version of MWC that is different from the “official” version that tends to be dominated by reports of the keynotes and chases clicks via interviews with the more glamorous device, content and social media partners. Increasingly, to understand MWC you need to do so through the relevant filter. We’ll be applying a “what’s happening in mobile network technology” filter, as you’d expect.