MWC 2015: Who’s Ready to Play MWC Buzzword Bingo?

Ed Gubbins
Ed Gubbins

Summary Bullets:

  • RAN vendors are sure to repeat key buzzwords at MWC, including C-RAN, license-assisted access and 5G.
  • Vendors need to strike the right balance between getting attention and demonstrating credibility.

With Mobile World Congress almost upon us, exhibitors are fine-tuning the messages they plan to emphasize at the show. Trust us, we’ve been having a lot of these conversations lately. For RAN vendors, it can be pretty challenging to craft messages that not only rise above the din of competing announcements, but also attract attention in general at a show where devices and applications often hog the spotlight.

One way to get attention is to link whatever you’re trying to say with an industry buzzword. For example, at this year’s show, C-RAN, licensed-assisted access, SDN, NFV and 5G are likely to be repeated themes. This means that vendors focusing on distributed RAN architectures or centralization of resources might be well served by connecting their stories to C-RAN, even if the specific product being highlighted doesn’t strictly represent the most illustrative C-RAN example.

At the same time, vendors need to be careful not to overreach. If they apply a label that just doesn’t fit, they risk communicating a lack of authority on that subject (i.e., “If they’re calling this C-RAN, they must not understand what C-RAN is”). Though not an equipment vendor, SK Telecom learned the hard way the hazards of overzealous buzzword use when a court ordered it to stop claiming it had commercialized tri-band LTE-Advanced service, noting that handsets supporting tri-band LTE-A are not yet available. Creative marketing can do more than just hurt your authority; it can get you trouble with the law!

As buzzwords go, 5G gives vendors the most room to stretch. Since the term is mostly undefined, vendors can pretty much use it with abandon. Small cells? Machine-to-machine? Internet of Things? Millimeter wave? If you want, you can throw any or all of them into the 5G bucket, and it won’t be easy for someone to contradict you. Still, you can see vendors’ reluctance to overreach here, too. So, ZTE is touting not “5G” but “pre-5G” solutions, a term that may be equal parts irksome and effective. Likewise, NEC isn’t saying its base stations support 5G but that they are “an important milestone towards achieving…5G,” and so on.

Each vendor will have to decide which buzzwords are fair game for a particular solution and which would risk dampening their credibility. If they overreach and it goes unnoticed, their credibility remains unscathed. But, of course, messages that go unnoticed represent failure, too.

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