Political Battles and Ongoing Restructurings Serve as Backdrop for MWC19

John Byrne – Service Director, Global Technology Telecom and Software

Summary Bullets:
• The wireless industry prepares to converge once again in Barcelona at MWC19.
• In addition to new 5G product and service launches and customer wins, political and financial concerns will serve as significant backdrops this year.

MWC19, the wireless industry’s largest event of the year, kicks off February 25 in Barcelona.

For network infrastructure vendors, MWC19 will serve as a launch point for a host of new products and services. Expect a number of 5G “plumbing”-related announcements from a host of vendors, including:

• Massive MIMO advancements
• Solutions designed to allow operators to support both 4G/LTE and 5G on a common core
• Similarly, flexible and programmable transport solutions that can support a host of to-be-developed 5G network slicing use cases
• Advancements in IoT platforms designed to help network operators do a better job of bringing the “connected X” proposition into a host of enterprises.

However, while 5G will obviously take center stage, as it has for the past three years, politics and financial concerns will serve as significant backdrops for this year’s event.

Huawei has endured a U.S.-backed campaign against it over the past year that has threatened its 5G prospects across the UK, Australia, Japan, and elsewhere. It will need to announce 5G-related deals at this year’s event to signal that it still has the support of a critical mass of the industry to thrive in the 5G era. Given the current urgency around this issue, Huawei will need to address security concerns more directly in its MWC19 messaging.

Prior to its suspension of operations last year, ZTE had made some headway in establishing itself as a worthy 5G player, with a significant R&D investment and an end-to-end-proposition. MWC19 would be a good opportunity to show that its 5G proposition is attracting operator support in important markets like Western Europe.

Having spent the last three years in retrenchment mode, Ericsson has returned to growth heading into 2019, and has thus far executed on its plan to return to financial health in 2020 and beyond. That said, 2019 represents an opportunity for Ericsson to show that its strategy of smart partnering – notably its expansive partnerships with Juniper and Ciena – is providing a better value for customers than the end-to-end approach to 5G embraced by primary rivals Nokia and Huawei.

Nokia has historically used MWC to provide a clear vision about where the industry is headed. However, in the wake of numerous executive-level management shuffles in the past two years and an aggressive ongoing cost reduction program, Nokia will need to demonstrate at MWC19 that it can still execute on its end-to-end 5G vision. The company will also need to show progress toward creating a standalone software entity that is more than just the sum of its parts.

One good piece of news on the political front is that protestors advocating independence for the Catalonian region, which have become a fixture of previous MWC events, appear to have turned their focus to Madrid recently. The politics this year will mostly be playing out inside the convention hall instead of in the streets around it.


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