PERSPECTIVES ON THE MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS (MWC) – 2017
By now I’m sure you’ve heard about that little trade show they held in Barcelona earlier this month. :-) And since 108,000 people attended, it’s likely that some of you reading this were actually there. But let’s face it, in a show this big even if you were there it’s possible you might have missed some things. So, to help out both attendees and non-attendees, I thought I’d interview a couple of industry experts to share their experiences. In this case, the experts also happen to be my fellow Partners in Wireless Insiders Network, Hamish Caldwell and Alex Moraitis. I think you will find the perspectives of these two industry veterans to be very useful and informative.
1. What was your overall impression of the show?
HAMISH: I found that energy, enthusiasm, and optimism are all trending up. That’s encouraging as it portends confidence in market opportunities. Also interesting was how the ecosystem has transitioned from being infrastructure/access/device centric to consumer experience/software centric. And analytics is everywhere.
ALEX: I agree with Hamish’s points. Plus, it was interesting to see how the big players still showed up in force. Ericsson, Huawei, Samsung, etc. all had huge booths.
2. What topics caught your attention?
HAMISH: We found high level or interest from a wide range of companies: Network Management, Workforce Productivity Solutions, Embedded Computer Vision, 5G C-RAN Infrastructure, Machine Learning for Customer Care, IoT Platforms, Densification and In Building Solutions, Network Testing. In particular, there were a number of European and Israeli companies interested in pursuing growth in USA and Canada.
ALEX: We had meetings every hour from 9:00-7:00 all 4 days, and have already had several follow-up discussions. So I see that as a strong indication of interest for companies to enter or grow their presence in North America.
3. What was the most memorable thing you saw at the show?
HAMISH: 108,000 people! That’s larger than the World Cup football final! Plus, it’s hard not to remember the major vendors (Huawei, Ericsson) taking over “booths” the size of half the hall with heavy marketing on 5G infrastructure, countered with thousands of other booths “selling” everything else. It may be a sign of healthy market, but also a very diverse and active one.
ALEX: I saw some really cool Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) demos. Though the headsets are still a little clunky, you could see the potential as you know headsets will continue to evolve to improve the experience. Plus, I heard every language on the planet as there was a very heavy international presence. Fortunately I had Hamish with me to interpret the guys from the Scottish Economic Development booth (BTW, ever see Robin Williams’ stand-up routine on the history of golf? Google it). :-)
4. Was there anything (or any company) that surprised you?
HAMISH: “Surprised” may be too strong a word, but it was intriguing to see gesture recognition for in-home entertainment services at a mobility trade show. It’s clear that Service Providers intend to be key channels making strategic investments on multi-screen solutions and heading towards becoming more in-home and in-vehicle total entertainment service providers where the difference can be made in content and in consumer experience. Cable companies beware!
ALEX: I heard from exhibitors that quite a few Enterprises attended the show. I think this is a bit different than previous years, where most attendees are from our industry. Also, many countries had their own “chamber of commerce” booths (Finland, Israel, Spain, Hungary, France, etc.) To me that indicates how things like Smart City technologies are becoming a differentiator in the recruitment of business.
5. From your perspective, what were the key themes or messages of the show?
HAMISH; Mobile is not just the “next” element (as the show was titled) but is the “now” element – everything is mobile. Mobile has been “first” for a while, and is even more so now that Data Analytics and Machine Learning are being commercialized, delivered to the market and consumed at scale by well establish, global brands.
ALEX: Two things. 5G and AR/VR.
6. If you could have spent more time on something at the show, what would it have been?
HAMISH: Our meeting schedule filled most of the time over the four days but if I had more time then it would have been good to visit more booths of and discover more demos of “wow – never seen that before but I can see how it might be everywhere a year from now!”
ALEX: Agreed. Since we had so many meetings, we didn’t get a chance to just walk the floor and explore.
7. What advice would you give to future show attendees?
HAMISH: Sellers: Early stage companies – teaming up with a broader regional marketing aggregation organization such as Alex mentioned above. This gives you fractional expense coverage, more visibility and booth attendance, and business development support. Mid-size companies – make adequate investment in your pre-event sales and marketing to assure sales productivity and brand enhancement as returns from the significant time and money investment. Large companies – make sure you have demos of tangible differentiation that highlight the impact of your scale and communicate your culture of innovation and velocity. Buyers: Pre-arrange a well-organized, pre-scheduled, highly focused agenda of meetings with clear purpose. Take good notes. Stay focused. Keep hydrated. And don’t forget to wear good walking shoes!
ALEX: Yes, wear comfortable shoes and a Fitbit! (It’s fun seeing how many miles you walked). Also, enter through back entrance (Hall 8) where there are no lines to get into the Convention Center. Finally, if you’re an Enterprise wanting to understand how mobility fits into your operations, this is a great place to see current and future tech trends, and speak with the key players at your potential vendors.