Editor’s note: The annual Mobile World Congress produced its usual show of technology innovations, especially in artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and emerging 5G technology. But where are the solutions to real needs? Rowland Shaw, head of business consulting at Technology Business Research, takes a look.
HAMPTON, N.H. – The recent Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2017 again introduced its standard fare — tech innovations — particularly in the areas of Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), virtualization and 5G.
However, TBR found the event failed to adequately address how the ecosystem of mobile technology and services providers will bridge the gap between the network fabric and the current needs of enterprise CIOs, as well as how companies in the ecosystem can adjust business models and monetize new solutions to grow their revenue.
While MWC 2017 boasted an exceptional turnout of companies in the current business ecosystem, there was limited focus on the business model and how to monetize solutions, but an emphasis on the increasing importance of vertical and network capabilities. AI capabilities are entering the mainstream, while radio frequency (RF) baseband processing capabilities have entered a new era and will likely impact future IT architectures.
The companies in attendance engaged enthusiastically, particularly around how businesses anticipate “The Next Element,” the theme of MWC 2017, will develop.
Companies across the entire spectrum of the ecosystem demonstrated impressive innovation. There is a definite shift to showcase how the network and evolving architecture are applicable to the enterprise segment and where the profit pool is expected to develop as well as to demonstrate clearly how they can be applied to integration — all in respect to enterprise business processes, but not in the language of the CIO.
The network, by default, is a foundational element of the modernized IT infrastructure; public, hybrid and private cloud success depends on access from the edge through to the core, and from the device (or human network interface) to compute and storage environments. A seemingly unlimited number of comparisons could be made on the technological capabilities of one vendor versus another, including multibillion-dollar R&D investments in new applications and corresponding suggestions for the enterprise segment; however, the focus at MWC quickly turned to the business model and monetization possibilities of post-consumer application of the network, specifically, the next $1 trillion of opportunity in the market, which will support the continued investments and technological revolution pushing the limits of physics.
Wireless industry and CIO disconnect threaten future market growth
The Next Element implied the shift in focus to new profit pools. However, there was little representation from the “next” demand-side decision makers, namely the CIOs of enterprises that are navigating how best to employ their digital transformation plans. TBR believes there is an obvious disconnect between the language of the network ecosystem and that of the enterprise, which is almost to the point where a language mediation device is needed.
While the solutions and proofs of concept offered at MWC were innovative, they typically depicted an end state, or outcome, but focused very little on the enterprise journey from initial business decision through deployment and scaling. This fragmentation is a barrier to scaling and broad adoption. While current and evolving mobile broadband deployed at scale typically covers national geographies, coverage becomes fragmented when borders are traversed. Enterprises experience a similar problem with tailored deployments of operational technology (OT) between various ecosystems. For example, a supply chain system may traverse many companies, but each company has its own OT system that is incompatible with others. Therefore, significant coordination is needed to succeed and move beyond the sandbox to ignite participation by the wireless business set.
RF technology can impact the IT architecture of the future
There have been some developments that can significantly impact how IT architectures evolve, including applying cognitive capabilities in the network as well as significant improvements in the large-scale integration of high-performance radio that covers multiband, concurrent signals such as multicarrier aggregation, MIMO and 256 QAM.
Monetization is the red thread
The difference between offering a commodity-styled service and a wide breadth of applicable solutions is the realization of monetization capabilities, which only a handful of players have accomplished, evidenced by the limited demonstration of such capabilities at MWC 2017. The BSS of the future, capable of tying thousands of types of business models to KPIs of enterprise digital transformation, will require a foundational shift in vendor approach to enterprises. This shift would imply a significant integration between systems integrators that have deep vertical expertise and BSS platform providers. Currently, OSS is in a more mature state from a command and control (orchestration) perspective.
While significant attention was paid at MWC 2017 to enterprise development of next-generation solutions with IoT integrated into the business process, there was little focus on the enterprise CIO — representing a strong disconnect in ambitions. CTOs of leading vendors highlighted this disconnect when speaking at the 5G beyond the hype session; they made a strong call for growth in enterprise vertical segments and indicated there must be a willingness to open the fold to broader enterprise-relevant partnerships such as those made possible by Nokia’s (NYSE: NOK) WING (worldwide IoT network grid). The promise and real progress of cognitive solutions drive automation capabilities in the network to manage costs, provide agility and potentially extract monetizable value from the traffic carried across the network.
Focus on tangible business model monetization solutions was in relative short supply at MWC 2017. However, the conversations around pushing the boundaries of RF baseband processing to enable ultrabroadband capabilities will have major impacts on future architectures of networking and their application. The volumes of data that can and will be produced to feed the cognitive as well as command and control engines can evolve rapidly, driving the architectures of the evolving IT network.