​​What STL Partners is looking out for at MWC Barcelona 2024​

This article highlights some of the key things the STL Partners team will be looking out for at MWC Barcelona 2024. 

The STL Partners team is going to be at MWC in Barcelona this year, keeping tabs on what is happening in the mobile industry and meeting our past, present (and future) clients. If you’d like to meet us, you can book a meeting here.

We will be publishing a report on the key learnings after the event, just like we did last year (“MWC 2023: You are now in a new industry”) but have also collated a few thoughts on what we think is worth looking out for in the lead-up to the event.  

Last year’s event centred on “connected technologies” and the intersect of telecoms with driving change in other industries, akin to STL Partners’ Coordination Age theory. This was highlighted by the announcement of the GSMA’s Open Gateway API initiative, the centrality of ecosystems and partnerships, new companies outside the telecoms industry exhibiting, and the emphasis on sustainability.

Telecom trends & strategy: How to stay ahead of the game

Our Executive Briefing Service covers vital CXO success levers: market forces, trends, business models, approaches, threats, opportunities, co-opetition, and case studies.

Book a demo

This year, there is a continuation on the connected industries theme, but also a huge focus on AI…unsurprisingly. Here are some of the things we will be looking out for: 

AI 

  • Practical applications of Gen AI – entirely new and unique ones and how existing telecoms vendors are integrating gen AI into their existing services.  
  • Any signs of telcos looking at how AI can help them generate new significant revenue, not just cut their costs. 
  • Some cool applications of AI in networks that are not SON. 
  • Expectation of AI to be everywhere. Are we coming out of the hype cycle and, if so, will there be practical examples of telcos gaining benefits from it, or will we start seeing the trough of disillusionment? 
  • Any examples of its being used to support or automate cloud-native network operations, including software development, upgrades and orchestration, not just AIOps? 
  • How the partnership ecosystem of telcos, vendors and enterprise clients is shifting to support the delivery of digital transformation solutions with AI, and what kinds of business models are emerging from these collaborations. 

Innovation 

  • Experiencing NTT DoCoMo’s Feel Tech system, a platform DOCOMO unveiled in January 2022 that enables haptic information to be shared between people via a human-augmentation software. 
  • Telco innovation ecosystems/alliances: are they delivering results? 
  • Will telecoms operators continue to frame their enterprise services by the technology underpinning them, or finally pivot to focusing on holistic solutions focused on business outcomes? 
  • Are operators positioning their B2B propositions in terms of solutions? 

Private mobile networks and network slicing 

  • What are companies doing to address the private networks opportunity better? (e.g. vertical ecosystems, industry-specific solutions etc.)  
  • What are companies doing to help existing deployments scale more easily? (e.g. multi-use case, multi-tenant, multi-site)  
  • Are there any scaled deployments of private 5G? 
  • Hybrid private network deployments. At STL we expect these to open up a new range of customers for private networks, so I am excited to see what MNOs have achieved so far, as well as picking up some hints on where future deployments might be! 
  • Are any operators commercialising or getting close to commercialising dynamic slicing? 
  • Has the focus on mid-market solutions (AWS and Ericsson’s Netcloud type of solutions) progressed further? Are there any interesting new vertical/use cases that are gaining traction?  
  • There seems to be lots on AI and automation, so will there be any specific examples/demos/products where it is leveraged in private networks deployment and management? 

Telco cloud and open RAN  

  • What outcomes have we seen from moving IT and/or network workloads to the public cloud? 
  • As open RAN enters production (yes, for real), how has the conversation changed? Last year it was all about the RIC as an excuse to keep open RAN in the frame. Has the AT&T / Ericsson deal changed rekindled interest? 
  • How is increased virtualisation and automation changing the role of the service companies currently profiting from deploying and upgrading physical assets? 
  • What will the hyperscalers be promoting this year? How are their efforts to coax telcos into deploying network workloads on their platforms going? 

APIs and developers 

  • Has the conversation moved on from last year’s GSMA open gateway announcements; practical demo of network APIs at play at telco and vendor booth? 
  • Have any operators managed to connect their business strategy around network APIs with their technology strategy? A lot of investment has happened in the tech… but the commercial model still seems nascent. 
  • There has been a lot of hype around network APIs and NaaS – are these really “new” revenue generators? Or are they enablers of a natural evolution towards more dynamic networking? How have perspectives on this changed since MWC 2023? 
  • What are operators and their partners doing to create a stickier customer experience and to more actively engage the developer community?  

Edge computing 

  • Is there convincing evidence that edge node discovery APIs are directly monetisable? 
  • Does edge need AI more than AI needs edge?  

Sustainability 

  • Will we see more operators embed sustainability as a strategic imperative in their keynotes? 
  • Are there any innovative solutions operators have made to reuse waste heat from data centres? 

Regulation 

  • Discussion about the softening stance of regulators towards market consolidation, especially in Europe, but also of the other barriers that exist. 

Finally, with International Women’s Day just around the corner on March 8th, we would hope that gender diversity is an area of focus for the GSMA and the broader mobile community. Historically, there has been relatively low representation of women on the exhibition floor and we will be looking out for improvements since last year. 

Thanks to my colleagues at STL Partners for your contributions and look forward to meeting you there soon!

Dalia Adib

Author

Dalia Adib

Director, Consulting

Dalia has led numerous projects on edge computing in recent years, working closely with Tier-1 operators to identify strategic opportunities. She has also been leading projects on 5G, blockchain and IoT. Prior to STL Partners, she worked at a start-up and has a BSc in Government and Economics from LSE.

Telcos versus Techcos: Who is winning the battle of strategic capabilities?

STL Partners has conducted a significant study to benchmark the skills we consider critical for success in the future. Here is a summary of our high-level findings.

Gen AI Use Cases in Telecoms: Where is the Value?

Exploring Gen AI use cases has come into focus for many telecom operators amidst the hype around the technology. STL Partners has published extensive research on the topic, including our recent report ‘Gen AI: where should telcos start?’. Here is a quick summary of our findings.

​​The benefits of GitOps in telecoms​

As telcos continue to rollout 5G, they are adopting software engineering approaches, like DevOps and CI/CD to improve how they run the networks and innovate. Some are exploring the potential of specific practices, such as GitOps, to elevate their processes. Here we address what GitOps is, how it is different to DevOps, and why large telcos like Deutsche Telekom and Orange are interested.