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MWC Barcelona 2022 review: 5G, AI, and Security the most discussed technology topics

IoT Analytics experience at Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2022

After three years, MWC Barcelona was held again as a large-scale in-person event with a total of 61,000+ attendees. IoT Analytics attended a number of presentations and exhibitions and conducted more than 30 in-person interviews during the four days of the event. Nearly every meeting started with an “It’s great to be back in Barcelona”.

Here are three key insights from the event in general and three key insights from some of our in-depth discussions (more insights available to our subscription clients in our MWC Barcelona 2022 Event Report):

Three key insights from the event

1. 5G, AI, and Security were the main topics at the event.

Our news analysis shows that 5G, Artificial Intelligence, and Security themes dominated news releases around the event in 2022. Notably, the topic of smartphones, which in the past dominated MWC news releases, dropped to fourth place. This year, two themes in particular were trending: O-RAN and private 5G (especially among 5G and network infrastructure players).

2. O-RAN adoption is accelerating.

The event had a number of showcases around O-RAN. For example, Qualcomm showcased its X100 Accelerator for urban, high-traffic O-RAN deployments using mMIMO radios. Rakuten Symphony’s Symworld highlighted its ecosystem partnerships, which indicate that O-RAN deployment cannot be a one-person show. The successful deployment of O-RAN depends on partnerships and collaboration with other value chain players and systems integrators, especially to overcome scalability challenges.

3. Private 5G a key theme as vendors move from a consumer focus to an enterprise focus.

Consumer adoption of cellular connectivity in the last years has led to personal digital transformation, leveraging smartphones and smartwatches. At MWC 2022, one of the key themes was the shift from a consumer focus toward holistic social and business digital transformation. Most value chain players are now looking toward enterprise and industrial sectors as new opportunities. For them, the key to enterprise and industrial cellular adoption is often through private networks (most notably private 5G).

Three key insights from closed room discussions

1. Hardware vendors looking for subscription revenue

For chip, module, and device players, selling hardware remains their bread and butter. However, a key lesson learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is that a recurring revenue business model is more reliable for sustainable growth. Therefore, most hardware players are now looking to expand subscription-based revenue by bundling hardware with other offers such as eSIM management, connectivity management, and related services – often partnering with other vendors or building new in-house solutions.

2. The current chip shortage remains a key concern

The shortage of chip supply is one of the most significant pain points for the semiconductor industry. At the event, we learned that chip lead times of 40–50 weeks have become the new industry average, that redesigning and pre-ordering chips with an upfront payment has become a standard business practice for the industry, and that the industry is unable to determine whether the demand surge for chips reflects panic or the new normal.

3. eSIM is on the rise

The topic of eSIM has gained considerable traction in the consumer segment in the last three years, particularly for smartphones and smartwatches. The entire cellular industry is now looking beyond consumers into the industrial and enterprise sectors. eSIM adoption by connectivity management platform players, such as Ericsson, Nokia, and Cisco, was the natural course of evolution and was witnessed at the event. Other mature players, including Thales and G+D, are also expanding their partnership ecosystems to all value chain players.

Source: IoT Analytics

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