MWC 2023 5G Now and Tomorrow

GSMA’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona is a wonderful place to get a pulse of the telecom and wireless industry. Eight huge halls encompass the event, with thousands of global vendors offering various telecom-related products and services. For an individual trying to get a feel for “what’s happening in 5G these days,” MWC is a great place but incredibly bewildering and overwhelming. The great news is GSMA offers Topic Tours to help.

For MWC 23, GSMA organized Topic Tours into three topics: 5G Now and Tomorrow, Internet of Things, and What’s Hot? Topic Tour participants are guided throughout the large halls, visiting 8-10 vendor booths. Each tour leader is a knowledgeable industry expert who helps participants understand the topic space, putting vendor offerings into context. Each vendor on the tour then presents their products and services for 10 minutes. In a couple of hours, participants have a good feel for the different market segments and offerings of various players in each segment.

Award Solutions leads the Topic Tours for GSMA, and this year, I had the privilege of leading the 5G Now and Tomorrow Tour. I outlined the 5G space in six layers when speaking to the tour participants.


6 layers of the 5G space



Chipset Manufacturers

Chipset manufactureres are companies that design and/or manufacture general-purpose or application-specific chips used in network equipment or handsets. Here are some of the chipset vendors on the tour:

  • MediaTek –  MediaTek is the world’s fourth-largest fabless semiconductor company offering chipsets that power mobile devices, home entertainment equipment, and connectivity to IoT products. In addition, they demonstrated their broadband satellite (NTN-NR) capabilities and talked about their plans for 6G.
  • Fibocom - Fibocom offers wireless chipsets for 5G mobile broadband, IoT, compute modules, and positioning and timing modules. Fibocom also exhibited various services their ecosystem partners offer using their chipsets, like fixed wireless, IoT solutions, etc.


Platform Providers

Platform providers are companies that offer computing, storage, networking, and other gear, and virtualization/containerization solutions that convert “bare metal” into a cloud environment. Here are some of the platform providers on the tour:

  • HPE - Known for their servers, storage, and networking gear, HPE explained their Greenlake initiative that offers managed private cloud services with a pay-as-you-consume model to operators and enterprises.
  • UfiSpace - UfiSpace showcased a variety of transport network solutions for telecom and is an active participant in the Open Compute Project of Telecom Infra Project (TIP).
  • Nexcom - Nexcom demonstrated all the infrastructure components for 5G O-RAN.


Network Function Providers

Network function providers are companies that provide the functional elements of a wireless network. Previously provided as physical network functions (cabinets of networking equipment), these wireless network elements, functionality referred to as virtualized or containerized network functions (VNF/CNF), are offered as software running on top of a private or a public cloud. The movement towards virtualized/containerized network functions significantly expands the ecosystem of suppliers. Here are some of the network function providers on the tour:

  • JMA Wireless -  JMA Wireless offers Distributed Antenna Systems for sports venues and buildings and, more recently, offers Open RAN/Virtual RAN solutions with various applications, including military applications (shown as a demo).
  • Compal - Compal launched 5G solutions for O-RAN, small cells, MiFi routers, and wearable devices.


System Integrators, Consultancies

A diversified ecosystem is good for operators, but an operator now builds networks from hardware and software components sourced from many vendors. System Integrators and consultants help operators integrate these diverse solutions to create a high-performing network. Additionally, consultants help operators build business cases, plan rollouts, implement process changes, etc.

  • Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) is a strategy, operations, and IT consultancy providing an end-to-end view of all the considerations in deploying new technologies, including developing a strategy, and business case, designing, integrating, and building a network, and putting processes in place to operate the network. Another exciting facet of their discussion often neglected in the buzz around new technologies was the sunsetting of older technologies.


Network Operators

Traditionally, network operators are public wireless operators like AT&T, Verizon, Vodafone, Orange, Singtel, etc. Network Operators operate the network and offer services and support to their customers. However, two new types of operators are emerging: Enterprises and Government-Defense. Like government entities, enterprises are highly interested in deploying private 5G/4G networks, often with industry-specific applications. Here are the two types of Network Operators on the 5G Tour:

  • Orange - Orange is a wireless operator headquartered in France, offering services in many parts of the world. Orange recently launched 5G Standalone, built a 5G lab for startups and companies to try out new applications, and is experimenting with private 5G network offerings on a public cloud. At MWC, they demonstrated the use case for 5G in the smart manufacturing space.
  • SES - SES is a Luxemburg-based Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellite operator. SES offers backhaul services to mobile operators and helps provide connectivity between data centers.


Application/Services Riding on Top of Networks

5G is transforming many industries by enabling new classes of applications. MWC showcased many applications through its tour. Many tour vendors provided a preview of various applications like Fixed Wireless Access, Smart Manufacturing, Mining, A/R, V/R, Drones, Digital Twins, Military Applications, etc.

The Taiwan Country Booth, organized by the Industrial Development Bureau of Taiwan, provided another notable tour stop featuring 17 companies manufacturing various products and services for 5G, including RAN, virtual and open RAN, networking gear, and system integration. The unified Taiwan booth represents a great microcosm of the global products and services the 5G vendor ecosystem provides.

The 5G Now and Tomorrow tour represented each layer or segment in the telecommunications industry well. In short, participants had the opportunity to network with 25-30 fellow global professionals while receiving an excellent bird’s eye view into the new applications that 5G enables and the infrastructure elements and services that make it possible.

Award Solutions offers a variety of training programs (both live and self-paced) on the key emerging technologies in 5G, e.g., 5G SA Core, Network Slicing, MEC, Voice over NR, 5G Release 16, and more.

Award Solutions also offers a variety of complimentary webinars on emerging technologies such as 6G, Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTN), 5G Security, 5G R16, 5G R17, NWDAF (Analytics function), and more.


Jayant Kulkarni, VP Corporate Development, Award Solutions, Inc.

Jayant helps global business leaders of wireless operators, equipment manufacturers, and software vendors bridge the gap between business/functional needs and technology/industry expertise. His focus areas include 5G, Open RAN, Network Virtualization, and Cloud. He delivers consulting services, executive training sessions, one-on-one sessions, webinars, and presentations at industry events on these topics. Before Award Solutions, Jayant was a consultant with McKinsey & Co., a global consultancy.

Jayant is the author of technical research and industry analysis papers featured at leading wireless events, like MWC and Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR), and is responsible for training thousands of individuals in the wireless space. He holds a patent in wireless systems, a B.S. in Electrical Engineering, a Ph.D. in Computer Engineering, and an M.B.A. in Finance, Marketing, and Entrepreneurship from the Wharton business school. Outside work, Jayant is a certified SCUBA diver, cyclist, and avid trekker.