Lowenstein's View: My MWC Americas wish list

Wish list with a pencil
Some "breakout IoT"' products are at the top of Mark Lowenstein's wish list for MWC Americas next week. (Getty/GooDween123)
Mark Lowenstein Industry Voices

This article is part of our Mobile World Congress Americas preview coverage. Other posts in this series highlight this increasingly global industry, IoT, policy and hardware.

Early indications are that MWC Americas is going to be a successful transition for the CTIA show, which had been an annual fixture for 20-plus years. Major exhibitors have committed healthy resources to the show, and are pleased with initial attendance estimates and the plans of executives from key industry players to be there. The only wrinkle is the fall wireless show’s seemingly annual “Newman” moment: Apple’s scheduling of its major event, in direct competition with MWC Americas. Adding insult to injury is that the Apple event is only 20 miles down the road in Silicon Valley. Well, the Bay area will certainly be the place to be next week.

As part of FierceWireless’ MWC Preview issue, rather than a "predictions" piece, I’d like to offer my “wish list” for the show: the key product and industry developments that both validate the need for an annual big tent wireless event in North America, and demonstrate real forward progress for the industry. So here’s my list, in no particular order.

Some Breakout Verticals in IoT. IoT is one of the major areas of focus at the show. I’d love to see some breakout IoT products in the consumer or enterprise segments. Also, a transition from one-off IoT success stories to examples of solutions that scale, and more verticals showing substantial deployments.

Discussion of "How Many IoT Networks.' The proliferation of IoT networks—RPMA, Sigfox, LoRaWAN, and now operator CAT-M deployments—is a positive. But there is some concern about whether the market can support all these, especially since the rollout of some of the unlicensed networks has fallen behind. How many dedicated IoT networks can be supported … and will they all be built out? Is there sufficient equipment available? Will there be any form of interoperability/roaming?

Siting of Small Cells. One of the signature moments of last fall’s CTIA Show was then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s call to action on siting for small cells. It is all well and good to have 5G Spectrum and 5G radios, but a way must be found to significantly scale the number of small cells. Hopefully we’ll see some progress on the discussion and some novel solutions for getting at this problem.

Use Cases for 5G Taken to the Next Level. So far, the discussion about use cases for 5G has been very broad: fixed wireless access (FWA), IoT, AR/VR and so on. This needs to get deeper and more specific. For example, could FWA actually compete with fixed broadband? Will the economics of wireless data delivery change substantially? How will 5G be different when we’re already seeing demos of Gigabit LTE in the 4G world?

5G New Vendors. The incumbent network equipment providers are making rapid progress with respect to 5G NR and other elements of their 5G solution. But there’s also a new breed of well-funded players, hoping to take advantage of the more open, cloud/virtualized world. This show presents a good opportunity to gauge their prospects.

AR/VR and Wireless. So far, AR/VR has been great in demos but initial device sales have been tepid. And there have been no break-out, "must have" products or apps. But there’s widespread expectation that AR will figure prominently in Apple’s event on September 12. So this could be the catalyst for a breakout in 2018.

Spectrum Roadmap. This is the first major wireless show in the new administration, and the Ajit Pai FCC has a lot on its spectrum docket. I’d love to leave the show with greater clarity on: whether the CBRS rules will be adjusted; the chances of mid-band spectrum in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band being auctioned; and the next phase of the FCC’s Spectrum Frontiers proposal for millimeter wave spectrum for 5G.

What’s Going on With Unlicensed? It’s been sorta quiet on the LTE-U front since T-Mobile’s announcement of initial availability some months ago. How is the network rollout proceeding from T-Mobile and Verizon? What is the go-to-market plan? Who is using the service and what benefits are they seeing? What’s the latest with MulteFire?

Have a great show—looking forward to seeing you all there.

Mark Lowenstein, a leading industry analyst, consultant, and commentator, is Managing Director of Mobile Ecosystem. Click here to subscribe to his free Lens on Wireless monthly newsletter, or follow him on Twitter at @marklowenstein.