What to watch for at MWC LA

Reed Peterson, head of MWC LA, noted core themes of 5G, IoT, big data, and AI are never going away. (Getty Images)

MWC Los Angeles 2019 kicks off in just a few days, and while core themes like 5G will certainly be front and center, the event also has variety of speakers and partner programs aimed to draw vertical industries into the conversation of what GSMA dubs ‘Intelligent Connectivity.’

Reed Peterson, the head of MWC LA who oversees the entire show, said intelligent connectivity is the combination of artificial intelligence, IoT, big data, and 5G, and this year’s event will showcase the fusion of those technologies and how it will positively impact multiple industries and improve the way we live. 

Starting Tuesday, Oct. 22 and running through Thursday, Oct. 24, this is GSMA’s third year hosting the event in partnership with CTIA. Turnout is expected to be similar to 2018, with Peterson anticipating between 22,000 and 23,000 attendees and more than 800 companies participating. He noted the quality of attendees has gotten a bit better. In 2018, 55% of attendees held senior-level positions, including more than 2,500 CEOs.

Spotlights on vertical convergence

There is no shortage of 5G-related events on the agenda, including an interesting Wednesday session called "CTOs Talk 5G," which features technology chiefs from the four major U.S. carriers, but there will also be new faces and themes at this year's show.

The show’s lineup of 19 keynote speakers includes some usual suspects with executives from key companies like Sprint (CEO Michel Combes), Verizon (Tami Erwin, EVP & Group CEO Verizon Business), and Nokia (Ricky Corker, President of Customer Operations, Americas), but given the event’s second year in Los Angeles, it’s not surprising to see media and entertainment executives on the keynote roster, too. Those include Viacom CEO Bob Bakish and Warner Bros. Entertainment Chief Digital Officer Thomas Gewecke, among others.

There will be a 5G Entertainment Summit, covering “the Connected Studio,” eSports and the future of advertising. The Producers Guild of Americas also is hosting a 5G Entertainment roundtable featuring ESL, HBO, Quibi, Rubicon Project, RYOT, Warner Media, Viacom and Vubiquity. But it’s not just the location influencing the agenda.

“When you look at the future of mobile, and what people are consuming on the device…most of it is media and entertainment,” Peterson said. “The core aspects of voice and texting [are] not really a high percentage anymore.” He added that LA is the heartbeat of media entertainment and creativity globally, noting that’s one of the reasons LA is a great home for the show, and will be held there again in 2020. 

Peterson expects a lot of key discussions around media and entertainment, how content is being consumed on devices and different content strategies, as well as discussions on mobile’s impact on automotive, FinTech, and healthcare.

On the automotive front there will be a Connected Vehicle Summit, featuring sessions with AT&T Mobility, CalAmp, DMI, and GM, while auto exhibitors P3 and U-blox plan to show off connected car solutions. Companies like Ericsson, Nokia, Sprint and VMWare will be participating in FinTech-focused talks about mobile banking, payments, financial AI advisors and chatbots.

He noted GSMA spends a significant amount of time cultivating what topics are the right fit, and acknowledged those core themes of 5G, IoT, big data, and AI represent the future of the mobile industry and “are never going away.” 

“All of these adjacent industries - fintech, healthcare, manufacturing, fashion, media and entertainment - everything is kind of converging around mobile,” he said.

DARPA challenge, and special events

Hitting on core telco themes, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) within the DoD, will host its Spectrum Collaboration Challenge (SC2) finale on Wednesday afternoon. Over the last three years DARPA has posed the challenge to come up with innovative was to use AI to manage scarce spectrum resources, and at the live championship event at MWC LA, winners will be announced and share a $4 million prize. Peterson also noted the DoD will be making a press announcement following the event, which seems likely to be 5G-related.

The CBRS Alliance will also be hosting an OnGo Workshop Wednesday afternoon, with a keynote by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

For the second year, MWC LA is hosting its YoMo event, which brings about 14,000 students from all over Los Angeles County to engage kids in technology and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts & design and mathematics) activities through what is basically a large, high-tech science fair involving 1,500 hours of content. Peterson said hundreds of different organizations across all different themed sectors are participating.

Also coming back this year is the 4YFN (4 Years From Now) showcase, which aims to connect startups with investors to potentially help spur joint ventures. This year the showcase has taken on the additional theme of ‘tech for good,’ with a focus on social innovation, diversity  and wellness, that ties in with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. There will be more than 300 companies, including startups and investors, representing about $1.5 billion in capital for startup investment, according to Peterson.

With so many partnerships and adjacent industries it seems easy to get lost in choice, especially at a time when many smaller, niche mobile show are cropping up. From a show perspective, Peterson explained that when cultivating topics outside of core telco themes, the team looks at where MWC can make the biggest difference for attendees and get content that provides the right type of combination with those adjacent industries.

With an event this size, “we can’t be all things to all people,” he said. “But we feel like we can, with certain partners, go and develop a number of” valuable tracts, while also developing programs that promote social good.

GSMA is working to address the persistent gender gap that exists in the mobile industry, including at the MWC event, where out of 19 keynote speakers 32% are women, and females represent 27% of the show’s total 300 speakers - a stat Peterson said the show is very proud of.

So there will be a lot to check out at MWC LA next week, and can’t help but put a shameless plug in for two FierceWireless breakfast sessions that are on the docket. Tuesday morning check out ‘The Road to 5G: Explore the Business Models’, featuring executives from Cisco, Ericsson, Inseego, Red Hat, Sprint, and Verizon. On Wednesday head to ‘The Road to 5G: Urban Densification and Taking 5G Indoors,’ to hear from experts at 5G Americas, Boingo Wireless, Crown Castle, EnerSys, MGM Resorts, Mobile Experts, and T-Mobile. You can register for those here.

For those all set on MWC LA 2019 and wondering about next year, not to worry, plans are already well in the works. Peterson said the cycle for putting on an event like this typically starts about 18 months out. In 2020, MWC will be back in LA from Oct. 28-30.