Hot topics we didn't get to discuss at MWC 2020

Ovum's Daryl Schoolar thinks topics like standalone 5G and open RAN would have had people talking at MWC. (Getty Images)

Since the mobile industry’s largest trade show was cancelled earlier this month less than two weeks ahead of its slated start date after concerns over the coronavirus caused an exodus of exhibitors, many are left wondering what might have been at MWC 2020.

Instead of running around the Fira in Barcelona this week, Joe Madden, principal and founder at Mobile Experts, said his team is busy conducting web interviews with more than 80 companies to compile its top 10 list of the things people missed.

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Mobile Experts plans to share more details later, but according to Madden some of the topics to be included that would have been big at GSMA's MWC are things like millimeter wave demos, edge computing business partnerships, ‘connectivity as a service,’ and private LTE/5G success stories.  

In terms of infrastructure discussions and demos, Daryl Schoolar, practice leader of Ovum's Intelligent Networks team, believed standalone (SA) 5G would make a splash at this year’s event.

In the U.S., operators’ early 5G deployments have all been based on the non-standalone (NSA) version of the 5G NR standard, with the network core anchored in 4G LTE. Carriers have indicated plans to move to standalone, though Verizon’s Heidi Hemmer told FierceWirelessTech last month that it will be a “multi-year transition.” AT&T has stated plans to start deploying SA 5G this year.  

RELATED: Verizon’s SA rollout will be multi-year effort

Schoolar anticipated major infrastructure vendors would discuss the new 5G packet core and expectations of deployments on the standalone version of 5G this year.

“That goes along with your different types of enterprise-oriented applications that would be supported on the standalone network,” he said.

As noted in a January report from Signals Research Group, without SA, “operators would be limited to LTE-like applications and services.” Standalone brings enhanced 5G functions like ultra-low latency.

RELATED: Ericsson, MediaTek prep for standalone 5G with Voice over New Radio test

A likely topic that’s raised both interest and some skepticism is open RAN. Schoolar thought MWC would’ve had more discussion around open RAN. And he anticipated newer entrants, including those vocally championing the architecture, would have used the show to strut their stuff – pointing to recent announcements by Parallel Wireless and Mavenir.

“Announcements I think would’ve been more bespoke had [MWC] not been cancelled,” he said. “You would have seen more in terms of open RAN moving toward being a true standard commercial-type offering.”

RELATED: Rakuten Mobile tees up 5G OpenRAN trial in Singapore

Schooler also expected a lot of discussion about solutions to lower the overall cost of the network. For example, major equipment vendors showing off smaller sized base stations that might offer multiple bands supported on the radio for 5G and integration of the antenna radio.

“Things that shrink the footprint of the base station [and] things that improve the energy of the base stations,” Schoolar added.