What “Global Trends” Will MWC Barcelona Reveal?

What “Global Trends” Will MWC Barcelona Reveal?

With MWC just two weeks away, everyone in the GSMA Intelligence team is beyond busy. We are far from being alone on that front; across the mobile ecosystem, people are prepping product launches, rehearsing presentations, scheduling meetings, and beginning to get excited about tapas and cava. If you’re reading this, you may well be one of those people. To that end, I won’t waste your time – I’ll jump right to answering the question posed in the title.

What trends will be revealed this year in Barcelona? None.

“Reveal” suggests an element of surprise. And, if we’re being honest, most of the industry’s biggest trends will be well-understood going into the show. Think about it. The 2024 GLOMO shortlist has already been announced. Booth and demo decisions were made long ago. The same goes for those product launches and presentations which are being polished. If you are in the thick of it all, you probably aren’t in for a big reveal at MWC.

Of course, I must admit that this is a somewhat privileged view. Analysts, after all, making a living from looking for market trends. We have the luxury of looking for the big picture. You can’t say the same thing for everyone who spends their days deep in a given topic, innovating within a specific domain. That’s why my team puts together our Global Trends report each year – digging into what we think will be important. And, it’s why we’ll be launching it at MWC this year, with a dedicated session in the Knowledge Zone on Wednesday morning. If you’re available, you should attend; I promise you won’t regret the decision. Whether or not you can make it, here’s a preview – and some pointers on what to be looking for in terms of MWC trends.

  • 5G Next: The Monetization Story. 5G has been the fastest growing mobile broadband technology, on a trajectory to account for half of all mobile connections by 2030. Monetizing 5G investments, however, remains a work in progress on both B2B and B2C fronts.
  • 5G Next: the 5G-Advanced Story. With the completion of 3GPP Release 18 specifications mid-year, the arrival of 5G-Advanced solutions is imminent. Vendor messaging kicked off in earnest nearly two years ago, stoking interest in a technology which should serve as a bridge to 6G.
  • FWA: 5G’s Breakout Use Case. If there’s been one shining success story for 5G Monetization, it’s been Fixed Wireless Access. Sure, it’s still a (largely) consumer proposition, but it is very much additive to mobile broadband services. And, as 5G pushes into new markets – including developing economies where fixed-line broadband infrastructure is lacking – we should see continued growth.
  • Gen AI Revolution. If 2023 was the year in which Generative AI went mainstream, it was also a year in which most organizations – telcos included – just began to understand its potential. Building on a year (or so) of learning, 2024 should be a year where trials turn into real world Gen AI commercialization, hopefully solving operators two biggest concerns: RoI and tech maturity.
  • Cloud vs. Edge. Yes, it’s a false dichotomy. The question is not one of “cloud OR edge” but rather how “cloud AND edge” can be integrated to best effect. As 5G evolutions drive cloud native architectures and 5G B2B aspirations require both edge and cloud assets in order to meet user demands, this “AND” will become increasingly important.
  • The Future of Entertainment. From emerging metaverse use cases, to gaming and multi-play service packaging, operators and the mobile ecosystem have been helping to shape the entertainment landscape for years. How the democratization and widespread use of AI impacts this landscape will have wide ranging implications which should begin playing out this year.
  • Private Wireless: Choose Your Own Adventure. Between 2022 and 2023, the number of operators offering or testing 5G private wireless solutions nearly doubled, setting up 2024 to be a year of expanding customer traction. And yet, talking about “private wireless” as a monolithic thing is misleading – networks come in diverse forms for diverse vertical demands, stoking a broad array of ecosystem players and complicated competitive dynamics.
  • eSim: Acceleration and Simplification. Mid-2023, eSIM services had been launched by around 400 operators in 116 countries, an impressive increase portending further market momentum. And yet, that means the vast majority of operators have yet to launch. While consumer acceleration is expected from 2026 onwards, 2024 will be critical for setting that up.
  • NTNs and the Satellite Inflection Point. While much of 2022/2023 was spent on trials new LEO constellations, 2024 will see a transition to commercial launches…fuelling answers to all the important questions: will consumer or enterprise applications dominate, will device support materialize, how will operators integrate satellite into their service offers?
  • Sustainability and Circularity. Once upon a time, the discussion of sustainability for telcos was mostly about energy efficiency – driven into overdrive when energy price inflation took off. Circa 2024, the conversation has grown to include circularity, use of renewables and consumer sentiment, underscoring the breadth – and importance – of the topic.