The Mobile Broadband Road Ahead
Any event that calls one of its key sessions "Make 5G a Reality" is setting itself a pretty high bar. But then again, Huawei's annual Global Mobile Broadband Forum (MBBF) has a lot to live up to and an impressive track record when it comes to delivery.
Let's not forget that the first MBBF in Oslo back in 2010 saw Telenor launch the world's first LTE network to coincide with the show. Every year, something pretty special emerges from the MBBF's arrival in town.
Trying to predict what might be the standout highlight of MBBF 17 when it lands in London's Docklands next month (ExCel Centre, November 15-16) is a tough task, especially when you take a look at the topics of the conference keynotes and summits, and run your eyes over the impressive list of speakers and the companies they represent.
But then again, given the pace of technology change in the mobile broadband space and its ability to spread across industries, it seems likely that more than one development will spring out to catch us by surprise. Especially as the Forum doesn't restrict itself to speakers from within the wireless industry's big tent.
Take Rajendra Rao, for example. The CEO of Ford Smart Mobility will give a keynote presentation addressing the connected car market in which he'll outline his vision of the "vehicle as the next mobile." Or there's David Lynn, President and CEO of Viacom International, who will look at how mobile has effectively reshaped the video industry.
Of course, nobody should be surprised now by the mobile industry's capacity to impact and even dominate other markets – whether it is cars, video, music, cameras, or broadcasting. It's a power that knows virtually no bounds and the drive towards ever faster, more capable mobile broadband is driven by the voracious appetite of the smart devices in our hands. Indeed, one conference keynote accurately sums up the challenge facing the industry as: "Making a mobile world work for five billion consumers."
The mobile industry also has a voracious appetite for cutting edge technologies. Mobile Network AI (artificial intelligence) will not only be a key talking point at MBBF as its impact on efficiency, performance and business becomes apparent – Huawei will also be showing off the first ever Wireless Intelligence prototype during the Forum.
It's that relentless drive towards new horizons that characterises the mobile industry. Alex Sinclair, CTO of the GSMA and Hiroshi Nakamura, CTO of NTT DoCoMo are among those taking part in a three-hour, invite-only CTO round table specifically focused on the rollout and delivery of 5G networks that will examine the ways to improve the network's capabilities in order to enable even more vertical industry expansion.
The mobile market's continued growth demands this continuous level innovation, both in terms of the network itself and in service delivery. Hothouse mobile and connected industry technologies -- such as AI, drones and robotics -- are leading the digitalization of a diverse range of markets. These almost limitless future applications are the driving force that supercharges innovation in the wireless industry.
To emphasise the point, wireless connected smart factories, wireless controlled automatic vehicles and cloud-based cameras, as well as developments in drone technology, cloud-based AI guiding helmets and breakthrough remote medical treatment using low-latency 5G connectivity, will all be featured in demonstrations and displays at MBBF 17.
The evolution that is required in network architecture to deliver full 5G capabilities will be the focus of a demonstration of Huawei's CloudAIR solution, an innovation that permits dynamic spectrum sharing across GSM/UMTS, GSM/LTE, and LTE/NR in order to make the most of that most valuable wireless resource -- the spectrum itself.
And while the drive towards 5G is strongest in the developed market economies, the need to enable digital transformation in the emerging markets is not being overlooked. Work is underway to address both sustainable investment in network evolution and also in ways to reduce the end-to-end TCO of each site, potentially by solar power solutions and advances in wireless backhaul to compensate for the underdeveloped nature of much of the existing infrastructure.
Given its lead role in the event, it's hardly surprising that Huawei is the technology hand guiding many of these developments, but operators such as Telefónica, Vodafone, and EE (part of the BT Group) -- as well as the show's partners, the GSMA and GTI -- are also taking part in the Innovation Expo at MBBF 17.
The next five years are expected to see IoT connections surge past 20 billion and consumer cellular connections top 5 billion. Global mobile traffic growth will also surge, with perhaps a ten-fold increase compared with today's levels.
It's further evidence that the mobile industry never stands still and we also know the Mobile Broadband Forum events have a deserved reputation for showcasing world firsts that keep pushing those boundaries forward, from that early LTE network in Oslo in 2010, to Softbank's world-first Massive MIMO commercial network launched at MBBF 16 in Tokyo.
Maybe the promise to make 5G a reality means we will see London's first 5G demonstration. Regardless, under the banner "Mobile Reshapes the World," this year's edition of the Mobile Broadband Forum certainly promises to make more headlines.
This blog is sponsored by Huawei.