It's that time of the year again as tens of thousands of communications industry professionals jump on a plane, train or donkey and head to Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress show to see if they can last a week in Catalonia without being relieved of their sanity and/or wallet/purse. (Please remember not to walk down the Ramblas after midnight, folks, especially NOT WEARING YOR MWC BADGE!)
Light Reading will be there in force, with MWC veterans Dan "The Hat" Jones, Sarah "Reedy" Thomas and Iain "The Thinker" Morris (our recently appointed News Editor) joining me in the rush for the early trains to the Fira in an effort to be first in line for a Daisy Rollo coffee at the Spirent Communications plc stand.
After that double hit of caffeine, anything's possible!
It feels almost like the show has already started, so loud has the MWC noise been during the past week. (See Telekom Austria Builds Multi-Vendor NFV 4G Core , Ericsson Revamps Its RAN With RBS 6000 Successor, Nokia Offers Virtual OSS, VNF Service, SpiderCloud Evolves Its Small Cells and Sprint, T-Mobile Test Ruckus's Refined VoWiFi for example.)
You can check out the pre-show action and keep up-to-date with all the developments at our dedicated MWC show site here on Light Reading.
So what will be the big discussion topics next week? Well there will be a lot related to the industry's ongoing "virtualization" obsession, so all manner of NFV, SDN and cloud developments will figure prominently, with a strong link to the migration path that operators need to take towards a 5G world as well as the R&D plans of the chip vendors and OSS players -- after all, next-generation servers and network management and orchestration will be key to the next generation of network architecture. And it all needs to be tested and verified too -- that's a major challenge that's often missed out from virtualization conversations and a massive opportunity for the test system vendors.
All of that, in turn, will be linked to many developments around the next generation of the radio access network, the integration and deployment of small cells and the introduction of self-organizing network (SON) capabilities, while backhaul and fronthaul will continue to be incredibly important sideshows, as will network security (the big chorizo in the room) and energy efficiency.
Of course, the Internet of Things (IoT) and its kissing cousin M2M will manifest themselves in the form of flash and expensive cars on the show floor as the connected car takes up valuable/outrageously priced (pick your adjective) floor space. All of this will be tied into the broader "smart cities" theme.
Behind all the enabling technology, though, there needs to be a business plan -- a strategy that will help make sense of the mountains of data being produced by applications, devices and networks and turn it into greenbacks. Advanced analytics and business support tools are just as important as a next-generation base station, virtualized load balancer or connected g-string, but they might not get quite as much fanfare at MWC, even though they likely hold the key to making money from the networks (and partnerships) of the future.
And of course someone, somewhere, will announce a dozen new smartphones that will have the gadget geeks whipping out their embedded video cameras and drool buckets.
I also expect a certain degree of existential angst from the mobile operators. How much of a future is there for a standalone mobile operator that doesn't own its own fixed access and metro network? Who will own the network infrastructure in 10 years' time? Still the telcos? Or the web services giants such as Google? Or the government?
We'll try to cover the key developments touching these topics while we're in Barcelona, especially as we engage with senior service provider executives in Bar Cojones at 1 a.m. on Tuesday night (you know you want to be there…)
What we can absolutely promise you is a pictorial guide to Barcelona's best and worst tapas. Everyone loves a foodie pic, right?
— Ray Le Maistre, , Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading