Appledore Research Group attended the inaugural Mobile World Congress Americas (MWC-A), held this year at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. The main event, MWC Barcelona, is well established as the industry’s premier venue for product announcements, but more importantly for critical networking and meetings amongst engineers and executives from across the globe. By contrast, CTIA has become a regional show with a focus on phones, gadgets, trucks and tools. Not much of interest for an analyst like me who covers the software and infrastructure necessary to transform our industry to highly automated virtualized networks.

MWC-A is looking up. The GSM association reported 21,000 attendees. That feels high, but the show does have a better and deeper feel. Exhibitors mostly filled both the north and south halls, but more importantly the mix of skills topics and technologies was much better. This year there were executives and experts willing and able to talk about 5G, small cell deployments, NFV, SDN, operations, management software in the end and agility of tomorrow’s networks. Nearly everyone I spoke to indicated that the quality of attendees in terms of knowledge and seniority was good.

So CTIA/ MWCA is back in business. But I also said it’s getting down to business. By this I refer to the tenor of the presentations roundtables in private meetings that I and my colleagues experienced. There was less talk of new technologies for their own sake and much more discussion of how they were being managed implemented and used to improve business.

Let’s discuss ONAP and associated open source projects. In Appledore’s area of focus, ONAP is the “elephant on the table”, but in our opinion, industry collaboration on characterization and modeling is a closely related beast. From discussions, some confidential and others public, we are seeing more participation and potential adoption of ONAP. Vodafone came out very publicly, but we also heard of others working more with ONAP and its associated SI vendors.

Similarly, we had discussions with diverse vendors about how to build better, more granular, more de-composed, and richer models of VNFs and services. This is the critical task toward more flexible orchestration, making possible higher levels of automation. Its far too complex to go into now, but the fact that we spoke to everyone from software vendors to CSP to startups to industry support organizations about related aspects of this common issue says the industry is beginning to address the complexity inherent in highly autonomous operations.

We’ll be blogging on several related topics in the upcoming weeks and months, and releasing several framework reports digging deep into this area – the first of that series available now.

All the best, and maybe we’ll see you at The Hague for SDN World Congress.

Grant Lenahan

Partner and Principal Analyst

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