MWC Las Vegas was really two shows: the roomy, routine one that it appeared to be – and the buzzy one that was actually taking place away from the show floor. Looking past the glitz, here’s what we took away….
Appledore Research attended Mobile World Congress-Americas, 2022 in Las Vegas Nevada. Compared to its enormous cousin in Barcelona, overall, the show was far smaller on all counts:
- Attendance was less than 1/3 of MWC Barcelona, at a claimed15k attendees. In reality it felt significantly smaller than that. Keynotes were not heavily attended; the show floor was not crowded – even the entrance lines were small.
- The show floor itself was small, taking up just a portion of the West Hall. Booths/stands skewed toward smaller companies rather than the large ‘usual suspects”. Notable exceptions that DID have booths were Kyndryl, IBM, T-Mobile, Fujitsu, Mavenir, & JMA. Notably absent were Cisco, Nokia, Ericsson, Spirent, VMware and Dell. No doubt I have omitted one or two, but the list of those NOT showing on the main floor was large.
- Possibly the reason was focus (on key customers and though leaders) and depth? Because, on the other hand, many larger firms seemed to opt for meetings rooms rather than show floor stands. Behind the show floor were smaller meetings rooms (about 10’ x 20’) and upstairs and along the opposite hall reception area were many large suites that could contain hospitality and more than one meeting room. Many large firms opted for this approach, including Rakuten, HPE, DELL, NTT, Cognizant, ServiceNow, Microsoft and many others.
- Speaking tracks were thin, in my observation. To be fair, I had limited opportunity to check out the options out my time was spread across the show floor, back-to-back meetings and talks more or less a luxury. It also did not help that the talks and tracks were hard to locate. I heard myriad complaints that one could not easily know where to go to see the most important talks.
And yet an energy existed just below the surface
All this may sound negative – and yet, there was a lot of good occurring at the show. Many that I spoke to were booked essentially morning through evening, and appointments were very difficult to get with many firms. In fact, during the lead to the show I noted how the volume of meeting requests suddenly accelerated, and that many who were originally not attending suddenly decided it was worthy of their time. This is good.
Focus: This, folks, was a cellular/radio show. Period.
Nearly everything “cellular” was on offer, and all firms participating were involved somehow in the RAN – from radio hardware and software to servers optimized for radio tasks, to antennas, towers, couplers, etc. — and a significant focus as well on 5G cores.
On the other hand, automation software, routers, optics and other important elements of the next generation 5G network were nowhere to be found, and the leading suppliers of such (NOKIA, Cisco, Ciena, Juniper) MIA. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is quite different from, say Barcelona where “mobile” is a proper name and should not be misconstrued to mean that all the buyers and sellers are dealing with mobile equipment.
The key trends from this show are probably not surprising, but it is good to see the continued evolution of thinking toward what many of us knew must eventually raise their complicating heads:
- Open RAN – with almost every vendor pivoting toward Open RAN architectures.
- Cloudified RAN – by major vendor, either as an alternative to Open RAN, or a complement or stepping-stone.
- Dedicated and accelerated hardware to speed up cloudified RANs – and to move processing beyond X86. The reasons are clear – power consumption, throughput and density. Not all announcements are fully public, so we will leave this one for now, but the trend was clear.
- Small cells and indoor cells for both private and public networks. No surprise since the claimed capacity and speeds of 5G depend on high frequencies, and those frequencies go about 6 inches. Ok, 600 feet, without walls blocking them.
- Edge support architectures for modularized RANs, made even more important by the evolution to ever-larger quantities of smaller cells (above).
- Private networking. While clearly a trend, the gist of conversations varied from mild prognostication (marketing department game face warning) to uncertainty about the market’s timing. What was not in doubt was that this market is coming, but also that the timing and segment priorities are sometimes vague. We note this is nothing new and point interested readers to our market outlook “Industrial Automation and 5G” – now over two years old, and apparently its segmentation and guidance remains true.
In-person shows deliver value we can’t seem to get otherwise…
The pandemic precluded events like these, and being back, it shows what we as an industry lost in the Covid years. The concentration of different views, opinions, approaches, vendors etc. creates a crucible for interactive thinking – for changing opinions and also for reinforcing them. It is the very chaos of random people bumping into other random people that creates new vectors of thinking. As analysts, we tend to see this more clearly – behind closed doors rather than on the show floor booths — yet no doubt those are great learning places as well.
I personally noted that excitement around this show suddenly took off with only ~2 weeks to go, creating a flurry of scheduling and new attendees. Many firms I spoke to reported a similar trend. It’s unclear why this went from “off the radar” to “on” so suddenly or so late, but it occurred.
I hope that the uptick of interest in this show, which was clearly evident over the past two weeks leading up, points to growth next year. I can’t think of another US based show with the potential to host such a breadth of players, opinions, technologies and ideas.
Partner and Principal Analyst