Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2018 was underpinned by the holistic theme “Creating a Better Future” which focussed on the UN’s 17 goals for sustainable development.
As always, MWC showcased an extensive display of the latest technology and vendors took the opportunity to make a multitude of announcements around intentions and outcomes for the 4G/5G ecosystem.
5G again dominated the topics and while there was a strong focus on mobile infrastructure and emerging opportunities in a 5G world; there was also a strong emphasis on the social aspects and benefits of technology as a natural flow-on from broader based economic benefits. The presence for the World Bank President at MWC for the first time added to the broader focus on ‘creating a better future’.
5G was debated from all perspectives with strong emphasis on two key infrastructure themes – spectrum and network deployment. This emphasis aligns closely with AMTA’s priorities in the Australian market.
Like our domestic agenda the global perspective at MWC concentrated on timely availability of harmonised spectrum and new fit-for-purpose regulation to support network deployment. The spectrum discussion also included calls for spectrum pricing that reflects more on the value of the applications and services to the broader economy as opposed to the one-off revenue gained from the actual spectrum sale. And the example of some Scandinavian countries was well articulated where the actual spectrum cost is modest with successful access being tied to significant network roll-out / coverage/capacity obligations.
In addition, the key role of small cells in 5G network architecture was highlighted throughout MWC along with the critical need for an efficient deployment regulatory pathway. Once again, this theme is closely aligned with AMTA’s current 5G program.
AMTA’s priorities and progress to-date was presented as part of an Infrastructure Roundtable session arranged by the GSMA on the sidelines of the Ministerial Program.
The Ministerial Program and main conference plenary saw many insightful keynotes that focussed on the 5G evolution. None more significant that the Ministerial Program opening session which featured:
• Dr Jim Yong Kim – President World Bank
• Andrus Ansip – VP EU and Commissioner for Digital Single Market EU
• Ajit Pai – Chairman USA FCC
• Sunil Bharti Mittal – Chairman GSMA and Bharti Enterprises
An unmistakable theme here was the high level of engagement of Governments in the emerging 5G agenda in recognition of the key role the 4G/5G mobile ecosystem will play in driving the productivity and connectivity gains needed to support outcomes ranging from the emerging 4th Industrial Revolution to the acute needs of developing nations to fight poverty.
At a high level the importance of getting it right was summed up by the Chairman of the World Bank who noted:
To help you (the mobile industry) extend your reach we (the World Bank)
“is willing to use all of our tools to de-risk investments, support Governments as they reform their policies and create a better enabling environment. Helping your industry grow in developing countries is part of our mission because we know your technologies are essential to ending extreme poverty”.
Dr Kim further noted that:
“I believe this MWC is a critical gathering to shape – not only the future of the industry – but also the future of the global economy”.
There was ample evidence at MWC that policy makers and regulators alike are attuned to the critical need for policy and regulatory settings that will allow 5G to flourish – albeit with some differing views on the level of intervention required.
The USA’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai revealed plans to hold an auction for mm Wave (28GHz) spectrum in November, which would immediately be followed by a 24GHz auction. The FCC is also eyeing spectrum between 3.7GHz and 4.2GHz for 5G, and Pai said he intends in the coming months to propose next steps to make that band available for terrestrial commercial use. He added the FCC is working to streamline infrastructure siting laws, noting
“all the spectrum we devote to 5G won’t be put to good use if the physical networks to carry 5G traffic are never built”.
Along with the main theme ‘’Creating a Better Future” one of the themes that the GSMA promoted was “intelligent connectivity” which was discussed from many perspectives including one presentation that used a clever play on the acronym D.N.A. The assertion being that DNA will decide the speed of the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) and the magnitude of its impact. DNA being the interactions between:
• Data (big) analytics
• Network Infrastructure and
• Artificial intelligence
This ‘DNA’ theme dominated the Congress in one form or another as sessions debated all aspects of the 4th Industrial Revolution and the 3 primary groups of 5G applications and services – namely:
• eMBB – enhanced Mobile Broadband
• uLLC – ultra low latency communications
• mMTC – massive machine type communications eg IoT
It was unfortunate that the Australian Government lacked representation at this year’s MWC. As reported in Commsday (2 March, page 3), I made the following observations:
“There’s no question that we are going to, as an industry, have to interact and collaborate with government at a far more detailed level in a 5G ecosystem, simply by the obvious reality that 5G is going to be relevant to basically every portfolio of government. So the level of interaction is going to escalate. And yet, at this event, the Australian government is represented in the most minimalist way.”
“In a global context, we are doing extremely well in terms of spectrum reform, deployment reform – and with the government’s new 5G working group we are starting the journey of expanding the narrative of 5G into verticals like agriculture, health, transport, logistics and any other portfolios we care to name. But at this event, we see world leaders – the top echelons of the mobile sector from across all jurisdictions – coming together to lay out vision to explore strategy, to articulate the opportunities and challenges that are going in this case with 5G. And the Australian government isn’t here.”
Finally, AMTA welcomes the GMSA’s comments reported from MWC that noted Australia was a world leader in spectrum management and we note our commitment to working closely with government to ensure a higher level of participation in MWC 2019.
Chris Althaus, AMTA CEO
15 March 2018