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MWC Shanghai might be the "little sister" to MWC in Barcelona, but what it lacks in scale, it could make up for insightfulness. MWC Shanghai is approaching (June 28 to July 1), and while it will host a bunch of experimental stuff, it's the breakout sessions of the conference that we are most excited about.

The GSMA attempts to keep it real

If the conference titles are anything to go by, organizer the GSM Association is attempting to dish up a good degree of realism during its three-day conference. Sessions are around best practices, lessons to be learned, and how to get to a specific end goal. Sessions that caught our attention include

  • "Combining automation, cloud, AI and virtualization – lessons and prospects"

  • "Affordable network evolution"

  • "Evolving to 5G – technical steps and business implications"

  • "Mobile advertising – new opportunities for brands and media"

  • "Live sports … commercializing some major sports events."

We see as a "must-attend" the MMIX Asia Summit, which will address the "convergence of content, distribution, and monetization strategies," including evaluating what content – live broadcasting, social media video, etc. – appeals and what consumers are willing to pay for. Another interesting event to attend would be the 4YFN start-up pitches, an opportunity to get an insight into the disruptive potential of start-ups in the Asian market and pick up on trends that will have a larger global impact later on.

Major themes to follow at MWC Shanghai

The key overarching industry trends to follow at the conference will be as follows:

Business (and process) model innovation

With telco revenues under pressure, growing traffic and capex pressures, and OTTs' continued encroachment on legacy areas as well as innovation in new areas, business model innovation will certainly be a major topic. Monetization across several domains in this industry remains a key theme, including legacy areas of the business. That could include "how to make money out of mobile music or mobile games," "what's the IoT gravy chain for a small telco (with no big parent company)?" and "how to partner with OTTs on mobile video." At the very least, MWC Shanghai should help consolidate a consensus view for respondents among the very basics – for example, what will be the key verticals for B2B? The bottom line is that without evolving or new business models, the industry cannot deliver on service innovation. For that to take place, the industry needs process innovation.

The "Machine Element"

While the key theme of this year's MWC Shanghai conference is the "Human Element," we believe it to be more the era of the machine. The conference incorporates 12 summits (or breakout sessions) that will be dominated by the "Machine Element," including Future Tech, Network Evolution, Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality, Connected Vehicle, Internet of Things, and Global Devices. These themes are heavily enterprise-led in most cases, since that is where most of the industry's new money is expected to come from. However, these themes also have a large impact on consumer services, especially as more players adopt AI, machine learning, and AR for their consumer-facing services.

Tighter integration with OTT players

The Operator Evolution Strategies Summit emphasizes the changing role of telcos in an increasingly OTT-driven world. In fact, whereas OTT players and operators were once opposing forces, they are now very much working together to create mutually beneficial alliances. It has been more than seven years since operators and OTT players began to cooperate with each other and forge partnerships that enable both parties to grow revenues and users the world over. This trend of operators and OTT players joining forces continues with great vigor, with the nature of the alliances reaching new levels of sophistication and depth. Previously, the primary goal of the partnership from an operator perspective was to grow broadband revenues; however, that has since matured. Now, operators look to work closely with OTT players to offer their customers bundled pricing plans and exclusive premium services, enhance their value-added services portfolio, and even create cobranded services such as the E-Plus WhatsApp SIM.

The even-more-connected consumer

The future that MWC Shanghai speakers will paint is one of even more connectivity. That is certainly nice in theory, but we know that the logistics of the connected home or early smart cities are complicated. We urge speakers not to gloss over terms such as "mass connectivity (5G)," "smart cities," and "connecting the masses," as they require business model innovation to become a reality.

The "Experiential Exhibition"

No MWC would be complete without a glimpse into the next big technology. Who can forget seeing telco execs a few years ago wearing Google glasses on the exhibition floor? The connected car too seems to have lost some of its shine. This year "experimental" is all about

  • Drone Racing Competition & Drone Zone

  • Health and Fitness Zone

  • Mobile Gaming Competition

  • Sports Tech Zone

  • VR & AR Zone

  • Future Retail Zone

  • Smart City Expo

Surprisingly, there is a mix of old (health, gaming, sports) and new innovations, but we are most excited about drones and monetization, new monetization models around sports tech and retail, and to see just how far the smart city really has come. On the other hand, health, gaming, and sports are major, growing industries, and continue to be major revenue drivers with continued innovation.


Further reading

MWC 2017: What to Expect, TE0009-001602 (February 2017)


Nicole McCormick, Practice Leader, Broadband and Multiplay

Neha Dharia, Senior Analyst, Digital Communications and Social Networking

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