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MWC preview: 2019 is not just the year of 5G, but the year of a new business

This time of year brings the usual speculation about the key themes at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in just a week’s time. The official GSMA theme is ‘Intelligent Connectivity’, which covers all the bases. But will it be the ‘year of 5G’ (again), the ‘year of edge computing’, the year of AI? All of these, and many more, will be important areas of technology focus. But behind all the glad-handing and wizardry, the real justification for vendors and operators to spend the best part of a quarter’s earnings in Barcelona is to achieve the conversations, agreements and even contracts, which will help to transform their business models in the ‘5G era’.

For most large operators and vendors, 2019 will be a turning point year – not because they will make their first 5G deployments, but because they will succeed or fail in defining how they can grow their revenues and profits amid the rapidly changing commercial landscape for mobile services. 5G, edge, AI, DevOps and all the other technical innovations will be important enablers of new processes and new services. But the underlying framework needs to change to make these more than just polish on an existing model. MNOs and their suppliers need to extend their reach to new customers bases and deliver new services to their existing ones, while transforming the cost of how they do all that.

Ahead of MWC, we are taking a look at how two large vendors – Nokia and Ericsson – and several operators are doing to attempt a transformation which, if successful, will enable them to leverage 5G for far greater results than just faster speeds for existing services.

The two big European vendors, like many MNOs round the world, run the risk of being outmanoeuvered by new entrants, whether start-ups, or large companies coming in from adjacent sectors. Telcos and OEMs alike have to make contingency plans to respond to the widening activities of the webscale giants in the telecoms space.

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