5G Comes into Focus at MWC Shanghai

As someone who’s been in mobile since almost the beginning of the industry, one of the most phenomenal ways I’ve seen the industry grow in recent years is through the rise of Mobile World Congress (MWC) Shanghai. Originally called Mobile Asia Expo when it launched in 2012, this conference is now the GSMA’s largest event in Asia Pacific and in many ways is starting to rival its more famous sister conference, MWC Barcelona.

Syniverse has had a major presence at the show since its beginning, and for good reason. More than half the world’s mobile subscribers live in Asia Pacific, mostly in China and India, according to the GSMA. Moreover, mobile data consumption in Asia Pacific is forecast to grow four-fold by 2024, driven by increased smartphone adoption and availability of affordable high-speed networks. 

With these market dynamics in mind, we planned another big showing at this year’s show, and what a week we had. We joined more than 75,000 attendees from over 100 countries at the conference, where the theme was “Intelligent Connectivity,” the way that the powerful combination of flexible, high-speed 5G networks, IoT, AI and big data connects everyone and everything to a better future. Here are some highlights from our participation.

GSMA Members Reception
We kicked off the conference by once again sponsoring the GSMA Members Reception, where we hosted over 100 operators, technology companies and other mobile players. It was a great opportunity to reconnect with industry leaders and offered a wealth of opportunities to meet customers and partners to discuss hot topics like 5G, blockchain, cybersecurity, and the IoT. Syniverse has been fortunate to be able to sponsor this event for the last seven years, and we hope to be a part of it for many years to come.  

‘How the 5G Ecosystem Will Pay for Itself’
Another notable highlight was a panel session I had the privilege to take part in for the 5G Summit program. There I discussed some of the findings from a major study on 5G that Syniverse recently published. Specifically, to prepare for the seismic shift that 5G is bringing to the mobile landscape, we conducted research to assess one of the big unknowns with 5G: How will mobile operators actually begin to make use of 5G to provide new services for companies, and how important a part will these services play in operators’ business models? To find this out, we partnered with Heavy Reading to conduct a global survey of operators and do a deep dive into better understanding their 5G preparations.

A big part of 5G’s commercial success will depend on new partnerships and services in industries outside the mobile industry’s tried-and-tested consumer markets. For these partnerships and services to succeed, mobile operators must invest in and put in place the technologies and processes to monetize these services and ensure that every contributor and external partner in the value chain gets their fair share of revenue.

We found, however, that despite operators’ enthusiasm for opening new revenue streams with companies and their optimism in taking a leading role in providing new 5G services, there are several underlying concerns about whether these operators are able to realize these goals. As an example, we found that 90% lack systems suitable for 5G multi-party billing, reconciliation, and payment. What’s more, 74% say that coordinating multiple partners is somewhat or the most difficult challenge in their 5G preparation, and 70% say maintaining service quality is a challenge.

We’ve broken out the study’s top-line findings in our report, “How the 5G ecosystem will pay for itself,” which I encourage you to download. We’ve just begun to scratch the surface for the new applications emerging with 5G and are looking forward to sharing more on the implications of our findings for operators and businesses this year.

IMSI Demo with iFree and Veea
Our week also included a demonstration of a new international mobile subscriber identity (IMSI) solution that we held with our partners iFree and Veea. Much of the focus on 5G has been on its game-changing speed and capacity capabilities and the initial network rollouts taking place this year. But what hasn’t been given enough attention is 5G’s ability to connect businesses with customers in a rich and diverse ecosystem that will yield new revenue opportunities for mobile operators. But implementing the underlying technology to enable this ecosystem, deliver global connectivity, and free devices to roam across borders and networks is no simple feat.

This is where IMSI comes in. Our joint solution with iFree and Veea allows the reformatting of SIM cards to end the era of static mobile devices that only work across a few designated networks. With IMSI, mobile operators can connect their subscribers to any device and machine — wherever and whenever it’s on. This enables a new era of connectivity for the innovations promised by 5G and, importantly, opens a new gateway to the internet of things (IoT) and the multitude of devices that will power it. Our first demo of this at MWC Shanghai was well received, and we look forward to deepening our collaboration with iFree and Veea to expand our rollout of this solution this year.

China Telecom Global Collaboration
During MWC Shanghai, we also signed a major agreement with China Telecom Global to provide mobile operators in the Middle East and Africa with new connectivity solutions for 4G, 5G, RCS and other advanced services. We’re looking forward to our next steps in working with CTG on this significant venture.

All in all, we had an amazing week at MWC Shanghai. With more than half the world’s mobile subscribers, Asia Pacific is poised to continue to see rapid mobile evolution with unprecedented demands for next-generation mobile experiences. We look forward to sharing our insights on our 5G, IMSI, and other solutions to help this region enable this exciting future.

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