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My Top Five Reflections on MWC 2023

Posted 17 Mar 2023

My Top 5 Reflections on MWC 2023

By Paul Ceely, Director of Technology Strategy at Digital Catapult

Reflecting on another MWC in Barcelona, my team returned slightly exhausted with the scale of the show, but after some rest, they’re energised, inspired and ready to implement their learnings. It was great to see the event back on top form, with over 88,500 attendees it was almost at pre-pandemic levels and the buzz was back. Here is a summary of my key insights on the show: 

1. A stronger mobile infrastructure focus 

I saw a notable stronger presence in mobile infrastructure focus across the show which was encouraging. Strolling the halls I noticed slightly less future reaching tech products, such as immersive tech, drones, cars etc, but perhaps this is down to my own focus in the digital infrastructure space, with a specific interest in Open RANand virtualised RAN, which I certainly saw an uptick on. 

2. Openness

There was a clear theme around how openness in mobile networks is providing significant value, as well as promising to make networks more agile and futureproof, but the many challenges were also clearly flagged from across the ecosystem. 

For example, focusing on Open RAN specifically, my colleague and co-director of the SONIC Labs programme, Dr Dritan Kaleshi, participated in the ‘Open RAN : The Debate’ session which proved a hot topic of conversation. With speakers from across the ecosystem the key themes debated included funding, cost efficiency, security, innovation and the timescale for the adoption of Open RAN. These are all areas for the entire ecosystem to be aware of and to work collaboratively on to address for successful deployment. 

Within the debate, Dritan stressed the importance of supporting small and medium companies to meet the diversification of the global telecoms supply chain – an area we’re focused on addressing at Digital Catapult in the UK market through our SONIC Labs programme.

3. Sustainability given the attention it deserves 

With an evident focus on sustainability across the conference, there was also a refreshing drive on energy efficiency in networks, an area that we’re particularly interested in at Digital Catapult. Within our innovation work in our SONIC Labs programme we’re focused on exploring opportunities for how the RIC (RAN Intelligent Controller) can be used to drive energy efficiency. It was helpful to learn more about how this is a strong area of interest from MNOs, which will only grow with importance in the coming years and we’ll be looking to proactively collaborate on. 

4. Focus on the future of networks, 6G and the Metaverse 

In general there was a bit less hype than previous years, with more pragmatic evolution and recognition of the journey technologies such as robotics, autonomous vehicles have to go. We are just starting to discuss 6G and the future of networks and the Digital Catapult team was particularly inspired by the Ericsson demo of 6G – with speeds of up to 102.5Gbit/s with a 0.65 milliseconds round-trip delay – it was exciting to see the unbelievable performance the industry is able to achieve. You can read more about our previous work with Ericsson on 5G smart manufacturing here

Interesting discussions were also hosted around the cyber physical world and how we’re starting to blur the boundaries between the digital and physical world more and more in the way we work and live. Phil Young, Director of Policy, Research & Strategic Engagement at Digital Catapult, spoke on the 4YFN stage about how a key part of the cyber physical internet will be to be built in an interoperable way – to enable seamless movement and drive an open ecosystem. 

The metaverse was another future reaching topic covered, and our CEO at Digital Catapult, Jeremy Silver, took to the main MWC stage to host a panel discussing the size of the opportunity and how the metaverse will work for industry with insights from companies such as BT, Deloitte and Microsoft. 

5. Showcasing the UK as leading in innovation 

Finally, it was exciting to see the UK positioned as a science superpower and innovation nation. The UK Pavilion, hosted by the Department for Business and Trade, had a real buzz and hype about it this year, with a number of UK companies having the chance to showcase themselves, alongside the UK government outlining their bold ambitions over the coming years. 

At the Department for Science Innovation and Technology (DSIT) reception we learnt more from Director of Digital Infrastructure at DSIT, Imran Shafi OBE, about the UK government’s investment in its Open Networks Programme and the impact of existing programmes such as the Digital Catapult and Ofcom led SONIC Labs programme – with Imran calling out its notable international profile and reach. 

Overall, the SONIC Labs team had over eighty meetings with international vendors, infrastructure providers, system integrators, other Open RAN testbeds, labs, international government policy experts and it was a pleasure to be able to network on such a large scale, using this worthwhile event as a key meeting point for the industry. 

If we met with you at the event, we’re looking forward to exploring opportunities for collaboration in the future and if you’re interested in finding out more about Digital Catapult or SONIC Labs please read more and register your interest

Finally, my colleague Linda Ligios will be running an event to discuss further insights on MWC. If you are interested, please join the Women in Telecoms and Technology post-MWC event  on Tuesday 4 April in London, and register here

The event will be from 18:00-20.30pm on Tuesday 4 April, hosted at the Digital Catapult offices by our very own Linda Ligios, Senior Innovation Partner and Team Lead at Digital Catapult, will gather the latest news and views from MWC if you weren’t able to make it to Barcelona, as well as covering the topic of diversity and inclusion in the telecoms space. With a great lineup of speakers such as Kim Viljoen, Market Engagement Director at GSMA, make sure to secure your space here