Perhaps the opening keynote speakers at the upcoming MWC event in Barcelona, Spain, next week are the best indication of who’s going to attend this event. The keynote speakers include executives from Vodafone, Telefonica and Telia (all European providers) as well as execs from China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom.

Meanwhile, the participation by American service providers is looking fairly slim. There’s only one top executive from a U.S. carrier — AT&T Business’ Anne Chow — listed as a keynote speaker.

But participation among vendors from around the world looks healthy. According to GSMA, which hosts the event, there will be about 1,500 exhibitors.

The Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE will have a big presence. Another notable participant is AWS, which has booked six stands of exhibitor space. And Japan’s Rakuten Symphony is hoping to have an oversized presence at the event to promote itself as the new, major telecom vendor on the block.

While most American trade journalists covering the telecom space are not making the trek to Barcelona this year, many U.S.-based analysts are.

Roy Chua, principal of the analyst firm AvidThink, said he and his team have back-to-back meetings for three days. “We’re totally booked now,” said Chua. His goal is to see lots of vendor demonstrations and “also get a bead on the pulse of the industry,” which he said is much easier to do in person than online.

Chua expects to hear a lot about open radio access networks (open RAN) and private wireless. He also expects to see some innovations in OSS/BSS technologies to monetize 5G. While talk of OSS/BSS is not sexy, it is becoming critical because otherwise what was the point of all the capital investment if 5G can’t be monetized? “Smarter BSS and OSS will unlock the agility of the telcos,” he said.

In terms of attending MWC, Chua said, “A lot of analyst shops are going. I think it is the right call to send a team there.”

Mobile Experts principal analyst Joe Madden is also planning to attend the show next week.

“I’ve got 25 appointments set up,” said Madden. “A lot of people will be briefing me on demos and hardware.”

Madden said he likes meeting with vendors to see state-of-the-art equipment, especially the newest radios. He takes his camera and tape measure. “That’s where I can see what’s going on a little better,” he said.

He’s also happy that with less people attending from the U.S. it was easier and cheaper to get good flights and lodging.

Madden follows the virtual RAN topic very closely, and he expects updates on the topic at MWC. Even though many operators have not embraced vRAN for their 5G networks and they’re still using dedicated hardware, he’s interested in the vRAN leaders including Rakuten and Dish. He said that Samsung and Ericsson have both deployed vRAN technology in Verizon’s network.

He’ll also be looking at open RAN demonstrations and said RAN intelligent controllers will be a hot topic. “There’s probably 10 companies showing some kind of RIC product at this show,” said Madden. Some of those companies are: Juniper Networks, STL, VMware and Mavenir.

“Mobile World Congress is going to be just as lively as it has been in the past,” said Madden. “Maybe not 90,000 people, so it might be easier to walk through the hallways.”

European presence

While there seem to be quite a few American analysts attending MWC this year, the show will undoubtedly be largely populated with people from Europe.

Hakan Ekmen, global CEO for telecommunications at Germany-based umlaut, plans to attend. In the U.S., umlaut is most known for its telecom benchmarking metrics. But the company, which merged with Accenture last year, also provides consulting and engineering services to many network operators. Of about 5,500 umlaut employees, about 1,000 of those work in the telecom sector.

Ekmen’s goal for MWC is “strategic meetings with clients,” and he’ll be following a few topics, including the deployment of infrastructure — both fiber and mobile. And he, like pretty much everyone else, will also be tracking the topic of 5G private networks.

umlaut actually built a private wireless network at its corporate campus in Germany. It used Airspan equipment for its radio platform and Druid Software for its mobile core network.

According to umlaut, companies and carriers that already have spectrum licenses can use its network and its expertise for help with designing, deploying and learning to operate a private wireless network. Those that don’t have spectrum can use the facility to kick the tires and find out what they might be able to do in partnership with a license holder.

In terms of his attendance at MWC 2022, Ekmen said, “I’m really looking forward to seeing people again.”

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