MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS, BARCELONA – Hope is usually thought of as “the thing with feathers” (if you are an English Lit major) – or if you’re at MWC, it’s the thing where operators and vendors alike sit you down and espouse their enthusiasm for the wonders of 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), network automation, the first-ever open radio access network (RAN) call and open APIs. Are those “feathers” going to make money?

Not yet, according to Dan Hays, telco lead for PwC. “Hope is not a strategy” that will solve industry-wide issues, including slowed or stopped growth, and the challenges faced by the telecom industry, such as a lack of growth and the inability to monetize 5G.

Sure, there is a lot action happening behind the scenes, with vendors showcasing tech like augmented reality demos or talking about how private 5G and 5G slicing are ideally suited for agriculture and manufacturing. “Private networks require you to have an understanding of how to engineer and design the network for whatever your environment is,” said Hayes. “They require you to know where do I go get all the piece parts that I need? To put together? How do I actually operate it right? Because it’s more complicated than Wi Fi.”

Then there is the issue with the device ecosystem which is not moving fast enough to allow operators to profit from private 5G. “If I went out and built a private 5G network today, for the most part, I could not get devices to actually connect to it,” he said. “I could get smartphones. I could get tablets. But could I get the industrial equipment? No.”

With AI, there is a glimmer of hope

One area where Hayes sees a glimmer of hope is with AI but it has to get more specific when it comes to use cases.

“I think we as a society, are actually going to have to get past the generic of AI and really understand the specific,” he said. “AI is being segmented into different uses. So there’s a lot of AI here at the show, that is, operationally, things that the average user will never see.”

Hayes says operators will likely use AI to optimize their networks so that when someone cuts a line, it heals itself. (Wait, all of us nerds must remember SONET?)

“How do I make my queuing for my customer calls better? There’s a lot of solutions out here on the floor for customers,” added Hayes.

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