MWC Shanghai – Trend Watch – Eight Things I’m Betting On


Post date

June 27, 2023

Blog by Peter Jarich, Head of GSMA Intelligence

Back in December, I was discussing with a customer over dinner when travel to China would open up. They suggested sometime this spring. I was dubious. I was also wrong.

The speed with which China has opened up to international visitors has been nothing short of amazing. It’s not surprising, then, that excitement is running high for this year’s in-person MWC Shanghai. As always, the GSMA Intelligence analyst team will be there to lead sessions, share insights and meet the ecosystem. Please do reach out if you’d like to meet.

And, as always, we have some thoughts on what to expect.

With eight regarded as the luckiest number in Chinese culture, here are my top eight predictions for MWC Shanghai 2023:

  1. 5G-Advanced comes into focus: For several years, we’ve been saying that 5G standalone (SA) launches need to gain momentum. With SA in 25 markets at the end of Q1 2023, progress is being made, but there’s still a way to go. In the meantime, having massively scaled its deployment of 5G, China is planning for what’s next. As a logical steppingstone from 5G to 6G, 5G-Advanced is it.
  2. mmWave 5G going global: At the end of Q1 2023, high-band spectrum accounted for 18% of 5G assignments, with 23 network launches across the 26 GHz, 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands.  So, why do I expect mmWave to be a key MWC Shanghai theme? Again, after the first wave of deployments across Asia in the past few years,  the region will be looking to what’s next for the technology and, as a way to keep up with traffic demand, mmWave is important. Add inprogress with enterprise 5G use cases where mmWave can play a role, together with the importance of the device ecosystem (including Chinese OEMs) in driving forward mmWave 5G ‘s development, and it all becomes clearer.
  3. Verticals and monetisation: Chinese mobile operators support an array of enterprise 5G use cases, with China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom claiming more than 35,000 commercial 5G projects across a range of verticals. With B2B sales being one of the market’s leading strategies for 5G monetisation, expect to see these B2B efforts garner plenty of attention, including use-case highlights and private wireless innovations.
  4. AI everywhere: Artificial intelligence (AI) has played a role in telecoms for years, particularly in network and service automation. However, in 2023, generative AI is all the buzz, driven by the incredible potential of tools such as ChatGPT to democratise AI – bringing its power to the masses. Of course, generative AI also brings a myriad of new telecoms use cases such as customer support, code generation and smart proposal generation, with everyone trying to determine which hold the most value and how best to leverage them.
  5. Metaverse on the mind: What happens when you combine low-latency mmWave 5G, AI and the quest for 5G monetisation? The metaverse. Hype around the topic has gone through some ups and downs, but three things about the metaverse are clear. It will (one day) transform the way we interact with the internet and one another. Operators are considering multiple strategies for monetising it. And, in the near-term, enterprise applications represent the best opportunity for momentum given the return on investment of use cases such as remote training, collaboration and digital twins.
  6. Foundational sustainability: When we asked operators about their network transformation priorities for 2023, there was a clear winner – sustainability. It was a big topic at MWC Barcelona. It will be a big topic at MWC Las Vegas, where the GSMA Intelligence team will host a summit on the theme (contact me for details). There’s no question that it will be a major topic at MWC Shanghai, where we will no doubt see plenty of solutions for energy efficiency. What I’ll be looking for, though, are solutions that go beyond energy-efficient hardware: new business and service models, new network architectures (including cloud and edge) and highlights of how mobile can drive the sustainability of other industries.
  7. Insights beyond China: I’ve been framing my thoughts on MWC Shanghai largely in terms of China’s impact on mobile. That misses something; MWC Shanghai is about more than China. Event themes, keynotes and conference sessions cover topics with relevance beyond  China. Chinese operators have insights valuable for counterparts in other regions. Chinese suppliers have a real interest in the success of mobile in those regions. And, of course, the technologies and trends I’ve already mentioned here will be impactful globally. MWC Shanghai may take place in China, but its impact stretches much further afield.

If you’re worried that I just created some bad luck by listing out seven (not eight) themes, don’t worry; I’ve got one more – energy. I highlighted above that the excitement for this year’s MWC Shanghai is palpable. I’d expected as much from the size and engagement of the crowds at MWC Barcelona. This is also reflected in my pre-show discussions, and the fact that I’m going to send 50% more analysts than originally intended to keep up with demand for meetings. 

I haven’t mentioned that China is the world’s largest mobile market with an incredible record of 5G innovation. If you’ve read this far, you already know that. But, when combined with the pent-up demand for in-person connections, it all conspires to guarantee an exciting, insightful and productive event – register to attend MWC Shanghai here.

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