Renato Pasquini, Mei Lee Quah, and Riana Barnard attended the Mobile World Congress (MWC Barcelona) 2024 in Barcelona, the largest connectivity event worldwide, with more than 101,000 in-person attendees from 205 countries and territories.

They covered two of the prominent themes for 2024: “5G and Beyond” and “Connected Everything”. They watched presentations, attended roundtables, summits, and industry analyst briefings, and engaged with the movers and shakers who were transforming the market.

Here are key takeaways:

Consumer 5G plans and Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) continue to drive growth in 5G. When will growth opportunities materialize for 5G in the Business-to-Business (B2B) segment?

The total 5G connections globally were estimated at 1.60 billion in 2023 by Ericsson’s Mobility Report, published in November 2023.

From this total, FWA represented 130 million connections. The growth of FWA has been surprisingly good in the US, Europe, and Asia Pacific (APAC); however, it remains a tiny fraction of the broadband market globally.

According to Frost & Sullivan`s Cellular IoT study, also published in November 2023, 5G Internet of Things (IoT) connections were 78 million in 2023.

Discounting FWA and IoT, Consumer 5G plans represented 1.39 billion connections in 2023, or 86.9% of all 5G connections.

Ericsson`s Mobility Report also showed that approximately 280 communication service providers (CSPs) had launched commercial 5G services by November 2023. The issue is that, from these total, only 40 had deployed or launched 5G standalone (SA), which includes both the 5G radio access network (RAN) and the 5G core. Even worse, only a few of these 40 service providers offer nationwide coverage of 5G SA, such as T-Mobile in the US and Singtel in Singapore.

5G Standalone provides the necessary architecture to accelerate advanced capabilities like network slicing, end-to-end application management, time-sensitive communications, and RedCap’s new radio technology. These technologies enhance coverage, mobility, and the speed and power efficiency of 5G, enabling mobile operators to monetize their investments and provide all the additional benefits that 5G can bring to the B2B segment.

With private and public initiatives like the Federated Edge Hub and IPCEI-CIS, the telco edge is becoming a reality. Empowered by trusted partnerships and open networks, developers can explore advanced network capabilities to create new revenue streams for mobile operators. These new 5G network APIs support advanced B2C and B2B use cases, such as cloud gaming, connected education, network registry, fraud protection, connected vehicles, remote patient monitoring, and remote broadcast and production. At MWC 2024, leading vendors showcased current and future products and solutions that support potential use cases. Operators demonstrated how they can meet the specific needs of diverse industries to deliver business benefits and align costs with revenues. Typical areas covered were customized connectivity, security, asset tracking, anomaly detection, and artificial intelligence applications for responsive connectivity, among many others.

For instance, T-Mobile introduced a security solution that adds a SIM card-based SASE system with network slicing for the security traffic (keeping it separate from other traffic) over its 5G SA network in the US. At MWC 2024, European mobile operators Vodafone, Telefonica, Orange, and Deutsche Telekom made a joint plea for improved regulation in areas such as spectrum allocation and in-market consolidation. They emphasized that it is essential to strengthen mobile operators’ services as it severely affects the broader business landscape.

The expansion of the 5G SA core requires broad spectrum allocation at adequate pricing, allowing service providers to offer FWA and mission-critical IoT at competitive prices and enabling enterprises in the B2B segment to seize 5G benefits and scale use cases. Service providers have been improving their debt leverage levels in recent years by selling non-core assets and focusing on network and cost optimization. Nevertheless, they still find it challenging to guarantee the financial resources for technological investment cycles, such as 5G SA and the upcoming 6G technology.

Mobile private networks: IT services companies positioning to compete with CSPs.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s acquisition of Athonet in 2023, a private cellular networking specialist, increased its participation in the Private MEC space. HPE demonstrated a comprehensive portfolio, of private 4G/5G, managed Wi-Fi, Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), and edge computing for private networks. By the time of the acquisition, in June 2023, Athonet argued to have 450 deployments across diverse sectors. The value proposition of HPE is to provide a hybrid architecture of 5G and Wi-Fi for enterprises. The announcement of HPE`s intent to acquire Juniper Networks should further enhance its positioning in the networking space.

Kyndryl, a strong participant in the IT services side of 5G private networks, announced during MWC a global alliance and private 5G network service collaboration with HPE. In February 2023, Kyndryl announced that it had over 100 active network and edge computing engagements with global enterprises across 24 countries since it started a partnership with Nokia in 2022. This number has grown since then, and the collaboration with HPE should help Kyndryl increase the number of deployments even further, not only in the industrial manufacturing sector but also in other verticals.

Similar announcements in MWC 2024 between IT services companies and vendors during MWC 2024 were Wipro and Nokia for a joint private wireless solution and between Tech Mahindra and Pegatron Technologies.

Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC): Advancement in use cases for private networks

“MEC has continued to be a key focus of demonstrations in the stands of Telcos such as Verizon Business, Vodafone, Orange, Deutsche Telekom, and Telefónica Tech, especially for applications such as Digital Twins, Virtual Reality, Autonomous Robots, Video Analytics, and Gaming.” By Renato Pasquini, VP of IoT & Edge Research, Frost & Sullivan

Verizon is the most advanced CSP in North America in 5G private MEC and has dozens of private networks deployed, with the demand growing every quarter. To deliver private MEC, Verizon works with AWS Outposts, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. Its top verticals are transportation/logistics, retail, manufacturing, healthcare, entertainment, and construction. Applications are connected vehicles, automated manufacturing, AR/VR, and gaming. During MWC 2024, Verizon and Nokia announced a deal with Audi AG in Germany for a private 5G network covering an automotive test track, with MEC capabilities (AWS Outposts) and applications such as real-time video and data transmission, C-V2X communication, and mobile/automotive applications spanning voice, data, autonomous mobility, safety and others.

Telefónica, on the other hand, is an important participant in Europe and Latin America in Private MEC and demonstrated in its presentation “Towards a New Generation of Edge and Cloud” advancements in industry collaboration for MEC, to create an open and interoperable ecosystem, multi-provider, which should help the MEC business scale and drive adoption not only by large corporations, but also by small and medium businesses (SMBs), which is in line with the European Commission target to have “75% of EU companies using Cloud, AI, or Big Data” in 2030. It was interesting to see that the MEC offering from Telefonica, based on VMWare Virtual Data Centers (VDCs), expanded; while originally available in key metropolitan areas in Spain (Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Seville), the service is now available in the Canary islands (since October 2023) and different cities in Latin America where Telefonica operates data centers, such as Sao Paulo, Curitiba, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Lima, Bogota, in addition to Miami and Virginia in the US In total, there are 17 nodes in 7 countries. In the UK the service has not yet been launched. Telefónica offers the same solution in all countries, with local operations and customer support. It claimed to have multiple commercial use cases in Manufacturing, Energy & Environment, Financial Services, Transportation (e.g. Ports), and Media & Entertainment, but the applications highlighted were remote professional video production, factory digital twin, and computer vision and analytics.

Non-terrestrial Networks (NTNs) and 5G: satellite as redundancy

NTNs and 5G were covered in the 5G IoT Summit during MWC 2024, considering significant developments in the industry, and several partnerships announced between CSPs and satellite providers recently.

Satellite Direct-to-Device connectivity, based on 3GPP Release 17 (NR-NTN and IoT-NTN) and 18, will enable NB-IoT and eMTC based on satellite connectivity to expand massive IoT. Collaboration between satellite vendors, hardware manufacturers, and telecom operators for the development of IoT wireless connectivity leveraging terrestrial and non-terrestrial networks is laying the groundwork for 5G IoT-NTN to scale.

Key demos of satellite-to-device connectivity were showcased at MWC 2024. Rohde & Schwarz and Mediatek’s test of 5G NR-NTN connection with an emulation of a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite access node evidenced the potential of NTN to enable mobile services, including voice, messaging and low data rate in geographic areas with no cellular coverage.

During MWC 2024, there were announcements of chipsets from Qualcomm (Snapdragon X80) and MediaTek (MT6825), both supporting 5G NTN, demonstrating that the commercial deployment at scale is close. Qualcomm also announced the integration of its 5G modem with NB-NTN for satellite connectivity. Sony’s Altair ALT1250 device was validated and tested for NTN NB-IoT connectivity capabilities.

Key satellite partners include Skylo Technologies, Intelsat, Sateliot, Viasat, and OQ technology.  Skylo, which built multiple partnerships with industry players, certified the technology to be compliant with industry standards and now can be upgraded for NTN connectivity and embedded into devices for dual-mode operations.

Operators exhibited innovative satellite connectivity solutions at the event. Deutsche Telekom presented “IoT Satellite Connect”, a connectivity service leveraging GEO satellite for transportation & logistics, agriculture, and critical infrastructure monitoring applications like mining, oil & gas. Deutsche Telekom’s satellite NB-IoT service program, supported by Skylo and Murata, reached 21 developers across 9 countries in February 2024.

Iridium’s flagship “Project Stardust,” consisting of NB-IoT-NTN service, was introduced in the event. The satellite-to-phone service leverages LEO satellite for SMS messaging and emergency SOS services. Testing will begin in 2025, and commercial launch with partners in 2026.

With its pioneering “SuperNetwork SatPlus” IoT eSIM solution, emnify announced seamless cellular and satellite IoT connectivity for devices in remote areas. Both cellular and satellite network access is enabled by a single IoT eSIM. Available in North America and the USA, the solution combines cellular connectivity with options for parquets of satellite messages per month. Skylo supports the initiative with the NTN satellite service.

The 5G IoT-NTN market is in its early stages, with certification and testing processes taking place before commercial launches kick off. For Massive IoT use cases, LoRaWAN and Cellular are the major technologies combined with satellite networks that customers are evaluating for adoption. 5G NR-NTN for broadband communications is expected to grow after 2024.

IoT managed connectivity platforms: Competition increases between Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) and Cellular Module companies

“Competition in IoT connectivity is becoming increasingly global and software-based, as the connectivity platform is where the service can be differentiated and enhance the value proposition for enterprises, in a very commoditized IoT connectivity market.” By Renato Pasquini, VP of IoT & Edge Research, Frost & Sullivan

MNOs such as Verizon, Vodafone, and Telefonica have their own, internally developed, platforms to serve IoT clients globally. Others have opted for third-party IoT connectivity management platforms from Cisco, Ericsson (now Aeris), Comarch, etc.

Verizon announced its new Global IoT Orchestration platform, to manage eSIMs in any region, integrated within the Verizon ThingSpace IoT management platform.

1NCE, an MVNO that has its own IoT platform, announced at MWC that it had reached 22 million managed devices by the end of 2023, with 18,000 customers, after adding more than 7 million devices in 12 months. The company also made public the acquisition of 1IoT in Brazil and roaming agreements with all 3 nationwide MNOs in Brazil, a country with strict permanent roaming regulations.

Other relevant MVNOs with notable presence as exhibitors at MWC 2024 were Velos IoT (17 million connections), Hologram (undisclosed “millions” of connections), Webbing/Wireless Logic (14 million connections), Emnify (undisclosed “millions” of connections), KDDI’s Soracom (6 million connections), Eseye (3 million connections), Aeris (100 million, after the acquisition of Ericsson’s IoT platform), KORE (19 million connections), Transatel by NTT (3 million connections), Sierra Wireless by Semtech (5 million) and floLive (undisclosed “millions” of connections). The number of connections shows how relevant these players became, sometimes with higher volume than regional MNOs.

Telit Cinterion, an IoT module manufacturer and MVNO, which has an estimated 10 million devices managed by its IoT platform, demonstrated its IoT-as-a-service solutions, with 2 connected module packages called “NExT Connected Module packages” starting at $0.89 per month (100% OPEX). The 1st is an LPWA Package, and the 2nd is an LTE Package, both consisting of a module + SIM Card + connectivity plan + connectivity management platform + device and data management platform. This is a differentiated value proposition, as it also includes the hardware as-a-service.

5G RedCap: When and what to expect

“5G Reduced Capability (5G RedCap) is expected to be a compelling alternative for LPWAN connectivity in many use cases, such as wearables, industrial and smart city sensors, utilities’ smart meters, agriculture devices and sensors, low-end AR/VR applications, and others.” By Renato Pasquini, VP of IoT & Edge Research, Frost & Sullivan

However, 5G RedCap depends on the evolution of CSPs networks to 5G SA, which currently has limited coverage.

China is the most advanced country in terms of 5G RedCap development, with larger tests by China Mobile and China Telecom, for instance, both with 5G SA networks. Meanwhile, Telcos in other countries did technical trials at the end of 2023, such as AT&T in the US and Singtel in Singapore.

The commercial launch of 5G RedCap is expected in late 2024. However, companies such as Telit, and Quectel introduced 5G RedCap modules during MWC 2024. All are based on Qualcomm’s X35, the first commercial release of the 17 RedCap modem. Also, TCL announced the first 5G RedCap dongle, which is also based on Qualcomm’s X35.

In addition, Fibocom announced a 5G RedCap module using MediaTek’s T300, which competes with Qualcomm`s modem.

For 2025, Frost & Sullivan expects 5G RedCap to account for 5 million connections globally, and further growth in the following years.

eSIM+iSIM growth opportunities and SGP.32: How does this change the market perspectives?

An important discussion at the 5G IoT Summit during MWC 2024 and among all market participants involved in IoT connectivity was the SGP.32 specification by GSMA.

GSMA intends to facilitate remote SIM provisioning (without the need for physical SIM Card replacement to switch operator) and in-factory profile provisioning. Switching operators is an important feature for IoT, either for choosing the best available coverage for the device or the cheapest, according to the customer`s choice. In addition, to scale deployments globally, profile provisioning must be easy. Those are two essential elements for the IoT connectivity platforms to truly become IoT “hyperscalers”.

Eseye, an IoT MVNO connectivity provider, announced during MWC 2024 a partnership with Thales for “automatic, seamless, optimal local network connection when first powered up” using eSIMs. This goes in line with platform providers trying to simplify the configuration of the high volume of devices, something that SGP.32 is expected to solve after 2025 when the commercial implementation of the specification is likely to take place. Right now, only tests are occurring.

“The SGP.32 specification is likely to replace the SGP.22 specification used in M2M eSIMs because the previous had challenges related to profile management and flexibility in operator choices.” By Renato Pasquini, VP of IoT & Edge Research, Frost & Sullivan

SGP.32 splits the Local Profile Assistant (LPA) into the IoT Profile Assistant (IPA) and the eSIM IoT Remote Manager (eIM), thus simplifying device management and enabling devices to operate efficiently in multiple networks.

Other Themes & Final Thoughts

Other important themes of this conference were “Humanising AI” and “Manufacturing DX”, both of which AI and GenAI were key topics. In the exhibitor stands, AI and GenAI were also everywhere, showing that this became an important topic for discussion with clients, aiming to optimize and automate numerous functions and processes.

“The comment by T-Mobile on the first day that we will no longer use applications in 5 years gives a big hint to what to expect going forward. Indeed, change driven by AI was a pervasive theme at MWC 2024, but a more important observation was that more progress is being made directly by enterprises as they address their problem statements. This is positive for the industry, but it does leave telcos with a bigger challenge in terms of finding the means to monetize the enterprise segment.” by Mei Lee Quah, Director, ICT Research.

The application of AI in telecom networks is advancing quickly, while GenAI is more concentrated on customer relationships and experience. However, Frost & Sullivan also identified AI as a key growth opportunity at the Edge in applications such as video analytics and quality assurance leveraging computer vision, and also the use of GenAI as a major trend for use in IoT platforms by different providers to facilitate management and operation.

About Frost & Sullivan:

Frost & Sullivan, the growth pipeline company, enables clients to accelerate growth and achieve best-in-class positions in growth, innovation, and leadership. The company’s Growth Pipeline as a Service provides the CEO’s Growth Team with transformational strategies and best-practice models to drive the generation, evaluation, and implementation of powerful growth opportunities. Let us coach you on your transformational journey, while we actively support you in fostering collaborative initiatives within your industry’s ecosystem. Our transformation journey is fueled by four powerful components, ensuring your success in navigating the ever-changing landscape of your industry.

  • Schedule a complementary Growth Dialog with our team to dive deeper into transformational strategies and explore specific needs within your company.
  • Become a Frost Growth Expert in your area of specialization and share your expertise and passion with the community through our think tanks.
  • Join Frost & Sullivan’s Growth Council and become an integral member of a dynamic community focused on identifying growth opportunities and addressing critical challenges that influence your industry.
  • Designate your company as a Companies2Action to increase exposure to investors, new M&A opportunities, and other growth prospects for your business.

About Renato Pasquini

Renato Pasquini has been working for +19 years with consulting and research in the information and communication technologies (ICT) sector, and is currently research vice president at Frost & Sullivan. Pasquini also serves as an advisor to organizations and associations in Latin America. Pasquini holds an undergraduate and master's degree in Business Administration from EAESP-FGV, a postgraduate degree in Economic Law from GVLaw and a masters in ICT Business from UPC-Spain.

Renato Pasquini

Renato Pasquini has been working for +19 years with consulting and research in the information and communication technologies (ICT) sector, and is currently research vice president at Frost & Sullivan. Pasquini also serves as an advisor to organizations and associations in Latin America. Pasquini holds an undergraduate and master's degree in Business Administration from EAESP-FGV, a postgraduate degree in Economic Law from GVLaw and a masters in ICT Business from UPC-Spain.

Your Transformational Growth Journey Starts Here

Share This