Every year, technology professionals representing the wireless communications industry – from carriers and equipment manufacturers to mobile app developers and content creators — convene in Las Vegas for Mobile World Congress. It’s North America’s largest and most influential connectivity event, showcasing the latest technology, thought leadership, and cutting-edge exhibitors.
This year, I was lucky enough to attend and check out the hottest trends in connectivity and mobile innovation. While attending sessions and visiting trade show booths, I saw several common themes emerge (hello, PKI!) and met many vendors worth keeping an eye on. Here are my top takeaways.
Key themes from 2023’s Mobile World Congress
1) Systems integrators were the life of the party
Every small and medium vendor at this year’s Mobile World Congress was selling private 5G network equipment. But getting started with private 5G isn’t as simple as just buying the right equipment: Private 5G networks are hard to deploy, and those implementation complexities were top of mind at the conference. That’s where systems integrators (SIs) come into play.
And given the frequency with which private 5G kept surfacing, SIs quickly became the coolest kids at the party. Most notably, more SIs and other equipment vendors were talking about security than ever before. Regular discussions about X.509 certificates and post-quantum computing made clear that security is a more serious priority than ever before for SIs.
2) IoT and private 5G are a match made in high interference, low latency heaven
Private 5G networks had a starring role at Mobile World Congress for more than just their complexity. They also came up frequently in relation to the Internet of Things (IoT) and operational technology (OT), which were all the rage this year.
Specifically, there was a heavy focus on using private 5G in IoT solutions such as Smart Factories, 5G OpenRAN, Smart Metering, and Transport sectors. Once again, security underpinned these conversations, with many vendors expressing an interest in putting PKI on the factory floor to make it easy to add vendor certificates within IoT/OT devices.
3) Post-quantum is on everyone’s mind
A session titled “What’s all the noise about post-quantum?” hosted by Donna Dobson, Senior Strategy Advisor, Evolution at IBM, says it all. Because let me be clear: There was a lot of noise about post-quantum.
The session featured a panel of industry and federal government leaders from Thales, NIST, IETF, and CISA discussing why we should be thinking about and planning for a post-quantum future now. They shared powerful information about the need to prepare proactively and even offered ideas for how to get started. Notably, the panel also reinforced how central PKI is to a post-quantum future, bringing back a common theme from the rest of Mobile World Congress.
Vendors to watch from 2023’s Mobile World Congress
1) OnGo Alliance: The one-stop-shop for networking and security
The OnGo Alliance is a non-profit industry association that promotes the development, commercialization, and adoption of LTE and 5G solutions. The Alliance has over 185 member companies, including mobile operators, cable operators, systems integrators, managed service providers, mobile virtual network operators, enterprises, and equipment vendors.
The OnGo Alliance is playing a key role in enabling the deployment of private LTE and 5G networks for a wide range of industries, including enterprise, healthcare, education, transportation, and manufacturing. OnGo networks can be used to support a variety of applications, including:
- In-building wireless coverage
- Public safety communications
- Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
- Fixed wireless broadband
- Rural broadband
The OnGo Alliance booth at Mobile World Congress was made up of several small booths from different alliance members, which allowed attendees to quickly talk to different companies in the network stack. This setup really highlighted the alliance’s role as a one-stop shop for all your networking and security needs.
2) T-Mobile: The IoT surprise of the show
Next up, T-Mobile presented on 5G for IoT. To be honest, I was expecting buzzword soup, but I was pleasantly surprised by the presentation, which covered all the main areas of IoT, including IoT Connectivity using private 5G, IoT data analytics, processing power, and actionable data on which to make business and operational decisions. Overall, it was very informative and really set the stage for T-Mobile as a key player in 5G IoT.
3) Keyfactor: PKI experts spreading the word about cybersecurity
Keyfactor’s SVP of IoT Strategies and Operations, Ellen Boehm, moderated a panel titled, “Are You on Their Radar: Cybersecurity’s High Value Targets.” This was an insightful conversation about the world of cybersecurity and what makes some individuals and entities prime for cyber attacks. Here are a few photos from the session:
4) US military contractors
I had a great conversation with a representative from a military contractor specializing in intelligence and cybersecurity. At their booth, we talked about how the US military is installing private 5G on all bases from 2024 onwards. Overall, this organization is doing really interesting things with 5G security in this sector, where we all know best-in-class security is paramount.
Trends worth watching at Mobile World Congress
This year’s Mobile World Congress was full of trends to watch out for around private 5G and post-quantum computing, particularly when it comes to the security needs that come along with these advancements. I can’t wait to take my observations back to the team at Keyfactor so we can start talking about how to better help mobile network operators and OEMs protect communications and critical infrastructure.
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