MWC 24 was about Intel, Private Wireless and Satellite

It seems everywhere we went, we heard about the progress Intel has made in RAN and Core. Themeticlt, its progress is in Open RAN, but it goes beyond that. Samsung highlighted its Open RAN win with Canadian operator Telus, where baseband is running on unaccelerated Intel chips. We discussed Intel RAN with both Ericsson and Nokia, and both are using Intel for their Open RAN designs, though both vendors accelerate with non-Intel chips. We also discussed using Intel with both ZTE and Huawei, and neither has immediate plans to support Open RAN or Intel. What now separates those who use Intel for RAN is current or future Open RAN support (to varying degrees). We were somewhat surprised by how open most industry participants (operators, vendors) were in our encounters at MWC that deploying Open RAN is all but required by certain governments.

We don’t think Intel mobile infrastructure-specific chips are being used solely because of government encouragement, though. For instance, its new 5G core chips coming probably next year will be 18A based. The fact these chips will be released as the first server-class chips using Intel’s most advanced process geometry is telling. Intel’s prioritization of the wireless infrastructure market to its next-generation of chips interesting. We assume that its plans match its confidence that its new chips will finally match or exceed that of internal developments at traditional telecommunications equipment companies, many of which leverage ARM.

We met with Huawei and ZTE. Both showed evidence that both are doubling down on impressive internal chip and software development. For instance, Huawei’s Core team is in early stages of rolling out MOQ (a CDN-like concept to support high pixel video that limits carrier transport demands) and plans to introduce its NWDAF (analytics system that works with packet and policy nodes to offer upgrades to mobile users) commercial is this year. ZTE reiterated its plans to maintain internal development of RAN products. Soon to be radio systems feature very significant radio multi-frequency support which have the benefit of reducing radio count that reduces power and operations costs.

While Private 5G was promoted by many companies at MWC, similar to prior years, we saw a lot of cellular branch router promotions. We are quite bullish on this market popularized by Cradlepoint, now part of Ericsson. T-Mobile US recently announced its Connected Workplace which offers Cisco Meraki cellular capable routers – this service is becoming increasingly popular and is the subject of some of our recently introduced research.

Satellite-based mobile communications took on greater prominence at this year’s show. We were a judge for this category’s awards announced at the show and saw many interesting new technologies. Given that last year, we saw successful service demonstrations of direct to satellite communications by AST Space Mobile and this calendar year, T-Mobile and the Starlink service will offer anywhere texting from phones to cell phones, we are at the early stages of what is possible. In our discussions at MWC, we think there is widespread skepticism that direct-to-satellite is for real even though it works, and multiple space companies are pursuing this opportunity. We anticipate the success of some of these space companies will surprise the terrestrial market that exists now.

Each of those areas of excitement we saw at MWC are covered in recent reports we have published: Mobile RAN, Telecom Core, Cellular Routers and Broadband Satellite. Please get in touch with us to learn more about these large or emerging markets.