Satellites and Enterprise Focus at MWC23

At this year’s Mobile World Congress show, two major themes emerged as significant to us: satellites, Managed Service Providers and a pivot to Enterprise markets. First, Samsung, Qualcomm, and MediaTek introduced satellite phone capabilities, following last year’s announcements by Apple and Starlink/T-Mobile USA’s entry to the satellite markets. Yes, there are differences in some of the approaches, but the theme is that the communications market is once again embracing satellite; this time, satellite can impact the mobile service market meaningfully. Second, Managed Service Providers that target enterprises have been a target for communications gear vendors over the years, but we saw evidence that technology providers are further embracing these customers. For instance, Cisco Systems dedicated significant floor space to explain the benefits to MSPs working with Cisco’s broad portfolio. It introduced a 5G WAN-capable Meraki product that an increasingly-close partner, T-Mobile USA, is promoting. Many large telco-exposed companies are now announcing products focused on enterprise markets. The enterprise pivot we observed is closely related to the renewed focus on MSPs because, in context, MSPs provide services to enterprises. As evidence of the enterprise pivot, we saw Nokia rebrand as a “B2B” company, Ericsson’s touted its Vonage, Cradlepoint, and private 5G offerings (while simultaneously announcing headcount reductions that signal a reduction in emphasis on SP), and we saw both Huawei and ZTE reiterate plans to ship 50G PON first to the enterprise market. Additionally, related to enterprise, there is evidence that the Private Cellular market (aka P5G) is being disrupted. For instance, HPE (who had announced a close relationship a few years back with specialist Celona) announced plans at MWC to acquire packet core specialist, Athonet. At the same time, Cisco announced it’s delivering its solution by working with radio partners like NEC. Of course, there were many other important announcements besides the three, some of which we explain on a per-company basis next.

We noticed that at this year’s show, there was much less discussion about Open RAN. This is not to say that there was no mention of Open RAN; DT, Orange, TIM, and Vodafone jointly issued a report explaining various benefits of its adoption, such as security and energy efficiency. And Open RAN champions Mavenir and Rakuten Symphony, of course, promoted their products and services, also touting their benefits. But, in years before this shows, these players were already touting Open RAN – we didn’t see the increased promotion of Open RAN this year.

Fujitsu announced that it completed tests of its private radios using Microsoft Azure’s packet core service. It plans to be in the field “in 2023” and commercial by 2024.

Nokia. The company launched a new logo and brand to reflect its focus on B2B. It launched six “pillars:” (a) take share in the traditional “SP” market (expected to grow 1% CAGR next five years), (b) expand further into the Enterprise market (expected to grow 8% CAGR next five years), (c) actively manage its portfolio to achieve #1 or #2 market share, highlighting its success with PON, private wireless, and the PSE-6s based systems, (d) secure business longevity in Nokia Technologies, (e) build new business models, focusing on “as a Service,” and (f) develop ESG into a competitive advantage. The company plans to expand its Enterprise unit towards the “Immersive Metaverse” by 2030, highlighting its relationships with Bosch and NTT Docomo. In Wireless RAN, the company introduced its new Habrok 64TRX system, and it highlighted its “anyRAN” strategy to operate RAN on any SP or any hyperscaler (it listed AWS, Google, Microsoft and IBM) (though it said “eventually public cloud”) while leveraging its in-line L1 acceleration.

Ericsson. We dug into Ericsson’s FWA offerings at the show. The company has a partnering strategy with announced partners: ASKEY, CASA Systems, inseego, oppo, WNC (Wistron), and Zyxel. Currently, Ericsson qualifies the chipsets, which today include Qualcomm and MediaTek. We verified that it had yet to qualify UniSOC. We also visited the Ericsson private wireless group that carries the recently-acquired Cradlepoint brand (and uses merchant silicon); this product set is different from that of the Ericsson organically-developed systems (that uses in-house silicon). Currently, the Cradlepoint private wireless systems use the up-front hardware sale and ongoing control system subscription model popular with the Enterprise Wi-Fi market. The company expects that, over time, it will merge the offerings.   Interestingly, Ericsson announced nearly 9,000 layoffs just before the show.

ZTE. The company is pursuing the Enterprise market as its growth strategy, and it now expects the SP market to trend to slower growth. Its “verticals” strategy includes selling Passive Optical LAN (POL) to enterprises, and it is leveraging power savings and “green” as some of its advantages. In its telecom business, the company showcased new RAN products.    We also saw its ZTE-branded FWA product prototype that leverages Wi-Fi 7. The company is highlighting its FTTR market plans. Additionally, ZTE advocated for its 50G PON systems.

Huawei PON. While Huawei has already announced plans to deliver 50G PON, it stated at the show that in the next two years, it would use 50G PON as POL to Enterprises, offering a practical 10G class of service. Huawei thinks it can get 200G PON to market by 2033. The company launched new products and highlighted its FTTR (fiber to the room) F30, which is how to get Gig-class throughput to each room in the house (an alternative to Wi-Fi mesh).

Huawei Optical Transport. We checked with company spokespersons, who commented that all parts of the company’s optical transport systems are manufactured in China. The company does not have its own semiconductor fab and instead uses one that a Chinese company operates. However, the company has its own Indium Phosphide fab in-house to make optical components. The company is touting its Super C+L at 120 channels each. Additionally, it has Adds S channel, prototyped recently, that can make it to market in 3 years as C+L+S, which leverages new materials science, according to Huawei. At the show, it announced new products that include Alps-WDM, which leverages WDM pooling to increase the re-use of wavelengths. 

Cisco. TMUS announced plans to offer businesses with Cisco Meraki’s 5G cellular gateways, the MG51 and MG51E. Cisco announced that NEC private wireless radios (such as the UNIVERGE RV 1200 radio) would be part of what Cisco offers customers. Additionally, Cisco promoted its IoT Control Center (from its Jasper acquisition) front-and-center at the show.

Qualcomm and MediaTek announced satellite radio capabilities for their cell phone-oriented chips.

Juniper announced plans to expand its collaboration with IBM to pursue the integration of IBM’s network automation capabilities, RAN optimization, and O-RAN technology. 

HPE announced plans to acquire packet core specialist Athonet.  The acquisition means that, similar to Cisco, it will have in-house technology that enables the back-end of what’s necessary to deliver enterprise-class cellular services. Unlike players such as Nokia, which has in-house packet core and radio systems, it appears that both HPE and Cisco (the two leaders in enterprise W-Fi) will be working with third parties to deliver radios (unlike their Wi-Fi strategies, where they deliver in-house developed radios directly to customers).