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Meetings had been arranged, press releases were ready to hit the wires at designated times and staff had been given their personal agendas for the event in Barcelona later this month.
But then, one by one, some of the large vendors started to pull out. Ericsson, Sony and LG all cited coronavirus – now officially named Covid-19 – as a danger, and stated that for the safety of staff they would not be going. That concern has been so widespread that later this week a decision will be made on whether or not to pull the plug on MWC this year.
For those businesses which had planned on being there but have pulled out, such as channel player World Wide Technology, the event might not be happening, but the meetings will still take place over the phone and the announcements that would have gone out over the 24-27 of February timeframe of the event will still be shared.
One technology that would have been the focus of a lot of discussions is 5G, and those that operate in the networking and infrastructure world will continue to focus on that, with or without MWC.
Joe Wojtal, chief technology officer, global service provider, at World Wide Technology (WWT), said the firm had been building its relationships with service providers because of its position as a tech integrator, and had planned to use MWC to promote its capabilities in the networking and infrastructure arenas.
Over the years, WWT has moved from being a hardware specialist to increase its focus on software. It has invested millions in its own research facilities that identify, build and then verify solutions that can be taken out to customers.
WWT plays a significant role for service providers looking for verified solutions that have gained the support of vendors, or as a way of being connected with startups that might not have been on their radar.
“We have some large service providers that not only look to us to do the validation, but also to manage the relationship with the smaller vendors,” said Wojtal.
Vendors are also behind the firm’s labs, and many have gone further than just noting the efforts that WWT has made and have put their own skin in the game.
“We have very strong relationships with OEM partners and they have also been investing in our labs. They support us and want to get their technology in front of customers,” he added.
Wojtal said the message about the need for collaboration was something that vendors understood because they realised that not only were they unable to deliver all parts of the jigsaw puzzle, but they sometimes did not have the relationships with competitors.
Those in the channel that could act as solution builders have a role to play in bridging that gap. WWT is also looking to develop vertical market offerings that can be built on and act as blueprints to make life easier for those service providers looking to increase activity in areas such as manufacturing, retail and health.
WWT will be making some announcements around working with partners to help them develop 5G propositions. There is pressure to monetise the technology and lessons are still painful from what happened with 4G.
“The challenges for the service providers building out 5G infrastructure is they have to have a monetisation strategy. With 4G, they made huge investment and all the over-the-top players, such as Netflix, Facebook and Amazon, were able to [take advantage of that investment],” he said.
Those efforts are happening now, and the focus is on business applications with the assumption that consumers will not pay much more than they do now.
Discussions would have been intense in the MWC booths and halls in Barcelona. Just because some of those that had planned to attend have pulled out does not mean that efforts to make the business case for 5G will not continue to happen.
WWT statement on MWC
“The health and safety of our employees, customers and partners are our highest priority. We have therefore made the difficult decision to withdraw our participation from this year’s MWC Barcelona event. This is not a decision we have taken lightly as we deeply believe in the value of MWC, but, given the potential health risks, we believe it’s in the best interest for all of our colleagues.”