Mobile World Congress (MWC) is the largest mobile event in the world. Every year, over 100,000 tech industry experts are called to the beautiful environs of Barcelona to share their ideas for the future.
A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to attend MWC 2019 alongside eleven other members of the 5G RuralFirst team – and a huge cow’s head. We were there to showcase the 5G RuralFirst project to governments, policymakers and service providers from all over the world.
The trip was extraordinary and exhausting in equal measure. We made hundreds of new connections, and showed thousands of people around our demos.
In this blog post, I’m going to tell you a bit more about what we achieved.
Demonstrating 5G RuralFirst to the world
I’m proud to say that 5G RuralFirst was the focal point of the Cisco booth at this year’s MWC.
This gave us plenty of space to demo a number of the project’s use cases, including:
- Live cattle monitoring with Agri-EPI Centre
- Drones from Precision Decisions
- Connected Cows from Afimilk
- Broadcast over 5G with the BBC team
- Mobile Edge computing, User plane separation on our Ultra packet core, and end to end quality of service management.
- Dynamic Spectrum Sharing, which was presented by our principle partner University of Strathclyde
- The stick man, Hands Free Hectare’s object detection demo for autonomous tractors
- A huge cow’s head mounted on the wall of our stand
Having this range of demos coupled with the booth, which acted as a space for a deeper dive into the technology, meant visitors to our stand could learn about all aspects of the project. The vast majority came away impressed.
The biggest thing about MWC is that it’s an unrivalled chance to speak to the international tech community. I think we opened an important dialogue with our industry peers, proving that the 5G RuralFirst consortium understands the challenges of the 5G era.
And there’s clearly a real desire for this kind of project in the industry today. 5G was again the major theme being echoed across the whole congress. The service providers we spoke to in particular seemed excited by the potential to solve the rural challenge, and welcomed help on building ecosystems that can support the business model.
Similarly, we had conversations with a number of government leaders and telecom ministers – from nations including Poland, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and Egypt – who all recognised the huge value in unlocking rural areas.
But we weren’t just speaking to the leaders of foreign governments: we also represented 5G RuralFirst to many other government ministries within the UK government. As a project backed by public money, it’s important for us to highlight the value we are bringing to the country – which we absolutely achieved at MWC.
Teamwork makes the dream work
The 5G RuralFirst booth was manned by a partnership team consisting of at least 12 different staff from 7 different partners.
And this was just the Cisco booth – there was actually a 5G RuralFirst partner in almost every hall of Fira Gran Via, the MWC venue.
The teamwork and common purpose displayed by the consortium staff was outstanding. What struck me was the fact that everybody wanted to display the achievements of the project across the board, and not just the use cases that they were involved in.
Teamwork is an integral part of our work as a consortium, and we pride ourselves on supporting our partners across the project – so it was good to see this attitude carried across to Barcelona!
Highlights from the team
And in the spirit of teamwork, it’s time to hear from the rest of the team. Here they’ve given us a quick summary of their experiences at MWC:
Stephen Speirs, Product Management, Customer Experience at Cisco
“I was astounded by the amount of traffic the stand had. I personally collected over 120 leads over the course of 3.5 days!
At one point, two women from Google came over and asked for a selfie with the cow head. I thought: If Google said it was cool, then it must be cool.”
Zahid Ghadialy, Principal Analyst & Consultant at 3G4G, Senior Director at Parallel Wireless
“We are glad to see the Open RAN movement we started many years back has now become mainstream, and are delighted to join Facebook’s Telecom Infra Project (TIP) project group OpenRAN 5G NR. The new project group will work to define a whitebox platform for a 5G NR access point that is easy to configure and deploy. This is nothing but a win-win situation for mobile network operators and service providers – and especially the 5G RuralFirst project.
I made a YouTube video at MWC – featuring Stephen Speirs as presenter – which you can take a look at here.
Justin Paul, Director of Marketing at Zeetta Networks
“From the outset we wanted to demonstrate “real-technology” not PowerPoint or mock-ups. On day one we also launched our new solution for “pop-up” or temporary networks, NetOS RapideTM, showing how we’d enabled retail and broadcast media at a basket-ball game.
We had a fantastic MWC. Over 60 pre-booked meetings and over 100 walk-on visitors who wanted to know about Zeetta Networks and our collaboration with Cisco in the UK’s 5G Rural First project. MWC was a whirlwind, but hugely important for us – and we’ll be back again next year!”
Karina Maksimiuk, Project Manager at Agri-EPI Centre
“With all the Government Delegations at the 5G RuralFirst stand it was exciting to validate what we set out to do: trialling 5G in some of the most remote and challenging environments in the UK.
5G RuralFirst aims to excite governments, policymakers, regulators mobile network operators, and other service providers about the partnership potential of 5G in rural areas and help share new market, technology and application opportunities.”
David Hemingway, Senior Distribution Manager at the BBC
“What struck me was that people seemed surprised to see a focus on rural use of 5G. One visitor said: “Everywhere I see Smart Cities, but no one else is talking about how 5G can benefit rural areas”. Others expressed some scepticism that the economics would stack up in the way we imagine, which I think is fair enough – that’s the point of doing the trial, to find out if they do.
It was a long and tiring week – I was so pleased to find out the show closed at 4pm on the last day! But so many good and interesting conversations within our own 5GRF team and with visitors to the stand.”
To MWC – and beyond
MWC was the perfect platform for the 5G RuralFirst project. It gave us a chance to showcase all our hard work on the world’s stage.
As a team, we brought our passion and expertise to MWC, and I for one was astounded by the reception we were met with. People were really excited about the opportunities rural connectivity will bring, and we had a lot of conversations which may develop into something promising.
It was a hugely successful few days in Barcelona – of course, adding a cow’s head into the mix always helps!