MWC17 post-game: Digital transformation was the real star of this show

Credit: GSMA

In a surprise twist, digital transformation took the top spot at this year’s Mobile World Congress.

The usual suspects (i.e. the big handset vendors) just couldn’t make an impact this year. With Samsung still reeling, LG and Huawei were left to plug the gap, but the shine just wasn’t there.

Digital transformation, however, was the showstopper this year. Operators from Telefonica to Ooredoo, Orange to Vimplecom, and vendors galore – Ericson, NEC, Huawei, ZTE, SAP and the likes of Accenture, etc – were talking it up.

So why was digital transformation so popular? It has a similar attraction/detraction to the MWC17 theme, “The Next Element”. What does it actually mean?  Everything and nothing. Innovation, possibilities, growth, the future… People use the digital transformation term to cover everything from 5G to IoT, VR to customer experience, BSS/OSS to engagement, and the list goes on.

While some people are not big fans of such amorphic adjectives, I think it’s a breath of fresh air for an industry is desperate need of some creativity, imagination and yes, transformation.

The New Order (a.k.a. Hall 8.1)

If you were at MWC this year, and like many old timers you spent your time plodding between Halls 1-7, you missed the “new order” up in Hall 8.1.

Back in the old world (Halls 1-7) you have the multitudes of operators wanting to be Facebook, Google, Amazon, AirBnB, Uber, etc, and vendors lining up to facilitate their digital transformation. Hall 8.1, the App Planet, is where MWC’s equivalent of Digital Natives hang out. Those folks up there don’t need a digital transformation – they were born digital.

The big question is, can operators (and their vendors) really rise to the digital telco challenge? It could always, after all, be just another marketing tagline. However, if we can envisage a world without halls, a single integrated, cohesive ecosystem, then digital transformation could become a journey into something very real.

1 Comment

  1. Good effort, but I’d be readier to buy into that analysis if I hadn’t been listening to people droning on about digital transformation for at least five years (and making many shameless contributions to the pile of related verbiage and slideware myself). If it was the star of the show, I can only imagine MWC 2017 must have been a lacklustre affair indeed… I’d be more behind it too if I could see digital transformation as a particularly ‘telco’ thing, but really I don’t. Uber is a digital transformation of a moribund business, as is Air B’nB, as is Netflix et al, but is that kind of transformation really happening to telco? I don’t see it. It looks much more a threat than an opportunity, as more and more services get digitised by digital third parties, and the march of digitisation/ virtualisation starts to eat into the core network too.
    With you on Hall 8 and the digital natives though. They don’t need a digital transformation, but more to the point, do they much need a telco – or to be more precise, do they need a special relationship with telco? Or are they different businesses altogether? I wonder if they really need to be there at all.

What do you think?

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