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Mar 10, 2015

Dan Pitt reflects on his experiences during Mobile World Congress 2015.

I had a great time wandering the streets of Barcelona during Mobile World Congress (MWC) last week. Barcelona is a sensational city, with lovely, old-style European streets and buildings, phenomenal artwork and architecture, a high sense of fashion, a lively and friendly spirit, justifiably famous food and wine, and a magnificent beach, all right there in one spot. And despite there being a record 100,000 attendees at MWC, I happily enjoyed many unplanned encounters running into people I knew just walking by.

The world of mobile, much like Barcelona, has many diverse neighborhoods – handsets, spectrum, new services, social phenomena, and social impact were all major conversation topics at the event. In addition, infrastructure, SDN, and the role of third parties (i.e. software creators) and their impact on carrier business models received a great amount of high-level attention. It makes me happy to report that SDN was frequently mentioned, both paired with NFV, and as a stand-alone term (no longer in NFV’s shadow among telcos).

While I had the privilege of being able to attend some interesting keynotes and sessions, I also had the opportunity to participate in a great session. The opening keynotes were hosted by the general director of the GSMA and included the CEOs of Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica, Telenor, and Vodafone. When you hear the chief executives speak, you get a good sense of where their attention really lies. It’s probably no surprise that DT spent the most time discussing the revolution to software and the importance of SDN. I was surprised at the attention given to 4G, which is so mainstream it’s hardly exciting, but not surprised by the emphasis on customer services and experience. Many operators view SDN simply as a matter of infrastructure, whereas we (and evidently the CEO of DT) view it as transformational from a business standpoint.

My conference session was entitled “Network Evolution in Practice” and was moderated by Sue Rudd, an analyst with Strategy Analytics. The session began with five talks, delivered by John Donovan (senior executive vice president for technology and operations at AT&T), Ryan Ding (president of products and solutions at Huawei), Stefano Pileri (CEO at Italtel), Güenther Ottendorfer (CTO at Telekom Austria), and Enrique Blanco (CTO at Telefonica).

I participated in the panel in this session immediately following these solo presentations, during which we discussed the role of standards in the new telco world. In addition to me, the panel included Luis Jorge Romero (director general of ETSI) and Peter Meissner (CEO of NGMN), with Sue Rudd moderating. I gave a brief history of ONF to kick off the panel and explained how our organization differed from others, noting that our sole goal is to accelerate the adoption of open SDN. I emphasized how ONF covers the spectrum from architecture to specifications, guidelines, market education, and now software. We discussed how networking standards are changing dramatically as more network functions are being instantiated in open interfaces that do not require two years of committee work in advance of any implementation, and how useful open-source software can be in establishing de facto standards for parts of the architecture that do not require vendor differentiation. Being on stage with ETSI also allowed me to share how the two organizations work together to further the adoption of SDN.

When I wasn’t on a panel or meeting with press and analysts, I was able to visit a number of ONF member company booths. Nearly 60 member companies were present at the show, and it was gratifying to see the ONF logo and ONF member signs at many of these booths.

It was an honor to be able to share ONF’s work on such a big stage with vendors and end users alike. Operators, from mobile to fixed-line to alternative carriers, still have a lot to figure out, and what we’re doing puts them in the position of having to (or getting to) do that thinking. SDN was news at MWC, which means it’s happening, but it’s not fully there yet. Our job won’t be over until it is. I hope I get invited back next year to share ONF’s amazing accomplishments in 2015.

- Dan Pitt, Executive Director

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Dan Pitt