Announcing The MWC 2017 Conference Themes

Followers of this blog will have read with interest Nick’s post on how MWC 2017’s conference content would be developed. We owe you information on some of the top-level themes the team will focus on, so read on for more detail.

The team has identified seven overarching themes for the year, and each theme will contain a variety of conference sessions of different lengths. Hopefully none of these themes will seem outrageously unexpected, given the diversity and tempo of the industry today. Let me give you a very brief overview before attempting to cover off some likely questions…


Connected Consumers: In the changing digital world how will users interact with their digital environment? What will they pay for? How are they changing? Meanwhile, how can brands and services create richer services and offers tailored to the user and context?

Entertainment: Content is king, they say. For many service providers across the value chain how content is delivered, who by, and who profits from it will be critical business issues in the years to come. Meanwhile, faster and more pervasive connectivity and new device formats open up new forms of entertainment and interaction, from VR headsets to Pokemon Go.

Sustainable Development Goals: Mobile has the opportunity – and arguably the obligation – to play a massive part in accomplishing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. From an enterprise perspective, what opportunities exist to build sustainable businesses in line with the Sustainable Development Goals?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution: While enterprises of all kinds have used telecoms and digital services for years, the scale of impact across all industries is ramping up dramatically, which in turn gives digital providers more opportunity to play a role. This will be addressed from two angles (so may be effectively two themes’ worth of content); one looking more at the application of technology and one looking at the evolution of business models, strategies and competitive marketplaces as digitisation increases.

The Pervasive Network: The end goal of most network technology developments is to make using connectivity as ubiquitous, simple and essential as breathing air. That masks a massive and increasing complexity. The astonishing thing is that, as an industry, we are starting to get there, although many hurdles – expected and unexpected – remain.

Ecosystem Enablers: This theme brings together topics on some of the fundamentals that are going to determine the nature of the future digital world: Hardware evolution, digital privacy and identity, security and more.

Disruption: Possibly one of the most over-used and wrongly applied words in business right now, this theme sets out to examine where the ever-expanding digital environment is likely to see genuine disruption instead of, or in parallel to, the rapid evolution that is undeniably taking place.


Readers may be surprised not to see themes like ‘5G’ or ‘IoT’ listed here. Those technologies, like VR, cognitive computing, cloud and so on will undoubtedly feature across multiple themes in relevant contexts. We believe we can deliver more value for our audience by examining how different technologies and business (or consumer or government) concerns intersect and what that will mean for different parts of the ecosystem. Moreover, while specific technology implementations and readiness vary dramatically from place to place the themes and pressures outlined here have relevance worldwide.

Similarly, we almost created a theme focussing on the MNOs; the pressures on them and how they are evolving to meet them. As our core audience and members, it seemed appropriate. However all of these themes will apply to operators to one degree or another, and in most cases we can’t discuss them without involving the operator perspective.

What will we do with these themes, and how is it relevant for you?

We will allocate each theme to one or two of our team members, who will be responsible for creating a number of conference sessions under the theme heading. After the MWC Call for Papers closes (September 16th), we will each be reviewing the proposals with an eye to imagining how they might fit into the theme we have been assigned and will build up conference content from there. (We are expecting something comfortably in excess of 2,000 proposals so it’s likely to be October – potentially some way into it depending on individual commitments with the GSMA’s other events – before we are in a position to start making invitations.)

This gives you a couple of strategies when considering your proposals. The first would be to focus on making your proposal clearly relevant to one theme, on the basis that it will catch the eye of the theme owner. The other would be to hedge your bets and offer something that could fall into a couple of different themes, on the basis that multiple team members will give it consideration. Depending on your topic both of these strategies have advantages.

In either case, a top tip is – make what you are doing, and the value you can bring to a theme, explicit and obvious. With so many proposals for us to read, it will help us imagine where your topic might fit and reduces the risk that your proposal will ‘slip down the cracks’ between different themes.

We hope that helps and look forward to reading your proposals!