MWC24: Five tech trends we expect to see in emerging markets

MWC24 – Five tech trends we expect to see in emerging markets

Mobile World Congress 2024 takes place next week, and Developing Telecoms will be at the show in Barcelona to report on the major trends that will shape the sector in emerging markets across the next year.

Ahead of the event, our editorial team has outlined what we expect to see from certain key technologies as they continue their evolution, and how this is likely to play out in emerging markets. Whether that’s 5G finally gaining critical mass, AI becoming ever more omnipresent, or Open RAN finally catching on, here’s what to watch in emerging markets at MWC24.


Use cases in emerging markets – and indeed developed markets - still revolve around fixed wireless access, and while this is driving up subscriber numbers substantially, it is not delivering in terms of revenue. However, the significance of more widespread access to 5G in emerging markets should not be underestimated – as the technology becomes the standard, consumers will increasingly be willing to shell out for faster connectivity. While ARPU will remain low, the increasing viability of use cases such as private networks and RedCap IoT could allow operators to claw back a return on their investment, in turn prompting further investment into more advanced 5G-A and 5G standalone (SA) technologies.


With more advanced networks, power becomes an issue – in terms of both availability and cost. We recently ran a feature detailing how sustainable energy solutions are now the obvious choice for operators – particularly in emerging markets – as they offer advantages in terms of reliability, environmental impact, and above all cost. It’s now feasible to power an isolated site delivering 5G connectivity – and with the expansion of AI, efficiency can be boosted with the application of intelligent systems for energy storage and cooling. This reduces power consumption and increases the reliability of the off-grid power.


Energy is far from the only area where we’re expecting to see new applications for artificial intelligence. While the limits of LLMs are perhaps becoming increasingly clear, there are myriad applications for AI in network management. We’ve already explored how energy management could be improved, but it’s not just operations that can be augmented with AI – the BSS side stands to benefit significantly. The vast amount of data generated by a single user can be used to intelligently predict behaviour and respond, continually adapting to ensure optimal customer service. This is a particular boon for providers in emerging markets as they typically suffer from high churn rates – by incentivising loyalty through improved customer experience, this issue can be alleviated.

Network Slicing

Most interesting perhaps is the use of AI for automation of network slicing, which has the potential to enable smarter apportioning of network functions and capacity as and when required. This can include analysing user behaviour or responding to their requests in real time, automatically routing user actions to the most appropriate network slice for the function in question, and slicing across multiple standards - including 4G, 5G and FWA – depending on the requirement. Given the complexity of network slicing, improving its efficacy by implementing intelligent automation is a strong use case, particularly on the enterprise side.

Open RAN

This is another area where the potential of AI could help alleviate some of the complexity. The promise of open RAN has always been to free operators from vendor lock-in and allow them to build out networks according to their own specifications, but in practice many service providers – particularly in emerging markets – have stuck with the relative simplicity of off-the-shelf solutions provided wholesale by vendors who will then install the gear and troubleshoot any issues. AI has the potential to help operators more effectively coordinate the disparate network elements of Open RAN, which could remove a major barrier to more widespread adoption of the technology.


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