Key insights and trends from Mobile World Congress Barcelona

by Stephen Stokes , AVP, Communications & Public Relations, AT&T

Over 100,000 attendees. More than 2,700 exhibitors. And over 180 delegations from 140 countries, including two heads of state and more than 70 government and regulatory ministers.1

Talk about an event you don’t want to miss. With attendance numbers like these, it’s easy to see why Mobile World Congress (MWC) Barcelona is considered the largest and most influential gathering for the connectivity industry each year.

In February, representatives from some of the world’s largest companies, including AT&T, came together to discuss, show, and celebrate the latest innovations. Deep diving into tech like 5G and 6G, artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and digital transformation in manufacturing—as well as not-so-distant technologies like quantum computing and extended reality.

Being part of these conversations was thrilling and eye opening. There was plenty of hype surrounding Generative AI. Cybersecurity was also a hot topic as companies make new strides in network and device protection. And there were many discussions on the use of open radio access architecture to modernize 5G networks.

While there was no shortage of excitement, some of the biggest reveals had to do with the ways companies, developers, and agencies are working together. Seeing industry leaders collaborate in the development of new solutions was amazing—and for good reason.

Although the future of connectivity is offering increasingly innovative opportunities, the resources needed to solve our biggest connectivity challenges is immense. Companies, innovators, and developers are innovating in more ways each day. Because of this, we’ll be able to realize these benefits sooner and advance technology even further.

Our Open RAN network future

Some of the heaviest buzz at MWC Barcelona involved the use of open radio access architecture, or Open RAN, to help modernize mobile networks and meet increasing data demands. Deploying Open RAN technology would enable providers to partner with different vendors to achieve “best of breed” performance and lower operational costs. Doing so would also fuel innovation, enabling us to take the technology even further.

As a founding member of the O-RAN Alliance, AT&T recently announced our collaboration with Ericsson in December to deploy Open RAN sites starting in 2024. We followed that news with our first Cloud RAN call in February. At MWC, we made a surprise Day one announcement that Dell would be providing our Open RAN network servers – deal that puts us on the path to our goal of moving 70% of our internet traffic to Open RAN by 2026.

Bringing more value to 5G

Mobile providers have spent years and many resources building out 5G networks. With more data-intensive apps and mobility and IoT applications arriving every day—and 6G still a long way away—there was plenty of chatter at MWC Barcelona on how to leverage 5G infrastructure using 5G-Advanced and open network APIs to increase 5G adoption.


With an initial release expected later this year, 5G-Advanced builds upon existing 5G technology to enable faster speeds that better support streaming applications and improve data sharing.

AI and machine learning tools will be used to optimize network performance and reduce power demands. There are also enterprise-specific features like network slicing to support multiple business applications and public and private network integration.2

Open network APIs

Hot off its unveiling at MWC 2023, the Global System for Mobile Communications Association’s (GSMA) Open Gateway Initiative remains committed to unlocking the full potential of 5G using Application Programmable Interfaces (APIs).

This year they're looking to improve engagement, adding new services and commercial channels to increase API adoption. To date, more than 40 network operators have made over 90 APIs aimed at reducing online fraud and cybercrime available to developers.3

In similar news, AT&T recently announced it was teaming up with Vonage using open API capabilities that will enable developers to integrate communication and network services into 5G applications, products, and services.4

While mobile operators brainstorm ways to get more value from their networks, opening up 5G capabilities using APIs will increase 5G demand once applications are released.

Our network API accelerator program even invites developers to explore the benefits of production and experimental APIs at scale. API-enabled capabilities in areas like cybersecurity and enhanced IoT connectivity, as well as integrated network capabilities that support new business models, will unleash a new wave of creativity and possibility for app developers everywhere.

AI is everywhere and will continue to be

Conversations surrounding AI have dominated the news cycle over the last year. That influence carried over into MWC 2024 with officials dedicating over 40 sessions to the topic.

As companies roll out new solutions and improve existing products by adding AI integrations, Generative AI will offer immediate benefits in areas like customer support, personalized services, and network resiliency and optimization.

But MWC organizers also stressed the importance of using Generative AI technology responsibly.

With 70% of business leaders expecting AI to significantly change how they operate,5 but only 35% focused on improving the governance of AI systems,6 establishing trust in design, execution, and use, and addressing issues like privacy and bias, remains an industry-wide concern.

Being connected means staying secure

Any cybersecurity professional will tell you—the threat landscape is always changing. As connectivity brings us closer together, many MWC events focused on the future of cybersecurity.

AT&T Chief Security Officer Rich Baich joined leaders from Deloitte and Amazon Web Services (AWS) to discuss the challenges cyber professionals face when technology is constantly evolving.

At the GSMA’s Future Security for Future Networks panel, AT&T Vice President, Product Management and Development, Cybersecurity, Senthil Ramakrishnan, echoed a similar message and pointed to the built-in network security controls of our AT&T Dynamic Defense as an effective tool in the help to fight against cyber threats.

Bringing connectivity to far off places

Making the most of 5G may have been one of the most talked-about topics at MWC Barcelona, but the use of low orbit satellites to provide cellular service in zero coverage areas was also a popular subject.

With more than 500,000 square miles in the U.S. lacking cellular coverage by one estimate, “direct-to-device” technology would give businesses with projects in remote areas a vital lifeline.7 Doing so would also offer a less expensive option to satellite phones in regions where there are no cell towers. Though it’s important to note that current technology only works for a few people in extremely isolated areas.

Direct-to-device partnerships between Apple and Globalstar, T-Mobile and SpaceX and, most recently, AT&T and AST SpaceMobile, offer further evidence of the value of collaboration in delivering connectivity to underserved areas.

A future closer together

As companies continue to develop new connectivity solutions, MWC Barcelona provides an opportunity for us to meet, challenge one another, and celebrate our achievements. Many of these accomplishments would not be possible without the collaboration of the best and brightest minds.

With so many industry benefits just over the horizon, this new collaborative mindset will enable us to go farther, reach further, and move faster. Uncovering new opportunities while delivering on our promise to bring businesses and people closer together.

To learn more about all the AT&T Business solutions mentioned here, visit Or to connect with an expert who knows business, contact your AT&T Business representative.

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“GSMA MWC Barcelona 2024 Closes with Over 101,000 Attendees,” Mobile World Congress Barcelona, February 29, 2024, from

Ryan Browne, “Telcos are barely done rolling out 5G – and they’re already talking about ‘5.5G’,” CNBC, March 3, 2024,

3 “GSMA Open Gateway Goes From Strength-to-Strength with Worldwide Commercial Launches, More Operators and New Go-to-Market Channels,” GSMA, February 26, 2024,

4 “AT&T Teams Up With Vonage to Boost Network Capabilities,” Zacks Equity Research, February 21, 2024,

5 “PwC’s 27th Annual Global CEO Survey,” PricewaterhouseCoopers, January 15, 2024,

6 “PwC US makes $1 billion investment to expand and scale AI capabilities,” PricewaterhouseCoopers, April 26, 2023,

7 Phil Goldstein, “’Direct to Device’ Technology Promises to Connect Smartphones to Satellites,” BizTech, September 6, 2023,