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The 5G Factor: Orange and Amdocs, 6G Nokia and Digital Twins, AT&T Partners With the Military, NSI Establishes SpectrumX and More – Futurum Tech Webcast
by Shelly Kramer and Ron Westfall | September 21, 2021

In this episode of Futurum Tech Webcast series The 5G Factor, Futurum analysts Shelly Kramer and Ron Westfall cover interesting news in the 5G market. This week’s conversation included discussions around:

  • The announcement by Amdocs that it has been selected by Orange to provide business support systems for Europe’s first 5G standalone experimental cloud network in France. This AI and data driven, software-enabled, cloud native network is a two year project and signs of exciting things ahead.
  • Nokia’s focus on making 5G networks more efficient, with an eye on 6G Nokia and digital twins, and Nokia’s novel approach on that front.
  • AT&T’s partnership with the U.S. Military on 5G-focused R&D experiments with the Naval Postgraduate School, the Department of the Navy’s applied research university.
  • The National Science Foundation’s establishment of SpectrumX, a center for wireless spectrum research in the U.S., focused on how to develop new ways of sharing and managing radio air waves to maximize this limited resource.
  • Vodafone’s sustainability report released this last week by Vodafone and WPI Economics, showing that 5G and I0T can help reduce C02 emissions in the UK, along with insights on the role digital technology could play in helping the government reach its sustainability goals of slashing emissions by 78% by 2035, and achieving net-zero by 2050.

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Transcript:

Shelly Kramer: Hello and welcome to this episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast and our series; The 5G Factor. I’m your host, Shelly Kramer, and I’m joined today by my colleague and fellow analyst, Ron Westfall. Hello, Ron. Always a pleasure to see you.

Ron Westfall: Oh, likewise. Yeah. Taking a break from the hot steamy day and jumping into the studio to talk all things 5G with you, Shelly.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. It’s always the favorite part of my week, Ron. So we’re going to kick off this show today and we’re going to talk about the monetization of 5G networks and some news out of Amdocs that you’re going to tell us about, Ron.

Ron Westfall: Right on. Yeah, first of all, Orange, and I’m not emphasizing Orange because I’m wearing an orange polo shirt-

Shelly Kramer: Yes, you are.

Ron Westfall: But because the French operator included Amdocs, when it’s dubbing its experimental 5G standalone network.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah.

Ron Westfall: And that’s really an important aspect here is that many of the 5G deployments, as we all understand and know, are what are called 5G non-standalone implementations.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: That is, combining 4G capabilities with new 5G capabilities, particularly the 4G core. And as a result, it’s really a blending of two network architectures. And really what the operators are striving for is the 5G standalone implementation, pure 5G, if you will.

And so that really would be a tremendous breakthrough when those become mainstream because those are the cloud-native, software-driven, AI-powered networks that the operators require in order to do things like use case as a service, to deliver something like a virtual reality session on-demand, et cetera, and all the really cool things we’ve been talking about for a while. And it’s been a little time coming in terms of having breakout applications with some of the early 5G deployments. This is really going to be that event horizon. Once the operators master 5G standalone, that will make a difference. And I think Orange made a shrewd marketing move by calling it an experimental network, because it is fundamentally a two-year project, first of all.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: And they’re looking to have hundreds of users on this particular network by the end of this year.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: So I think it will be very incumbent on them to come out with some use cases lessons learned that can really make a difference in terms of driving 5G forward, certainly, within their network, but certainly in terms of Pan-European capabilities.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely.

Ron Westfall: Keeping pace with what’s happening in North America and China and Northeast Asia, et cetera. And I think a little foregrounding is helpful here because, at Mobile World Congress 2021, Orange came out with their experimental 5G standalone network proposition and included a variety of high-profile vendors right out of the gate.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: And that included Mavenir, HPE, Dell, Casa Systems, and Xiaomi. And now, with Amdocs onboard, this is actually really an important aspect here. It’s like, “Yes, we really need all of the fundamental technology inner working.”

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: The 5G core, certainly, the Open RAN capabilities, which are integral to any 5G standalone implementation, but also making money off of it.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely.

Ron Westfall: And this is where Amdocs steps in, this is-

Shelly Kramer: Yeah.

Ron Westfall: … their BSS portfolio, that’s supporting these capabilities across a variety of traditional BSS functions and domains. And this is a feather in the cap for Amdocs because it’s demonstrating, obviously, they have multi [inaudible].

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: But also that their systems are ready for prime-time 5G capabilities, the ability to leverage, first-of-all, AI inputs, which are going to be essential for automation. The only way Orange or any other operator is going to be able to deliver a use case as a service on a mass scale, the level is through automation and that requires an AI engine. And it also requires a billing system that can monetize all these new capabilities in a rapid, agile, flexible fashion.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: And so this is really helpful for understanding how this can come together, because we’re seeing, for example, Rakuten in Japan inching along. We’re seeing DISH trying to come together with a purpose-built, cloud-native 5G network, and that will eventually reach a production phase. But again, there is this element of patience that is required to really see these things come together and have breakthroughs. And I think Orange is setting a pretty good example, pretty good realistic timetable expectations. And so this is, they’re showing us, here are milestones to measure the progress in this regard, and Amdocs is going to have a major hand in this.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. And I think, one other point is the Amdocs solution runs on Amazon Web Services, and that will be integrated into Orange’s multi-vendor 5G networks in a hybrid cloud approach, of course, that makes sense. But one point that you made here, Ron, that I think is tremendously interesting is that they intend to have, Orange intends to have hundreds of users by the end of the year. It’s September, I mean, that’s, by the end of the year is quick. So it will be very interesting to watch this as it rolls out and what user adoption we see and they are not wasting any time on this. So it’s exciting.

Ron Westfall: Oh, an excellent point, Shelly, yes. That the Amdocs solution is available through AWS. So this is again, emphasizing the cloud-native aspect here. And Amdocs-

Shelly Kramer: I think I just said that. I think I just said that, Ron.

Ron Westfall: Yes you did. And I’m saying that’s an important point because, well, first of all, Amdocs has selected AWS as their preferred cloud partner.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: So that’s important-

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: But I think what’s also going to be important for Orange is after working with AWS, I think they will ultimately need to work with multi-cloud partners.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely.

Ron Westfall: For example, Azure is proving itself with AT&T. I think it’s an inevitability because again, the operators are concerned about the age-old issue of vendor lock and-

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely.

Ron Westfall: They don’t want to be captive to one cloud provider-

Shelly Kramer: As they should be.

Ron Westfall: So yeah, excellent point and definitely-

Shelly Kramer: Makes perfect sense.

Ron Westfall: … worth expounding on.

Shelly Kramer: Well, it’d be interesting to watch this, that’s for sure. So moving on, we’re going to talk about making 5G networks more efficient. And some news out in, really, this last week or so has been with an eye on 6G, what’s going on with Nokia and digital twins. And, as the 5G rollout gathers pace, there are a host of challenges that need addressing, and this is definitely one of them, right?

Ron Westfall: Oh, yeah, right on. I think there was an interesting blog that Nokia produced toward the end of summer, which is ongoing right now. The main takeaway is, they’re emphasizing their digital twin technology.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah.

Ron Westfall: And we’re hearing an awful lot about digital twin capabilities and other verticals such as manufacturing. For example, we covered NVIDIA Omniverse-

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: Push, which generated a lot of publicity and it’s fundamentally making a digital replica of an existing network or facility, et cetera. It just depends on the use case again. And what is really, I think important here is that Nokia’s digital twin technology can help operators optimize their beamforming capabilities.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: Also, finding out what the optimum BEAM is per sector. And obviously, that’s going to be essential to achieve the small cell densities and other efficiencies that are going to be required to really make 5G more scalable and also support all these high bandwidth, low-latency applications, both on the consumer and the business side. And I think the key takeaway here is that Nokia is claiming that by using their digital twin technology in relation to traditional methods-

Shelly Kramer: Hold on, now, hold on. Let me set the stage here. We talked about beamforming. Now we’re going to talk about bean counting. And Ron’s going to deliver the money line here.

Ron Westfall: Well, I can’t deny you that wonderful segue. Yes, yes.

Shelly Kramer: Here you go.

Ron Westfall: And I think obviously, both are important. They go hand-in-hand.

Shelly Kramer: Sometimes, I just have to shut you down because you just talk and it’s great. And you’re super smart, but there’s your lead-in. Beamforming, bean count. Tell us what the bean-counting tidbit of fascinating information out of Nokia is?

Ron Westfall: Well, yes. I better hit this out of the park, and, well, I think this is what leaped out at me is that Nokia is claiming by using their digital twin technology in relation to traditional methods that European CSPs can generate 44% more revenue. And I was like, “Wow, that’s a dramatic number.” And I’m like-

Shelly Kramer: Let me think about that. Let me think about, do I want to do this? Not sure.

Ron Westfall: Well, yeah. I mean, if I’m a European operator, I’ve got nothing to lose. I will try the digital twin technology-

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely.

Ron Westfall: … put Nokia to the test.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely.

Ron Westfall: Let’s put the beans or the money where your mouth is.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, absolutely.

Ron Westfall: And this actually, I think is a valid test, if you will, of, yeah. Let’s make it work in the real world. So yeah, that I think is definitely something we have to keep an eye on and it’s not unique to a Nokia. It’s also, I think, integral to any supplier out there. And in terms of enhancing their 5G proposition.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: They really do need a digital twin story at this juncture. There’s just no way around it. And the more integral it is to their portfolio, the further they’ll go be a key differentiator-

Shelly Kramer: That’s true.

Ron Westfall: … in other ways that go beyond, “Okay, we can optimize Beamforming.” Well, so does everybody else, what else can you do type thing?

Shelly Kramer: Right, right.

Ron Westfall: So this is, yeah, this is a big, I think development.

Shelly Kramer: It is. It is a big development indeed. And speaking of big developments, we’re going to talk about a new partnership between AT&T and the US military on 5G-focused research and development experiments. And I saw this today and I thought it was really interesting. So AT&T and the US military have partnered; this is a three-year R&D agreement. It’s focused on 5G experiments with the Naval Postgraduate School, which is the department of the Navy’s Applied Research University. And the goal here is, I mean, let’s take a big leap here, AT&T and the Navy, it’s all about exploring maritime technology solutions for both Homeland Security and National Defense. And then the additional benefits of this 5G-focused research is that it will also inevitably provide information that’ll help benefit other maritime industries like shipping, oil, and gas, even, recreational boating.

So I thought it was a really interesting, I thought it was an interesting partnership. We’re seeing many of these kinds of partnerships. I think I reported on something else that AT&T is doing with universities and things like that. AT&T certainly is not the only carrier to be doing this kind of thing. It just happens to have popped up in my newsfeed and I thought it was of interest, but AT&T has indicated that these experiments will use one of our favorite things Ron, MM wave spectrum. And as we know, 5G and the edge are incredibly important to all entities these days and of course, to the armed services as well. I saw that the chief digital and innovation officer of the department of the Navy was quoted on this research partnership and really, they’re all about exploring faster ways of collecting, disseminating, and analyzing data at the edge.

And then this, of course, is vital to the Navy’s ability to maintain and adapt battlespace awareness. And this is true. This is true, whether you’re in the military or whether you’re in business of any kind. I mean, it really is 5G, and the edge are sort of the critical components of business today and where things are happening and where data is collected and analyzed. And I don’t know if you had a chance, Ron, to read about this at all, or you have any thoughts on it?

Ron Westfall: Oh, no, this is a cool announcement. I think it captures the imagination because to your point, it emphasizes, it’s not just about 5G spectrum. For example, millimeter-wave and let’s say the 39 gigahertz range, but also uses mid-band LTE, but they’re also enlisting drones. They’re enlisting unmanned robots.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah.

Ron Westfall: Underwater vehicles that are autonomous to collect this data and information. So this is like, “All right, futuristic.”

Shelly Kramer: Yeah.

Ron Westfall: Yeah, this is a really excellent way to enhance certainly, maritime capability, certainly when it comes to defense and Homeland Security, but it’ll be cool when they start parlaying into civilian applications because as we all know, the internet itself started as a military project that then had tremendous impact on the civilian side. Here we are, for example, and likewise things like microwave ovens and Velcro, and so forth. So this is really cool stuff. And yeah, I was really impressed by the partnership and the implications that it can have in terms of innovating maritime capabilities and making drones work even better-

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely.

Ron Westfall: … for communications, et cetera. So this is, I think, a really good one to pay attention to.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, I thought so as well. And so the first, from a timeline standpoint, the first 5G and MEK nodes, and MEK is a multi-access edge computing, mobile-edge computing platform. Okay. And those are expected to be installed by AT&T and in use during the first quarter of 2022, which is really soon, right?

Ron Westfall: Yeah, yes.

Shelly Kramer: And this will combine NFV and cloud virtualization technology. It’ll minimize mobile back-haul bandwidth requirements and provide ultra-low latency capabilities, which are super important as it relates to all of this. This is not a private 5G network, which we’ve talked a lot about.

Ron Westfall: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Shelly Kramer: These servers will be located in an NPS data center and NPS will be able to determine who or what devices can use the servers and features, which from a security standpoint, I think is incredibly important. And this is designed to help the Navy with intelligence and reliability and insights into traffic and control that allows the limiting of use and again, security and speed into the network.

So these research trials are really all about identifying advanced technology solutions, and I think it’s really exciting. You talked about innovation, you touched on innovation a second ago, and I thought this quote from retired vice Admiral Anne Rondo, who’s the president of the Naval Postgraduate School, said, “Innovation occurs at the seams and intersection of practice and expertise. And NPS provides an innovation hub where this applied 5G research can occur.” We talk about test beds.

Ron Westfall: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Shelly Kramer: We talk about all these different kinds of things that Qualcomm and other companies are doing. This is a test bed. I mean, really, it’s a place where innovation and research and experimentation can happen and it’s a really exciting thing.

Ron Westfall: Oh, right on. Yeah. I mean, it’s just fundamental to advancing not just only 5G but anticipating 6G capabilities.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely.

Ron Westfall: And we’ve seen it proven over and over. It’s really an ecosystem dimension here. It’s just not something that can be carried by only a handful of operators and vendors. It really is enlisting universities, governments, non-governmental organizations, et cetera, et cetera. It really is something that is going to make a difference in terms of making 5G more secure, making the mobile ecosystem, just better responses, and also enhancing monetization opportunities, et cetera.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: So yes.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely.

Ron Westfall: It’s just part of the fabric.

Shelly Kramer: Well, speaking of, with that, we’re going to transition a way a little bit and stay really on a similar topic. And some other news of interest is the National Science Foundation has established Spectrum X, which is the center for wireless spectrum research in the United States. And they’ve earmarked 25 million over the course of the next five years for Spectrum X and this innovation center. And they’re focused on developing new ways of sharing and managing radio airwaves. And this is a limited resource. So they’re working on figuring out ways that we can maximize that. And I thought that was particularly, I thought that was of interest today.

Ron Westfall: Oh, absolutely. In fact, as we know Shelly, 5G, part of what makes the technology distinct from previous generations of mobile is that it supports what is called dynamic spectrum sharing or DSS.

Shelly Kramer: DSS.

Ron Westfall: And this is fundamentally the ability to share both LTE and 5G within the same frequency band. And operators, really are clamoring for it.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: And they have accelerated their adoption. There’ve been some high-profile operators like T-Mobile who want to kick the tires more. But nonetheless, for example, Erickson indicated that 80% of the operators that they’re working with are going to adopt DSS capabilities within the next 12 months.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: And that includes high-profile operators like Swisscom and Telstra in Australia, et cetera. And so you could see the writing on the wall and it just stands to reason. It’s like, okay, and if I can optimize my existing spectrum assets at bringing 5G on, I’m not having to do a trade-off or having to spend a lot more money on new spectrum just to support 5G.

There’s going to be that regardless. But this is just good news for operators and ecosystem. And I think this is actually very important because now we’re talking not just about millimeter-wave capabilities in the gigahertz range. Now we’re talking about capabilities in the terahertz range. And 6G technology, leverage those capabilities. So it’s demonstrating that the path to innovation requires these types of collaborations, requires government funding, and it requires they build to give operators to be able to use it in the real world and knowing that they have the confidence to adopt it, that it’s already been tested out and they’re not having to throw darts too much to really make their spectrum assets more optimized. And so this certainly, I think, another great example of how collaboration can make a difference, not only today, but in terms of anticipating 6G innovation.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. And speaking of collaboration. So with this Spectrum X, the center intends to act as a central point where stakeholders, researchers, industry participants, government agencies, everyone involved in this can collaborate. The goal is to educate, develop a diverse workforce. I mean, the part of this that’s really good news to me is, developing a diverse workforce, ensuring that future industries can rely, absolutely, you’re going to rely, on wireless technologies.

We need to have people who are trained in working in those fields. So I think that’s really important. And another part of this announcement was that the University of Notre Dame is leading a coalition of, I can get that word, of 27 industries that make up a collaborative hub. And they have an initial funding of about 7.47 million. This represents the first federal funding for a national center on wireless spectrum management, this Spectrum X. But that’s what you want to see. It’s what AT&T is doing with the Naval Academy and what other people or other carriers and companies are doing with universities throughout the United States. And this coalition that is being led by a Notre Dame. I mean, all of these things are so important because this is where the research happens. This is where the innovation happens. This is where the training of a new generation of brilliant people happens. And so all of that together, I think is really exciting news.

Ron Westfall: Yes, it really is, leveraging all the assets out there to meet all the real business needs or real consumer needs, includes how to leverage satellite spectrum in order to make the wireless fabric, more effective WiFi, LoRa WiFi, which is actually pretty key to, for example, digital twinning technology. So as you can see, this is all very important. And I think the fact that it’s taken this long for it to be established is slightly surprising, but it’s most welcome.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah.

Ron Westfall: And I think all the examples we just incited here demonstrate why.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah.

Ron Westfall: This clearly is something that is required.

Shelly Kramer: Well, and beyond industrial uses. What, to me, is really cool about Spectrum X is that they indicate they’re particularly focused on public good use cases and for science and for defense and one goal of this initiative, this coalition is, and the budget allocated here, is ensuring that the US has leadership in future wireless technologies and systems, and really understanding how to most efficiently and effectively use and share these spectrum resources. So I thought it was pretty cool. And as the last part of our show, we’re winding down here and we are going to touch base on more good and cutting emissions and some other things that 5G can do that we think are pretty cool that you might want to know about. So let’s talk about the new sustainability report that was released today by Vodafone and WPI Economics.

Ron Westfall: Oh yes. Thank you, Shelly. I think it’s something we touched on last week. The fact that Erickson and Vodafone were collaborating to improve the emissions across Vodafone’s UK network and London area, particularly. And we were noting that this has society-wide implications. Well, lo and behold, this week, Vodafone is now lobbying the UK government to emphasize 5G and IOT as essential to reaching nationwide emission targets, particularly ambitious ones, such as zero emissions, by 2050. And it makes sense because according to the research with Vodafone and its partners is that, when it comes to three verticals, in particular; manufacturing, agriculture, and transport, that these reductions can be achieved at a 4% per annum level by using digital technologies with 5G and IOT. And in particular, transport, they’re indicating that it can have an impact of 9.3 million tons of carbon reduction, so that, obviously, leaps out and manufacturing is not far behind with over four million tons and finally agriculture with over three million tons.

So these are real impactful numbers. These are really difference makers. And so I think it’s very encouraging that we’re seeing an operator really taking the high road here saying, “Hey, we can be proactive about this.” We’re not just going to wait around for the government to say, “Oh, can you help us with this?” We’re like, “Here, we’re ready. We even have technology that we’ve already proven out and made some tremendous difference with our existing network and near-future network. And by the way, here are just the three examples, three key verticals, where it could make a big difference, especially in rural areas. And so, let’s figure out how to really make this work in terms of making nationwide goals, which is again, impacting all the societies.” So this is actually-

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely.

Ron Westfall: … I think, a really cool development.

Shelly Kramer: It is a really cool development. We will put a link to this report in our show notes so that you can access it if you’d like to take a little bit deeper of a dive. And with that, we’re going to wrap up our show. To our listening audience and our 5G Factor friends, we are always glad to have you. And if you are listening to the podcast, and haven’t yet subscribed, hit that button. If you’re watching us on YouTube and haven’t yet subscribed, go ahead and do that. And we will see you again next week with more interesting 5G Factor news and developments in the industry. And to, my colleague and friend, Ron Westfall, thanks so much for being a part of this show and for hanging out with me today.

Ron Westfall: No problem. Always fun. Always a pleasure.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. We’ll see you next time.

About the Authors

A serial entrepreneur with a technology centric focus, Shelly has worked with some of the world’s largest brands to lead them into the digital space, embrace disruption, understand the reality of the connected customer, and help navigate the process of Digital Transformation. Read Full Bio.

Ron is an experienced research expert and analyst, with over 20 years of experience in the digital and IT transformation markets. He is a recognized authority at tracking the evolution of and identifying the key disruptive trends within the service enablement ecosystem, including software and services, infrastructure, 5G/IoT, AI/analytics, security, cloud computing, revenue management, and regulatory issues. Read Full Bio.