On this LinkedIn Live episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast – Interview Series I am joined by Dan Rodriguez, Corporate Vice President and General Manager, Network Platforms Group at Intel and Per Narvinger, VP and Head of Product Area Networks at Ericsson to discuss the latest 5G updates Intel shared at MWC 2021.
Intel’s 5G Vision
In our conversation we discussed the following:
- The status of 5G right now for Intel and Ericsson
- An overview of the virtualization of RAN
- The opportunity in the mid-band 5G space
- An overview of the Intel-Ericsson collaboration
- How this collaboration will help customers
MWC 2021 was full of announcements for Intel. If you’d like to learn more about each one check out the Intel website here or the Ericsson website here, or listen to the full episode below. Don’t forget to subscribe so you never miss an episode
Watch my interview with Dan and Per here:
Or listen to my interview with Dan and Per on your favorite streaming platform here:
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Daniel Newman: Hey everybody, welcome to Futurum Tech TV and the Futurum Tech Webcast, live on LinkedIn. I’m your host Daniel Newman, Principal Analyst and Founding Partner at Futurum Research. Excited for this special edition live from MWC, but not live live from MWC, but maybe next year we’ll really be live from MWC. But I’m excited to be joined by Intel’s Dan Rodriguez, and Ericsson’s Per Narvinger. It’s so exciting to have you guys here.
It’s exciting that, without even flying to Barcelona, no lay overs, no jet lag, that we’re still together to talk about all the news and all of the things that are going on. Gentleman, welcome to the show.
Per Narvinger: Thank you very much.
Dan Rodriguez: Thanks man, great to be here with you and Per.
Daniel Newman: Yeah, it’s so great to have you all here. For the sake of the audience, because here at Futurum Tech podcast we have lots of guests, lots of really smart people that come through our pods, or webcasts, and our LinkedIn live, love to take a moment and have each of you quickly introduce yourself before I dive into both of you talking about the news, talking about what’s hot in 5G, and what’s going to be the big messages coming out of MWC this year.
So Dan, you and I have done a few of these pods and shows together in the past, so for the sake of you being a multi-time guest, I’ll let you go first.
Dan Rodriguez: Sure. So I’m Dan Rodriguez, I’m a Corporate Vice President and General Manager of what we call the Network Platforms Group. Essentially, we’re the group at Intel that partners with companies like Ericsson to truly deliver the right solutions, for not only the telecommunications industry, but also cable enterprise networks, et cetera. So very excited to be here, and very excited to be talking with you Dan, but also my partner Per, from the Ericsson team.
Daniel Newman: Great to have you here, Dan. Per, welcome to the show.
Per Narvinger: Thank you very much. So at least I’m in Europe right, even if I’m not in Barcelona. So I’m working with Ericsson in the network part of the company, heading up our portfolio for networks. So everything from 2G to 5G, and transport and so on. And of course, happy to be here, and of course with this announcing a lot of things now together with Intel and Dan here.
Daniel Newman: Well, welcome to you both to the show. A quick disclaimer disclosure. First of all, I want to thank Intel and Ericsson for being a partner and sponsor of this episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast podcast and live on LinkedIn. And second of all, just a quick reminder everybody, this show is for information and entertainment purposes only. While we are talking about and to executives from publicly trading companies, please do not take anything I say, or anyone on this show says, as investing advice. I always like to get that out of the way early on.
Listen, I’ve been working alongside this industry for years, 2018, this is the big year for 5G, 2019, this is the year of 5G, 2020 is the year of 5G, and now we’re in 2021, definitely the year of 5G. And in different ways, every one of these years have been the year of 5G. But just giving me a quick status update here, what’s the 5G status right now as you and as Ericsson sees it?
Per Narvinger: So I would say the first wave of 5G is now live. We have 5G live in more than 160 networks, and it is growing fast. By the end of ’21 now, we foresee that we will have 580 million subscriptions, so for sure 5G has started, then obviously it’s a journey. And that’s why of course you hear staff saying this is the year, maybe this is the year of C-band or mid-band in the U.S., right? But the datas that were happening in other parts of the world. So it’s a journey, and it’s going to of course have a lot of developments here.
And it’s not just launching 5G networks, of course we see this as a platform for innovation. So this is just the beginning. So let’s say that wave one is concluded and we’re entering a second phase here.
Dan Rodriguez: I couldn’t agree more. I think all these years are big. It’s kind of hard to call which one is the biggest, but I’m definitely encouraged by what we’re seeing with 5G rollouts globally. I’m really starting to see a lot of benefits from latency and bandwidth improvements, and of course this is bringing all sorts of benefits to both consumers, but also a range of industries. Because you do know that 5G was designed really from the get-go to not just deliver broadband, which it will do and it will deliver all sorts of amazing consumer experiences like Cloud gaming, et cetera, but it will also really change the way a lot of industries really deploy their service, or build their products.
And with that in mind, when you think about the move to 5G, the network infrastructure itself, it is super critical and it needs to be built really from the get-go, with service flexibility in mind. Because again, it’s not just that consumer experience, it’s also a wide range of industries. So you’re seeing a lot of companies invest in more of a softer defined infrastructure, that’s really agile and flexible from the start.
In addition, what I would love to add on here is that, when you think about 5G and you also think about Intel’s new CEO, Pat Gelsinger, you’re hearing our CEO often times talk about these super powers of tech, and their Cloud, their AI, their connectivity fueled by 5G, and then of course the rise of intelligent edge. And when you think about these super powers of tech, these are all really powerful forces on their own, but when they work together, they’re even more powerful. And when you think about this case with 5G, and then you think about in the culmination of the pervasiveness or how pervasive AIs becoming across a number of workloads, and these two things are creating, it’s really combining together and really creating what we call the rise in intelligent edge.
So I’m very bullish on where we’re at with 5G, but also where it’s going in the future, it will support all sorts of enterprise used cases.
Daniel Newman: Yeah, I’m really glad you mentioned that Dan, because I think verticalization has been a really hot trend across all of technology this year, but 5G is one of those, you can call it a super power, you can call it an enabler, we’ve heard about smart cities and what that’s going to look like. We hear about EVs and autonomous, and getting to level three and four, and eventually full self… Look, none of this is going to happen without that ultra-low latency, super high bandwidth, you’ve got massive through point of data. Otherwise, even if you can do it in a lab, you’ll never be able to do it in a real environment with all kinds of unpredictable things that are going to happen around you.
And then you look at best cases of retail, and how shopping can be evolved and changed. Or going to a stadium, going to a movie, traveling, all these things are going to be really powered. But I am seeing and hearing as an analyst, so much more focus on verticalizing this, separating the different industries so that we can show what the potential is in delivering I through visible and real world experiences that we can all relate to.
Now, I want to move a little bit though, and talk about the RAN, and talk about kind of what’s happening here. This is a big part of what both Intel and Ericsson are working on together, but we’ve heard a lot about the V-RAN, the virtualization of the RAN. Per, what’s been the driving force that this is becoming such a big topic around 5G?
Per Narvinger: So I think it’s been a big topic for many years, right? And first of all, when you talk about radio access networks, I think it’s important to also keep it simple, right? So if you think about the mobile network Genesis, typically you have a radio sitting up in a tower and then something handling all the computers. And this is computers what we are talking, and most networks that have been rolled out so far, they have been built on purpose-built hardware. And then virtualization in itself, I mean, that’s another step as we have discussed here.
We have launched 5G, but now we’re taking another step and also virtualizing it. And of course there are a lot of trade-offs. I mean, in the end it’s all about trade-offs. I mean, what you get for what kind of trade-off. So if you build something purpose-built, it becomes very, very effective for one specific purpose, but if you go for general purpose and virtualization, yeah then of course you have synergies in what you’re doing in other parts of the network. You have synergies down on the core side. And maybe even without the vertical for other industries, you can start orchestrating the network in a different way. And I think that’s where we are seeing our customers, or at least some of our early adapters, they are going there more forcefully then before.
And that I think is what is happening, that we are getting closer to the gap between what is purpose-built and general purpose is becoming smaller. So some of our customers are now moving. And of course, then together with Intel, we are making that possible, and it’s taken a lot of organization. So I would say it’s customer driven. So it’s on top of the 5G introduction, we also see this virtualization.
Daniel Newman: Yeah, you can pretty much look at how Cloud adoption has gone, and how consumption of services has migrated, and this follows suit with a lot of meeting the customer where they are, and that overwhelming desire in the market to do that.
Now, I want to pause here real quick, what do you have behind you? I’m a little bit of a geek, I see some gear, it feels like it’s there to show off. Are you showing something off there, or-
Per Narvinger: You know, we are still not in-office in this country, so we have to bring some of the gear to the home instead. So what you see here on the top, right, that’s the typical compute piece that you put out by the tower. So a classical purpose-built. But what you are now discussing, is instead of using this kind of hardware, so this is just a reference design from Dan and team, right, but you can see the similarities, right? So these are the stuff you put out in the field to do the compute. Sometime you put it in hubs, so you can hear people talking about baseline hotels, then they have many of them, but you can also have just one of them.
And here you then see that you’re getting closer with this type of generic hardware, and this is a dual-sled version. This one will be capable of also running mid-band, and that’s really what we have announced now together with Intel. So over the last year, we said we can execute low-band, but the true hero band of 5G, that’s when you get the higher through-put, good reach, and that’s the mid-band deployment. And you could definitely run that on one sled like this, and if you like, you could put it more centralized, or you could put it out by the tower as well, right.
So that is where we are… as far as we’ve come now, and we are then feeling comfortable saying, “Look, we’re going to continue to deploy these kind of units in the future as well,” but we all have a vision that we’re going to be able to execute all our RAN functionality also on generic hardware, and that is what we have been driving together with Intel, because it takes a lot actually, and a lot of accelerator technology that goes into this. And I’m sure Dan is excited to talk more about what we’ve actually done with this unit.
Daniel Newman: Yeah, I’m going to come back to that, but let that be a warning to my future interviewees, if you put gear in the background of your interview, I might ask you about it. So let’s hope it’s related to what we’re going to talk about.
Dan, before I move over, because I do actually… That was my next question, I was going to hit you up on the mid-band stuff, but I know Intel has a perspective on the virtualizing Cloud RAN, anything to add to what Per already shared?
Dan Rodriguez: Yeah, absolutely. So when you think about really the journey the market’s been on, and we’ve talked about this as network transformation, it’s really a journey that was sort of about a decade ago, and some of the benefits I’ve heard talked about, actually started in the core network. We’ve gradually seen throughout the LTE time rise and now with 5G, seen that core network really migrate to virtualize network servers that are more softer defined, giving greater flexibility as well as greater automation on the network. And as Per was mentioning, we are seeing those trends start to take off for radio access network. We’re seeing search buyers really look at portions of the radio access network, look at how they can virtualize them, how they can Cloudify them, and the good thing here is, it’s creating a great business opportunity for many companies out there, Ericsson of course, Intel of course, as well as others.
We’re seeing operators really start to move from product trials to deployments, and that’s exciting and I’m definitely excited about participating in this journey with the overall operators.
Daniel Newman: Yeah, absolutely. And as an analyst, I have to think about how I look at the market in its entirety. And so you bring up the mid-band Per, and we hear a lot of different things. There’s a very compelling case about these high band millimeter wave and its potential, and then of course you hear from an operators standpoint, just the density of the rollout of the low band, how broadly it’s been able to be deployed. Although in cases 5G doesn’t really even perform, in some cases low band you’re not even getting much more than what you’ve gotten used to with LTE. And you guys are really, as a partnership, you’re really kind of leaning into this mid-band, and I’ll be candid, it hasn’t been something I’m hearing as much about.
So let’s break this here, why is this such an opportunity? Why is the mid-band the space with 5G, that people should be talking more about?
Per Narvinger: So we typically refer to mid-band as the hero band. I mean, that’s where you typically have a lot of bandwidth, not as much as a millimeter wave, but you can get really good coverage. So I think that is why mid-band has become so attractive. So you can deploy them pretty much on an existing grid that you have, and get the great experience for then end user. But what you are doing here as well is that, of course the first wave that we discussed, the 5Gs were deployed. Of course all our customers, they want to leverage what they have invested in, so we’re always looking at ways of introducing this new technology together with existing networks.
So we feel talking about green field or brown field, that doesn’t really do this justice, we actually have said blue field, because you’re actually taking a new technology and bringing it into an existing network, and of course we provide a bridge there as well. Because in the end, our customers, they want to use, they will over time, need an entire asset, or low band, or mid-band and high band, and that’s the possibility we’re bringing here.
So even if we have deployed a lot of 5G networks, we can now start deploying them in a Cloud way, in a Cloud paradigm, and still leverage what has already been deployed. I think that’s a very strong proposition for our customers, and that makes it possible for them to start exploring these technologies, start seeing what benefits can they get in how you scale in, scale out. I mean of course, a big thing to disaggregate. I mean, softer hardware are totally different or separated, no longer buying everything from Ericsson, they can go buy the hardware from HP, or any preferred OEM of Intel. And that is of course a big shift.
And then see what benefits you can achieve then by orchestration and flexibility.
Daniel Newman: Yeah, absolutely. I want to keep kind of pushing this forward, but something that I would like to get both of your takes on, is the decision to collaborate. So we hear so much about ecosystem and partnership, and of course MWC is a massive show for individual companies to make announcements, it’s also a pretty massive show for companies to come together and make ecosystem announcements. Ericsson and Intel have made many announcements over the years, but what is driving, why are your two companies focusing on collaborating in this particular cloudification of the RAN? And Dan, you’ve been sitting patient a while, so I’m going to throw this one to you first.
Dan Rodriguez: Yeah. No, it’s a great question, and Per and I are both really charged up about other collaboration between Ericsson and Intel here. We’ve really come together to enable high performance Cloud RAN solutions for a wide variety of deployments, and essentially what we’re collaborating on, is to deliver a solution that delivers high capacity that will be able to support even the densest environments, as well as be able to support all sorts of random environment, and even the more kind of stringent ones from a performance perspective.
And we’ve collaborated on our product together. Essentially, obviously Ericsson brings a rich history of knowledge, know-how, and really sorts of innovation on the RAN. Intel obviously has a great understanding of our CPUs and really the entire system. So we collaborated together on our Xeon scalable processors, as well as our accelerator technology. And I would view this, and it is very much so, a long-term collaboration, it is a multi-generational collaboration. It’s a collaboration we’re starting with our current network optimized Xeon scalable processors, as well as our accelerator technology, but we’re also focused on the future, and we’re collaborating on future CPUs such as our Sapphire Rapids, as well as our Granite Rapids processors as well.
Daniel Newman: And I imagine, Per, for Ericsson there’s a number of compelling reasons as well to align to Intel, but of course they’re not your only partner either. So what’s the driving force from your viewpoint?
Per Narvinger: No but that’s of course. I mean, going back to what we talked about in the beginning of the session as well, if you’re going to a world where you have 5G everywhere, I mean enterprises, in the end we see that we’re going to be executing all radio networks, or Cloud RAN on any platform, on any Cloud, right. So we’re going to be working and driving an entire ecosystem, then obviously you need to start somewhere, and Intel is in a poll position here. Of course, also nowadays, if you disaggregate, Intel is also going to be… Intel’s OMs is also going to be engaging with our customers. In the end the customer will decide what platform are they going for, and then we are working closely trying to get the most out of Intel’s platform.
I mean, that’s why we have announced with Intel now, because we see they are in a poll position, then over time I’m sure we’re going to be adding different types of Cloud environment, but also different [inaudible] platforms. So it’s a new type of ecosystem, similar to what you’re seeing on the core side as well, right, but here there is the need also for accelerator technology, which also means that there will be more than one player in the end for sure.
Daniel Newman: Yeah, I think it’s important to point out, that this really is a partnership that’s been collaborating over time, and Dan, you sort of started to allude to how it came about and how it will be part of your next generation Xeon scalable, the Sapphire Rapids. But almost five years of work has gone into this partnership, the two companies have worked together, I think I saw a data point something like a 80% higher RAN capacity through what you’ve been able to co-develop, which it speaks a huge amount for what collaboration can do. And I know every company’s competing for market share, in a lot of cases you have so much horizontal and verticalization, that sometimes you’re competing and cooperating at the same time. But in the end, when the consumer wins, when the consumer benefits, all the players that are involved tend to win as well.
That’s why I always say, I love competition, because competition means innovation, innovation means happy consumers, and it means a great ecosystem of connectivity and applications that we love and use every day. So I want to get to that part now Per, I want to come back to you on this, what it means for the customer. And for you guys, your biggest customer is often the operators and the com service providers. So when the two companies come together, build something like this, roll it out and announce it, how does this help them?
Per Narvinger: We did talk about the disaggregation part right, because that means of course, that the customer can buy the same computer hardware for the entire network. I mean, what has been so far, typically they go to us to buy our gear for one part of the network, and then go to one of our competitors and buy it for the other part of the network. Here they can decide, “I’m going to run this server technology everywhere, and then I’m going to have all my suppliers deliver on it. So then I get the harmonization across the network. I’m going to have the same type of hardware, I’m going to have the same type of orchestration tools across the network, and by that I will have a more efficient operation. Whatever I design for one part of the network, I can reuse in another part for the lifecycle management and the hub reports.”
So of course, then it becomes very important to have the best [inaudible] platform, and then you truly optimize our software for the platform, understand what the instructions that are needed. I mean, that’s where we’ve had great collaboration with Dan’s team, trying to figure out what is needed to make sure we can execute this processing intensive mid-bands on this core server. It’s been a great collaboration, and we keep pushing here. And as I said, we see this as a journey, and we see that we’re going to be able to execute, not just the mid-bands, we will do the low bands. But we’re not going to stop there, we’re going to continue this close collaboration, and then really see how we can optimize and in the end, help our customers to different types of deployments in the future.
Daniel Newman: Yeah, absolutely. And I’m going to bounce over to Dan, but I think really what I was hoping, and you did this perfectly Per, was reiterating the importance of disaggregation. I think sometimes we lose a little bit of meaning inside of the technical jargon, but what we are essentially doing here, and Dan, I’ve cued you up you’re big on the screen now, but we’re allowing that big compute to now be core. We’re getting away from proprietary, we’re opening it up, right? We’re talking about virtualization, we’re talking about opening architectures that now compute in Cloud functions the same way. It’s not unique, it’s not something that’s totally specialized, like this industry has long been kind of guilty of.
You can say it’s worked really well, but as we go forward we want to scale. And so I was really glad you pointed that out, Dan… sorry, Per. But Dan, in terms from the Intel side, this kind of collaboration is defining Intel’s role. You guys have a huge play inside of the com service provider, and inside of the operator space, and sometimes because of all the other big businesses of Intel, people don’t always hear about it, but this had to be a really big moment for your side as well.
Dan Rodriguez: Absolutely. I mean, we look at this, this has been a long-term investment for Intel. A long-term investment in terms of, really delivering platforms that allow service providers a ton of flexibility across multiple deployment scenarios. And it’s pretty exciting that we’ve announced this partnership with Ericsson, to really tackle the toughest challenges with Cloud RAN. And it’s also exciting that Ericsson’s adding 5G mid-band capabilities to their Cloud RAN platform, and that’s great. And it’s also great that, if you look at the state of the overall ecosystem, as Per mentioned, it is a very robust ecosystem out there with many different players across numerous levels in the society to architecture in Cloud RAN.
And I’m definitely bullish on what we’ve accomplished in the core network as an industry and where that’s going, and that’s going to, if you think about the core network being pretty much by 2024-ish, it’s going to be a significant 5GSA core, that’s going to be running across virtualized network servers. And it’s exciting to see companies like Ericsson and others, really start to step into delivering strong Cloud RAN solutions.
And then if you think about Ericsson’s offer here just for a second, that Per mentioned, is that the way Ericsson is approaching this is, they’re approaching it with both their purpose-built systems and their Cloud RAN solutions, in a way that allows their customers a ton of choice in terms of how they deploy really a strong 5G network to tackle multiple deployment scenarios.
Daniel Newman: Yeah, absolutely. I love that Per, that you brought up the blue field by the way. We just need more colored fields. But in all seriousness, I love that you can simply, whether it’s D-RAN, C-RAN, what you’ve essentially talked about with this disaggregation strategy is that, it doesn’t really matter what exists today, you’re going to try to work together to build the simplest transformation. We use the world digital transformation a lot, it’s become a bit of buzz word, but in the reality is, that’s exactly what you’re talking about doing. You’re enabling these mobile operators and carriers, to shift over to a scalable Cloud architecture, that can enable them to grow their businesses infinitely into the future, with the newest technology, and that continues to evolve as new technologies come out.
So I want to take this thing home, and I want to talk about the future, because this is Futurum Tech TV. Per, really appreciate getting to know you and hearing you out here, and getting that live presentation of those boxes behind you. Do you want to run through those again? I’m kidding. What I would love to do though here, to end this, is to kind of talk about what are the plans going forward? You’ve sort of kind of alluded that you’re not stopping here, but what should the market be looking for, expecting, both out of the partnership and then perhaps out of Ericsson as we come out of the MWC 2021?
Per Narvinger: Sorry if I start Dan. So as I said, when you embark on a journey like this, you want to be able to paint ambition, right? So I think a few years back, we were probably more looking at [inaudible] that will be something for indoors, or for baseline hotels sometimes being referred to. I mean, we have a lot of compute in one location. But we see that Cloud technology has taken the viable across the network, then as I said, of course it would be a transformation for most of our customers. They would transform their networks into a complete Cloud solution.
But when I showed the gear behind me, I think what is impressive is that, you can get down in size and power consumption, to throwing them into the distributor section. That means that the vision is that you can have Cloud RAN everywhere, or virtually everywhere if you want to play with words, right? And that is of course a major step, and the accelerator technology has made that possible. I mean, that’s where we have cooperated very closely, but as I said, it’s just the beginning, because for each generation as Dan mentioned, in Xeon, Sapphire, Granite, you’re going to have even more and more power for accelerators, so you will need that.
So making sure that you can handle more and more of course of the traffic that is out there in the networks, and of course over time, also move it up to the really demanding bands and so on. So again, we’re going to have plenty of work over the next year, I’m sure we’re going to have some interesting announcements also next year in Barcelona, and you’re going to see Cloud RAN virtually everywhere. But Dan, how do you see it?
Dan Rodriguez: Yeah, no, thanks Per. Building off what you said is that, first again, I’m very bullish on the overall partnership, and obviously we made a big announcement here, but our two companies are not stopping. We’re going to continue to look at all sorts of deployment scenarios. We were talking a lot about outdoor today, I do see us in the future really examining use case driven scenarios for indoor, campus, enterprise, and a ton of different market opportunities. And I see us working together not only going after public network consumption supporting both consumers, but also businesses, but also looking at some of those enterprise use cases as well. And really helping com service providers monetize and get value for the great network offerings that they are delivering.
So I’m definitely excited about what we’ve already done together as two companies, but also excited about the future, and really the future of our two companies, but also the future of the entire industry.
Daniel Newman: And I couldn’t have ended it any better myself. Dan Rodriguez, Per Narvinger, thank you both so much for joining me here on Futurum Tech TV, the webcast and live on LinkedIn. Good luck to both of you with the rest of MWC 2021, we’ll be keeping our eyes on all things coming out of Intel, Ericsson, and from the event. And hopefully I’ll have you both back some time soon.
Dan Rodriguez: Looking forward to it, thanks for the conversation.
Per Narvinger: Thanks for having us.
Daniel Newman: All right, everybody, thank you so much for tuning in, hit that subscribe button, join us for future episodes. We had some great guests today, we’ll have some great guests coming on soon, and make sure you tune into the rest of MWC 2021. Check the show notes if you’re listening to this on-demand, and learn more about what Ericsson and Intel are doing in the show notes. For now, I’ve got to go, got to say good-bye, but for myself and for our extra special guests today, thanks for tuning in. We’ll see you later.