The 5G Factor: Future of Cloud Gaming, Vodafone’s NB-IoT Deal, IBM Deals With Telefonica and DISH, Nokia’s Silicon Moves – Futurum Tech Webcast
by Shelly Kramer and Ron Westfall | October 12, 2021

In this episode of Futurum’s newest webcast series, The 5G Factor, I’m joined by my colleague and fellow analyst Ron Westfall to explore and break down some of the most exciting news, trends, and partnerships in the 5G ecosystem. In this week’s episode we covered some exciting 5G news, including:

The future of cloud gaming — it’s powered by 5G. The future of cloud gaming is exciting, especially when powered by 5G end-to-end network slicing, which is revolutionizing cloud gaming services. We explore how this capability, the E2E network slicing, has been optimized for cloud virtual reality game streaming using Ericsson’s networks, service orchestration, and monetization tools, all of which will be instrumental in enabling communication services providers (CSPs) to “get a slice” of the action and, more importantly, monetize their networks. Ericsson’s E2E network slicing is definitely something to keep an eye on, as we know it will be a key enabler for innovation and opening up a myriad of 5G opportunities for CSPs across multiple industry segments, including healthcare, government, transportation, energy and utilities, media and entertainment.

Vodafone’s Multi-Million Market NB-IoT Deal is, Well, Pretty Massive. Cellular narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) is in the news this week as UK-based Vodafone is reportedly on the brink of announcing its biggest ever IoT airtime supply deal outside of China. Carrier managed services can serve as a harbinger for how 5G and IoT can work on a mass market level – fleet management, transportation, warehousing, etc. where a mobile IoT is required. Our conversation covered why this deal is a big one and what it marks the beginning of.

IBM Partners with Telefonica for Cloud Native, 5G Core Network Platform. More exciting 5G news of the week is around IBM’s partnership with Telefonica to help the telco implement its UNICA NEXT 5G core network platform. IBM’s intelligent automation software and services will come from IBM’s Global Business Services unit and our conversation uncovered why this is also a very big deal – for both IBM and Telefonica.

DISH Makes a Tasty Treat of its Greenfield Cloud-Native 5G Network with IBM as a Partner. In another win for IBM’s Global Business Services unit, this new smart network will be agile, scalable, and fully virtualized, looking to benefit enterprise customers across a multitude of industry verticals.

Nokia addresses the alarming increase in DDos attacks. With DDos attacks that disrupt network traffic and servers growing by a massive 154% between 2019 and 2020, largely targeting financial services, telecoms, and government agencies, but now spreading out to target businesses of all kinds and all sizes, Nokia’s move here to buid network security into its latest gen silicon is an impressive — and much needed — solution.

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Shelly Kramer: Hello and welcome to this episode of The 5G Factor. This is one of our Futurum Tech Webcast Series and one that my co-host, Ron Westfall, and I, are very excited about, and we’re happy to have you join us here today. And so, in this show, we talk about all things 5G, what’s going on in the market, key moves from certain vendors, what’s happening now, what we see is ahead. As I said, we’re glad to have you with us on this journey.

So we’re going to get right into our show and we’re going to talk about the future of cloud gaming, which is powered by 5G end-to-end network slicing, and some exciting changes as it relates to that. So this is what I think is exciting about this, and Ron, you’re going to get into this in more detail, but one of the things we talk about a lot is how communication services providers, we call them CSPs, can monetize their services and how they can better serve their customers. And this is something that CSPs are really struggling, in some instances, to get their arms around.

But there’s a huge economic opportunity here and an opportunity for a competitive advantage for the CSPs who really understand the things that they can do to monetize their services to their customers. And so, that, I think, is what’s really exciting here about this, is because this is another way for CSPs to get a slice, if you will, of this cloud gaming action and more importantly, monetize their networks. And so, let’s talk a little bit about the end-to-end network slicing that’s been optimized for cloud virtual game streaming. I know that Ericsson is doing this right now. So Ron, talk to us a little bit about that and why it is we’re excited about it.

Ron Westfall: Oh, you bet, Shelly. And yes, 5G monetization is top of mind for all CSPs, and as a result, I think it’s important for us to shine spotlights on use cases, especially ones that have, near time, a monetization opportunity. And as indicated, Ericsson is working with Deutsche Telekom and Samsung to demonstrate that end-to-end network slicing can work specifically for gaming applications. And you hit the nail on the head. What’s Deutsche Telekom’s motivation for doing this? Well, expanding revenue, diversifying revenue streams, and also improving the overall customer experience. And in this particular demo, what they did was create two slices, one for regular enhanced mobile broadband traffic, and the other slice, specifically for the gaming capabilities.

And by doing this demonstration, I think there were three important takeaways, first of all, that the slice worked successfully in a congested network. And that’s going to be important for any major operator, particularly when serving the cloud gaming community, which are located heavily in metro communities, so you have to have that in place in order to really make this work successfully. Secondly, the entire process was automated, and I think we all understand that automation is essential to 5G’s success, particularly when it comes to network slicing and microservices, et cetera, lifecycle management. All of these things require automation, and part of that automation is the third takeaway, is that Ericsson’s BSS platform was used to basically enable that monetization you pointed out to, allowing the charging and billing to take place on a real-time basis and in alignment with a slice that’s created.

And so, with those in place, that allows an operator like Deutsche Telekom to really take it to the next level, like, hey, we have a cloud gaming application that we can actually monetize in the very near future and thus, really accelerate our 5G plans. And I think also, what’s important from this particular demonstration, they used Ericsson’s service orchestration capabilities, and that needs to work with various domain orchestrators, and in this case, obviously, they’re the ones related to cloud gaming. But let’s say I want to fire up microservices or a network slice for something like video surveillance or virtual reality. You require a different set of domain orchestrators, and you need that service orchestrator to serve as that meta-orchestrator, if you were, to enable these capabilities on a use case basis.

And also, it’s important because it assures the alliance of the virtual and cloud data of resources, that have to come together to allow these on-demand use case monetization opportunities to come to the fore. So this is, I think, a very important demonstration because it is validating what we’ve been hearing about for quite some time and it shows that Deutsche Telekom is really putting the pedal to the metal when it comes to, well, okay, the cloud game is one that we can really put some bets on. So yeah, stay tuned. We’ll revisit cloud gaming later on, I’m sure. But also, we’ll look at those other use cases, like the ones I mentioned, such as video surveillance and virtual reality and so on, so good stuff.

Shelly Kramer: Well, and we’ve talked here before about Ericsson, and they’re moving BSS to the cloud and their capabilities in that regard, which are pretty impressive and extensive. And I think that this is a perfect use case of the whole package that CSPs are able to get from Ericsson. It’s the Ericsson network, it’s their service orchestration, it’s their monetization tools. It’s like, we’ve got everything that you need, and I think it’s an important and significant offering. And this is a good example of a use case, as you said, of how OTELCO can use that and really power their own efforts moving forward, and I think we’re going to see more of that, but I love that this is… As I said, we’ve done some interviews with the Ericsson team. We really looked extensively. We’ve done a report with them on moving BSS to the cloud and this is a great example of that particular use case, I think, so good stuff ahead.

Ron Westfall: No doubt, yes.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. Well, moving on, we’re going to talk now about Vodafone’s multimillion market, NB-IoT deal, and in a word, it’s really pretty massive. And while we know a little bit about it, we don’t know a whole lot about it yet, but it’s still cool enough that we wanted to talk about it here.

So cellular narrow band IoT, which we call NB-IoT, it’s in the news this week as UK-based Vodafone is reportedly on the brink of announcing its biggest-ever IoT airtime supply deal outside of China. Carrier-managed services can serve as a harbinger for how 5G and IoT can work on the mass market level with things like fleet management, transportation, warehousing, and a bunch of areas where mobile IoT is required. What we know about this deal is that it’s with a yet unnamed manufacturer, it breaks the million mark on connection volume, and it’s the beginning of what we see as large OEMs coming to market, and this is purportedly the first market to be built only for IoT. So what have you been reading about this, Ron?

Ron Westfall: Well, yes, the same takeaway, Shelly, and this is exciting because one thing we’ve been hearing an awful lot about, how can the CSPs monetize new services, and certainly, mass IoTs have come to the forefront, particularly industrial IoT applications. And this, I think, is interesting because Vodafone is showing that, yes, we are bringing together the key capabilities that are required to make this work, because previously, at least the CSPs, had issues with the billing and-

Shelly Kramer: Roaming.

Ron Westfall: … interoperability. Yes, those. And so, I think it’s the interoperability aspect that’s certainly a major here. That’s why they have enlisted this OEM partner. And the fact is, Vodafone is saying, “Hey, we can do this across 55 networks today. Stay tuned because we’re present in 180 to 190 networks,” and so this definitely has more upside in terms of mass market potential. And I think what’s also important to note here is that the current implementation, pre-5G, is using 2G, 3 to 4G/LTE capabilities.

However, I think it’s anticipating the fact when you’re taking the use cases to the next level. And you, I think, have outstanding examples when it requires mobility as part of the IoT implementation. And I think places like warehousing and fleet management, transportation, are just well-suited for that, so I think we can anticipate, if not Vodafone, but certainly operators looking to bring 5G and mass IoT together to support those particular areas. And further out, something like manufacturing can come on board for a specific, blending 5G and mass IoT. Vodafone is, again, creating headlines that stand out because they’re proving this is something that could work for real, and so we should hope to see more announcements like this over the next year, if not from Vodafone adding, say, another use case, but another operator saying, “Hey, we’re getting on this bandwagon too.”

Shelly Kramer: Right, right. One of the things I ran across as I was researching this, I thought… You mentioned the challenges around billing and roaming and interoperability. Those are big challenges, and one of the things that Phil Skipper, who’s the group head of IoT strategy at Vodafone, said about this was, “Yeah, these challenges exist, and this has been a long process, a long game.” And part of the reason it’s been a long game is because OEM devices had to build this NB-IoT functionality into their products, which takes time. So now, what we’re seeing is that the networks are stronger, the roaming is in place, and devices are finally rolling off the production line. And all of this is what he called breaking the scale barrier, so I think that these are very exciting times.

Again, Vodafone hasn’t disclosed yet, its OEM partner, or the nature of this deal, or any particulars around that. We assume an announcement will be coming. That said, what we do know, it’s a multimillion, multi-market deal with IoT units going ready connected rather than bootstrapped for remote provisioning, and that’s going to be happening in some 20-plus markets in Europe and in other places where Vodafone has roaming partners and/or co-ops. So look for more good news ahead on this front from Vodafone, and we’ll be talking about that when we know more.

Ron Westfall: No doubt. In fact, yeah, with signup fees of only €1,299 for 10 years, at least for the startup package, yes, yeah, that definitely, I think, will garner onboarding. And that will really kindle the Vodafone use case, because right now, it’s really about that volume gain they pointed out and emphasize, and I think the pricing, right off the shoot here, will be a real difference-maker in really advancing this managed IoT services from the CSPs, no doubt.

Shelly Kramer: There’s nothing about that pricing that’s not attractive, for sure.

Ron Westfall: Right. I’ll-

Shelly Kramer: All right-

Ron Westfall: … just sign up just for the pricing.

Shelly Kramer: So we can check it out. All right, that’s great. All right, well, moving on, we’re going to talk now about IBM partnering with Telefónica for cloud-native 5G core network platform. And what we’re looking at here in this partnership is that Telefónica is going to use IBM’s intelligent automation software and services to implement UNICA Next, which is the company’s first-ever cloud-native 5G core network program. And this is all about intending to allow Telefónica the ability to be agile, reliable, and efficient, and be able to provide continuous optimization of its services.

What I like about this, and I know you’re going to touch on this in a little bit more depth, Ron, is that this partnership will involve IBM’s Global Business Services unit, which is a consultancy and a digital transformation arm of IBM, as well as Red Hat and Juniper networking to deploy this cloud-native platform. So let’s talk about this, Ron. Let’s talk about how this is going to power Telefónica’s open, secured, intelligent, and highly automated network.

Ron Westfall: Yeah, no, this is an important announcement for two reasons. One is that the reason why Telefónica selected IBM is for its Cloud Pak for Network Automation solution, which as you pointed out, Shelly, is being supplied by IBM Global Services. And that is really shining the spotlight on AI technology and why it’s essential for 5G network builds, and well, just that, to be successful in any 5G network deployment. And that is the AI engine along with machine learning algorithms are required for that automation piece. It includes the automation of, in this case, the 5G core, and it requires automation in terms of being able to do the network slicing, et cetera, so I think this is definitely very important.

And as you pointed out, IBM is working with its subsidiary, Red Hat, using the OpenShift technology, as well as Juniper’s Apstra technology, which is important for automating data center fabric networking, for example. And I think what’s also key here is that, okay, we understand AI is central to advancing, not just the 5G core network capabilities, but really, Telefónica’s overall open 5G missions, so this is important to show that IBM is kind of playing a driver’s seat role in this particular combination. And that’s the second, I think, important takeaway, is that almost all of these announcements are having a very alliance-flavored aspect to it, which is-

Shelly Kramer: Strategic partnerships.

Ron Westfall: Exactly. So I think it’s validating the fact that 5G is very much an ecosystem play, whether you’re talking about open RAN or open 5G core capabilities, et cetera, eXhaul capabilities. All of these are requiring that multi-vendor implementation that’s already been in place, but it’s really, I think, broadening the ecosystem options for the operators. So that’s good news for everybody because that allows the operators to improve their bargaining position to pass cost savings on to customers, and again, take advantage of all these 5G capabilities, accelerating service deployments, delivering real-time network slicing-based services, et cetera. So yeah, I think it’s definitely important to understand why AI is so critical to 5G, and this announcement really crystallizes that.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely, absolutely. Well, exciting times ahead, for sure, on this one. I keep looking. It’s great to see what IBM is doing with this Global Business Services unit, which is a relatively new thing, and so it’s interesting to watch this evolve as well.

Now, speaking of IBM, we’re going to touch briefly here on news around IBM and DISH and how DISH is going to rely on IBM to help automate its first greenfield cloud-native 5G network, and this will be a new smart network. It’s agile, scalable, fully virtualized, and yet another partnership with IBM’s Global Business Services, and great to see IBM joining there. I think there’s an extensive roster of vendors that DISH is working with to help build this nationwide, virtualized O-RAN 5G broadband network. So anyway, it’s great to see IBM slide in there as well. Ron, talk with us a little bit more about that.

Ron Westfall: Oh, you bet, Shelly. Yes, I think it’s the same queuing here. It’s like, okay, IBM Global Services, Cloud Pak for Network Automation, once again. And in this case, one major capability it’s enabling is intent-based orchestration, and that, in this case, comes to DISH’s operational and business processes. And so, again, IBM is providing those AI engines that are like the brains for this very challenging deployment because as you pointed out, IBM, when it was announced as a selected vendor by DISH, became number 30, at least amongst the publicly-announced vendors, and so some of it is par for the course. For example, 12 of them are tower suppliers, which are going to be needed for any major network.

But there is a serious orchestration challenge, and this is where IBM comes in and can provide that orchestration glue, if you will, to help with the integration process for DISH and working with all these different vendors. And again, the AI capabilities are not only powering intent-based orchestration, but again, that monetization piece, the business processes, and just the overall lifecycle management of the operation. So we’ll be hearing more about lifecycle management, intent-based orchestration, and again, showing why IBM is winning these deals, because it can provide that AI intelligence/machine learning algorithms to provide the foundation for enabling all these other key capabilities.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, that’s pretty cool. So we’ve talked about cloud gaming, we’ve talked about Ericsson in that role, we’ve covered what’s going on with Vodafone, we’ve talked a little bit about IBM, Telefónica, IBM and DISH. We are now going to slide over and talk about Nokia.

So Nokia is doing something that I think is really exciting because as much as I love 5G, I also love security and the important concept and reality of the need to build everything with a security-first viewpoint, everything on a security-focused foundation, and that’s a lot of what’s going on here with the news out of Nokia. So denial-of-service attacks are a big deal, and we’ve seen a huge rise in denial-of-service attacks. And what those things are is that they disrupt network traffic and servers, basically overwhelming the surrounding infrastructure with a flood of traffic. And so, all of a sudden, you can’t use your network, you can’t access your network, your website is not accessible. It’s really a big deal.

I want to talk a little bit about these kinds of attacks and why they’re so dangerous. Basically, we saw, between 2019 and 2020, the number of DDoS attacks grew by 154%, okay? And generally speaking, financial services, telecoms, and government agencies have been the sectors most targeted by these attackers, but actually, as this has evolved in the last year or so, anyone, any organization in any sector is vulnerable to a DDoS attack. Why? Because they’re incredibly easy to execute. They’re like hacking 101 for threat actors, okay? And these hackers, they don’t use malware, they don’t use ransomware to hold a network hostage. They just threaten the network with one of these attacks, which will mean it’ll completely shut down.

So we saw, between January of 2020 and March of this year, DDoS attacks increased by about 55%, and another 50% of these attacks actually used multiple vectors as part of their attack. And this is totally nerdy, but the biggest attack over the last 15 months measured 500 Gbps and used no fewer than five different attack vectors, okay? So we’ve seen these attacks increase in 2020 alone by 20%. And again, totally nerdy, from a network traffic standpoint, these attacks that are used to flood and disrupt networks have grown from about 75 megabytes about a year ago to 1.5 terabytes, which is a hundred percent increase, which is more of an increase than video gaming or video streaming has brought on networks, so this is a huge strain on network, it’s a huge risk to networks.

And so, okay, what does all this have to do with CSPs? Well, they have to protect their networks against denial-of-service attacks. And in many instances in the past, CSPs have treated their networks and the security as nice to have or secondary, but not a foundational priority, and not only… That also has to include encryption capabilities along with attack prevention.

So all of this nerdy information sets the stage for why what Nokia is doing here is so important and why this announcement is really such a big deal. So they’ve got fifth-generation routing silicon, which they’re calling FP5, and its goal is to be able to provide the ability to lock down an entire network. It’s simple, it’s more affordable than the solutions that were available before, it’s built into the network, it’s silicon-based, and it’s actually in the routers themselves. So that means it offers the lowest latency possible, which is important because you need low-latency services for 5G.

The other part of this is that the silicon allows for the encryption of traffic at the edge, no matter how it’s being transported, and at a very high speed. So when a CSP needs security on the network, they turn it on, the functionality is already built-in, it’s an integrated part of the network, you can turn it on at any time, whenever you feel like it, there’s my dog, and it doesn’t impact performance because it’s an integrated part of the network. So I totally nerded out about this. I think this is really exciting news, and I have a feeling you feel the same way.

Ron Westfall: Why, yes, I do. And I think, yeah, you hit the major point, Shelly, is that the new Nokia silicon is aligning with the key requirements for what can be characterized as Routed Optical Networking, or RON, as the acronym would go. And what is important is that it’s enabling line-rate encryption, so clearly, Nokia is addressing a major requirement for any CSP out there, especially when it comes to, say, data center implementations.

And I think there are other aspects here that make it very attractive, first of all, that they are now offering 800-gigabit interfaces as part of their routing portfolio, so sort of like it’s not too soon to talk about 6G, it’s not too soon to start talking about 800-gig routing interfaces, and that’s part of that scalability challenge you already hit on. The other thing that I think is going to be helpful for Nokia here is the fact that with the FP5 silicon technology, they’re also able to deliver 75% reduction in power consumption on a per-bit basis. That number jumps out because-

Shelly Kramer: That’s huge.

Ron Westfall: … we know, yes, yeah, security is essential, but it should require trade-offs in power consumption because of the overhead associated with encryption, for example. And so, this is a very compelling solution, and for that reason, I think it’s reinforcing what I believe, is that Nokia is pretty good at consistently demonstrating their portfolio-wide security capabilities. Yes, the other players, like Juniper and Cisco and so forth, that compete in the Routed Optical Networking realm, do the same thing, but I think Nokia is just more consistent about, particularly when it comes to silicon-level security, being just that fundamental in terms of how they see the entire security landscape. And they also issue annual basis security threat indexes that have really done a great job of helping identify the problem with IoT security, for example. And so, yeah, these, I think, are very important takeaways from the Nokia announcement here.

Shelly Kramer: So great things from Nokia, and we are going to wrap our show by talking a little bit, again, a little bit more about Nokia and some concerns Nokia had with the O-RAN ALLIANCE, on which you are an expert extraordinaire, Ron. And so, let’s chat briefly about the news that Nokia has resumed work with the O-RAN ALLIANCE in spite of the concerns that they expressed early on, so talk with us a little bit about what this means moving forward. I know we’re still not out of the woods as it relates in general to the O-RAN ALLIANCE, but let’s talk a little bit about what you see about that.

Ron Westfall: Yes, and I think when we talked about the O-RAN ALLIANCE last time, Nokia had basically stopped technical work, but it was resumed after two weeks, so it’s important to understand that. And indeed, that whole situation, it can be characterized as just what it was, a kerfuffle, one that was pretty easily resolved. And I had mentioned that the US Government could have issued clarification to help resolve the situation, but it didn’t come to that. That would have taken more time. Of course, the O-RAN ALLIANCE itself issuing clarifications on participation and procedure documents and also did the step of kicking out one of the Chinese companies that were on the entity list because of dues issues, Kindroid, specifically, and so that allowed Nokia to have its concern addressed and continue.

Now, the however is that out of the three companies that are on the entity list, two are still part of the O-RAN ALLIANCE, specifically Inspur and Phytium, as well as the fact that, according to some counts, that there is at least 44 companies that are part of the broad O-RAN ALLIANCE that are China-based. And so, that is creating concern in the US Congress in terms of, can this warrant a broader look into what does open RAN technology have in terms of long-term security implications, as well as economic implications? And so, that would inevitably look into the O-RAN ALLIANCE specifically.

Now, the White House has pointed to, for example, the Open RAN Policy Coalition as an alternative organization that can help drive this. But as the namesake of the organization indicates, it’s focused on policy. It doesn’t become involved in the technical work. And so, it’s a fine balancing act, and I believe that they’re going to be able to do that within the O-RAN ALLIANCE, along with the work that’s going on with the other recognized standards bodies, such as ETSI and 3GPP. And as a result, I think we’ll see that because the O-RAN ALLIANCE has 29 major CSPs as part of the body, and that will continue to be a major driver for this to advance overall O-RAN and open RAN work.

That is going to be critical to make 5G, again, successful, not just in terms of implementing open RAN, which has a lot of momentum behind it, not just because of the O-RAN ALLIANCE, but because, again, governments basically advocating open RAN as a way to improve competitiveness, but also a lesson reliance on supply chain concerns or national security implications of working with China-based companies. Overall, it’s good news, but there is still a little smoke when it comes to US Government scrutiny about, what is the degree of participation with the China-based companies, and as a result, are there any concerns that need to be emphasized because of that?

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. Well, thanks for that overview. I will also add that the O-RAN ALLIANCE made changes to the participation documents and procedures to address these issues, and they put out a statement that encapsulates all of that. I will include that in our show notes, in case you want to take a deeper dive into that.

But with that, my friend, Ron Westfall, and I will wrap up our 5G Factor webcast. We thank you for joining us today, whether you’re hanging out with us on LinkedIn Live, or whether you’re watching this on YouTube, or streaming this through your favorite podcast streaming platform. And however it is that you choose to consume this content, if it’s YouTube, hit the subscribe button, if it’s on a podcast, hit the subscribe button, and if it’s on LinkedIn and you’re not yet connected with Ron and I, let’s fix that, so send us a connection request and we’d love to get acquainted. With that, that wraps our show. Thanks, Ron, for hanging out today, and we’ll see you again next time.

Ron Westfall: Great day.

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.