In this episode of The 5G Factor, a Futurum Research production, I’m joined by my co-host and colleague, Ron Westfall for a conversation about all things 5G, the rapidly expanding 5G ecosystem, partnerships that are driving 5G initiatives forward, and more.
Our conversation in today’s episode of The 5G Factor included:
T-Mobile and Verizon and The Super Bowl
T-Mobile and Verizon rocked LA’s SoFi arena during the Super Bowl showdown this past weekend. Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon shared an image on Twitter of a speed test on a Verizon mobile device showing download speeds of 2936.6 and upload speeds of 125.58.
Image credit: Cristiano Amon, Twitter
T-Mobile, who boasts a state-of-the-art 5G system at SoFi, not only made it possible for thousands of fans to be on their devices during the showdown, but their Super Bowl ads featuring Dolly Parton and her goddaughter, Miley Cyrus, were as clever as they were taunting, making jabs at competitors Verizon and AT&T.
How 5G Core Will Help Unlock the Full Power of 5G and The Role Ericsson is Playing
Moving on to 5G core, we talked about the key role 5G core will play for communications services providers (CSPs) in unleashing 5G potential. We’ve seen more service providers launch and switch on 5G networks over the course of the last year, but we are far from full speed ahead by CSPs on that front. The reality is that the evolution from 4G to 5G is likely to play a key role in CSPs ability to compete, grow revenue, and deliver what their customers are looking for. The buildout of 5G, however is different – and that’s where 5G core comes in. Ericcson is doing some interesting stuff here and Ron walked us through an update there.
Ericsson and Kollmorgen Test 5G for Industrial Robots
Kollmorgen, a Swedish based manufacturer has partnered with Ericsson and is now exploring how 5G can enhance mobile robots in industrial/manufacturing settings. They are seeing some great results testing wifi against 5G and we see more good things on the horizon there.
Cisco Enters the Private 5G Market
It’s a crowded market, but Cisco is diving in. Private 5G networks aren’t new, and we’ve talked a lot about what AT&T, Verizon, Nokia, Google, Amazon, Ericsson and others are doing with private 5G networks. Cisco, however, says that what they are doing won’t compete with telcos’ private 5G. Our discussion centered around Cisco’s presence in the enterprise and how this move is a smart one, for a variety of reasons.
Vodafone UK to Deploy Oracle Tech to Support 5G Standalone Network Core
We wrapped up the show discussing the selection of Oracle by Vodafone UK to spearhead network policy, with a view toward making more informed, more intelligent policy decisions as well as gaining the ability to test and deploy new services for its standalone 5G network. This is cloud native network at work, and a great example of how technology can be used to benefit customers quickly, and in big ways.
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Shelly Kramer: Hello, and welcome to this episode of The 5G Factor. This is a Futurum Tech Webcast series focused on all things 5G, and I’m joined today by my co-host and fellow analyst here at Futurum Research, Ron Westfall. Hello, Ron. Always a pleasure to see you.
Ron Westfall: You bet, Shelly, likewise. And yeah, taking a break from the Winter Olympics with the Mobile World Congress Olympics ahead of us. So this is, I think, great timing on our part.
Shelly Kramer: Absolutely, absolutely. Well, speaking of great timing, we’re going to kick off our show today talking about 5G and the Super Bowl. And I have to admit that I had no dog in that race and I cared not… I mean, truly, at one point in time on Sunday, I had to Google, who are the Bengals playing? So please don’t throw things at me when you hear that, but when it’s not your team and you’re not a rabid football fan… The Bengals beat us, and I was so happy to see them playing. They lost. That kind of made me happy too. Please don’t throw things at me. But what I always enjoy, and I know many people do, is many of the ads that are featured during the Super Bowl.
But one thing that I noticed early on was, Los Angeles’s SoFi Stadium is a 5G-enabled stadium, and it was packed to the brim, and Qualcomm’s CEO, Cristiano Amon, shared a speed test from a Verizon phone during the game, and it was really awesome. He showed a screen cap of download speeds of 29, 39.6 Mbps and upload speeds of 125.58, and that is very cool. That is fast in either direction, and with a stadium filled with celebrities and fans and everybody using their phones like crazy, that’s what you want to see, right? So that was pretty be exciting.
And then I’ll move on here and talk about Super Bowl ads. In Super Bowl ads, 5G was a theme there as well. We saw some ads from Verizon and I saw a campaign from T-Mobile that I thought was really clever, featuring Dolly Parton and her goddaughter, Miley Cyrus, teaming up to fight the good fight and do it for the phones, promoting its 5G network, which is, as we’ve covered here on our most recent show, T-Mobile’s network has been rated the fastest 5G network in the country. And T-Mobile’s Extended Range 5G network covers some 310 million people nationwide, with 200 million covered by T-Mobile’s super-fast Ultra Capacity 5G. That’s a mouthful.
And we’ve seen also, T-Mobile boasts, of course, hundreds of upgraded and newly installed 5G microsites and small cells and 5G upgrades at LAX, and we’re seeing that across the country, at airports across the board. They’ve got a new state of the art 5G system at SoFi Stadium, which is funny because I just talked about Verizon’s speed test at SoFi, and enhancements in other event venues, so it’s an exciting time, and delivering blazing speed, of course, is what T-Mobile and all telco providers are all about.
And I thought it was just hilarious. If you didn’t see the Dolly Parton ad, she talks a little bit about, when she sees a problem, she tries to find a solution, and she’s got to get something off of her chest, and so she reaches into her somewhat, storeyed, ample bosom, and into her top, and grabs out her cell phone and talks about the campaign, talks about the ad, talks about 5G phones, shouldn’t be trapped, unlimited 5G networks, and you should rescue your phone and act today. This is an aggressive marketing campaign that, of course, taps into the power of these two celebrities, and they have very distinctive audiences. Dolly Parton has an audience really that comprises of all ages, Miley’s audience is, generally speaking, a younger group, and 5G did… not 5G, T-Mobile did some interesting things in terms of donating to a charity that Miley’s passionate about, that serves homeless, and donating to Dolly’s charity, so it was just a really cool… I enjoyed that spot more than many of the others at the Super Bowl. Did you happen to see it, Ron?
Ron Westfall: Yes, I did, and I think what really helped was that the Super Bowl went down to the wire. It was actually an exciting game, so that kept folks captive, paying attention to the commercials that are always highly promoted and highly anticipated. And as a result, since it wasn’t a bore fest, I think that just created a great market opportunity to really elevate 5G’s profile across general audiences. We’re getting past early adoption phase. There’s clearly been a lot of investment in nationwide 5G capabilities here in the US, but certainly, in other key parts of the world, Asia and Europe, et cetera. It’s an oncoming fabric that will enable better 5G experiences, at the very least, a better bandwidth and lower latency.
And I think it’s also interesting that 5G is certainly a way for the mobile operators to differentiate amongst each others. And so, T-Mobile is taking, I think, a early step in that regard in comparing itself to Verizon, and as you noted, Shelly, having more coverage capabilities and so forth. And I think it’s also important to note that, that also includes fixed wireless access capabilities. I think that we’ll see more of FWA as the operators try to figure out how to get broadband out to a broader audience, particularly in rural areas and outer suburban areas where it’s just very difficult to cost-justify fiber to all those particular locations. Ideally, yes, you run fiber out to every location, but economically, it’s just not feasible in the near future.
And as a result, we can anticipate that FWA will play an important role where it’s just not possible to get fiber out, and that particularly applies to places where copper legacy connections are pretty much a hindrance. That includes DSL on the telco side, as well as older cable DOCSIS implementations. And so, yeah, this is very exciting. I think per what we’re talking about with the 5G capabilities, when it comes to 5G FWA, T-Mobile can say that they actually have over 640,000 customers to date, whereas Verizon is only about 223,000, and that they can reach more than 30 million, whereas Verizon has about 20 million. And that, I think, is great news because this is the competition that we all value in terms of pushing forward cutting-edge technologies, let alone technologies that’ll have a society-wide impact, such as 5G.
Shelly Kramer: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Well, all in all, I thought it was a very clever campaign and it was an aggressive campaign. There was even a tagline in one of the ads that Dolly did, that said, “Rescue your AT&T phone, act today,” which I thought was really interesting.
Okay, so moving on, we’re going to talk now about 5G core and the key role that 5G core will play for communication services providers in really unleashing their 5G potential. So I know we’ve seen more CSPs launch and turn on 5G networks over the course of the last year. We are far from full speed ahead or massive adoption on that front, and we know that the evolution from 4G to 5G is likely to pay… we talk about this a lot, is likely to play a key role in communication services providers’ ability to compete, to grow revenue, and to deliver what it is their customers are looking for and their customers’ demand. But the build out of 5G is different and that’s where 5G core comes in. Talk with us a little bit about that, Ron.
Ron Westfall: Yeah, I think with Mobile World Congress ahead of us in… just around the corner, I think it’s important to get a level set about 5G here. We have been singing the praises of 5G with the Super Bowl commercials, and what has enabled that is what’s called a non-standalone implementation, where the mobile operators had to use their existing 4G LTE networks and, effectively, combine it with a new 5G offering, and so that is a fundamental step. It’s just economic reality and a whole host of capabilities that have to be built before a mobile operator can cut over to what is called a 5G standalone network. And that is really the, if you will, the holy grail for mobile operators, is getting to the 5G standalone network, and NSA is a stepping stone toward that.
And so, we’re seeing progress in that area. I think one key aspect is that the mobile operators understand they have to implement what’s called a 5G core, and that allows them to operate 5G new radio capabilities, for example, without having to continually interwork with the 4G LTE network. And so, what we have today is what’s called dual connection mode, and that is really compromising the ability of the 5G networks to reach their maximum potential. It creates more complexity in the access part of the network, and it also increases energy requirements and so forth, and so fundamentally, we know the mobile operators want to move on from that. And one key part of that is demonstrating that 5G core is ready for prime time. And I think we’re seeing that with a very important partnership between Ericsson and Vodafone Germany, as well as Vodafone UK. Focusing on Vodafone Germany because I think it’s demonstrating how a mobile operator can really get this kick-started, to really get the market motivated to like, okay, this is where we could see some difference makers.
And I believe, with the 5G core, we can see these more compelling use cases, for example, on the consumer side, multiplayer AR gaming. I think that is definitely something that will gain more traction as soon as 5G standalone networks are available. And likewise, on the enterprise side, Industry 4.0 applications, such as the virtual factory maintenance, that is getting a lot of traction and attention. And I think that’s going to become more valid during the course of 2022, but certainly, we’ll find out more at Mobile World Congress, but certainly, looking further ahead, that definitely is the direction.
And I think this is something that is just enabling the mobile operator to really have a platform that can enable that network slicing, where they can have a dedicated network or a private network that is very specific to that customer’s need. And so, that can definitely catalyze, for example, Internet of things capabilities that we’ve heard a lot about. 5G and IoT were joined at the hip, and we haven’t really seen a whole lot of 5G-IoT capabilities. But, well, good news is, 5G core will enable that, I think, to become definitely more mainstream, as well as, again, enabling that programmability, that per use case networking.
That will be, I think, so attractive because if you’re an enterprise or a business or whatever, you definitely want a network that’s going to align with your fundamental business objectives and not having to shoehorn capabilities or having to compromise on being able to focus on your top-most business objectives. So yeah, I think this is a showcase that is going to, again, be very well-timed at Mobile World Congress. I think what’s actually very interesting about this particular partnership between Ericsson and Vodafone Germany is that it’s showing that container-based, cloud-native core capabilities are being implemented, that this is something that is being validated in proof of concept, and testing, and so forth, and now, let’s put the pedal to the metal and let’s get this out to the mass market.
Shelly Kramer: Absolutely, absolutely. One of your favorite phrases, let’s put the pedal to the metal. I like it.
Well, that was good stuff. Okay, moving right along, you mentioned Ericsson. We’re going to talk a little bit now about a partnership between Ericsson and a Swedish-based company called Kollmorgen, who are testing 5G for industrial robots. And so, as I said, Kollmorgen is a Swedish-based… Let me try this again. Kollmorgen is a Swedish-based manufacturer, and the company joined Ericsson’s Industry 4.0 partner program last April. And they’re now exploring how 5G can enhance mobile robots in partnership with Ericsson, and they’re working to prove that the company’s NDC solutions are 5G-ready. And so, I thought this was interesting, and again, we’re going into Mobile World Congress, and lots of things will be on display there, including things like this.
And so, what’s happened is that Kollmorgen has performed tests that, so far, appear to be promising. They’re testing 5G capabilities against Wi-Fi, and the tests were run using a private 5G network setup, something that we talk a lot about around here, in addition to trials in a 4G public network. And what they’re trying to do is, they’re trying to show that Kollmorgen’s NCD solutions are communication-agnostic, which is kind of a big deal. And the recent test switched a Wi-Fi comms link with a 5G one in one of the vehicle control units. And the results were that there was absolutely no difference in stability on either the 5G or the Wi-Fi network. That’s what you want, right? And so, Kollmorgen’s NDC, I think I said it incorrectly last time, NDC products include hardware, software, navigation capabilities that help improve the efficiency of autonomous guided vehicles, which are used in manufacturing and warehouse settings.
And the company’s clients are not small. They include companies like Toyota Material Handling Europe and Jungheinrich AG, and I probably butchered that, Mitsubishi’s Logisnext Europe, and others. And the company’s products are also used by makers of AGBs in creating driverless logistics automation solutions, so I thought that this is… We do a lot. We’re actually working on a research project right now, focusing on warehousing, automation, robotic solutions, and so this caught my eye, and you know what, I think that… Props here to programs like Ericsson’s Industry 4.0 partnership program, because being able to partner with companies who are doing and developing cool solutions like this, and using the expertise and the technology of Ericsson and their team, that’s how we get… We’ve talked a lot here before, Ron, about smart partnerships and how they’re really the key to great progress moving forward. And I think this is an example of a smart partnership and getting some really good results there, so I thought it was cool.
Ron Westfall: Yeah, and cool, it is. I think, in addition to smart partnerships, are also smart acquisitions. And as we know, Ericsson acquired Cradlepoint for over a billion dollars and is now in the process of acquiring Vonage for $6.2 billion, and clearly, these bets are targeted at the enterprise space, the Industry 4.0 arena. And I think this is a smart moves on Ericsson’s part for the reasons you outline, Shelly, in terms of these really fascinating partnerships and pushing forward these robotic capabilities, which always captures the imagination when you’re seeing it being done in a real world fashion.
But also, it’s quite simply, a target-rich opportunity. There are over 14 million industrial sites around the world, and you don’t have to capture every single one of them, obviously, but certainly, a key percentage of that is just clearly a way for Ericsson and its partners to define success, such as Kollmorgen, which sounds like a really interesting prog band, and that’s how I can remember the name of this new partnership. It’s definitely one that I’ll be paying attention to.
Shelly Kramer: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Like I said, we’re elbows deep in a research project on this very topic, and so what was happening there caught my eye. I thought it was interesting.
So with that, we’re going to move on and we’re going to talk about Cisco and Cisco’s entree into the private 5G market. And again, we touched on this earlier, we talk a lot about private 5G here, and it’s a crowded market, but Cisco is diving in. Private networks are not new. We’ve seen companies like AT&T, Verizon, Amazon, Ericsson, and others doing some really cool stuff with private G networks. Cisco says that what they’re doing won’t compete with Telco’s private 5G. Ron, talk with us a little bit more about what you know about that.
Ron Westfall: Well, I think you’re hitting the nail on the head, Shelly. The fact is that Cisco’s entering a already crowded 5G private network market, and so that begs the question, why? Well, it’s very, I think, straightforward. The fact is that Cisco has a huge enterprise presence and huge influence across the enterprise realm, and so this is something that’s well suited for them to address. And I’m certainly looking forward to hearing more details about this initiative at Mobile World Congress, where they are going to, again, showcase what their 5G private network offering is about.
And so, one key aspect is, hopefully, more details on the mid-band spectrum that they will be supporting in terms of this offering. And as we know, many organizations are using mid-band CBRS spectrum in order to initiate and also use 5G private networking, as well as 4G and 5G private networking capabilities. And so, this is, I think, something that Cisco will, obviously, address, and so this is something that we’ll have to wait for more detail on.
And I think it’s going to be interesting because with this crowded mix, yes, you have Ericsson and Nokia, who are high-pedigree 5G equipment suppliers competing in this space. Certainly, the Verizons and other major operators are already targeting the space, AT&T, naturally, and likewise, the major cloud players. You have, obviously, Amazon and Google. And so now, the operators and the cloud players are kind of eyeing each other down, like, okay, who’s going to be the first one to put that proverbial knife in the back-
Shelly Kramer: Right, we’re-
Ron Westfall: … when it comes to these market-
Shelly Kramer: We’re going to-
Ron Westfall: … opportunities? And-
Shelly Kramer: We’re going to duke it out.
Ron Westfall: Right, and then, there are the startups like Betacom. And so, I think Cisco can actually make a difference here because with all the attention that’s been paid to the space, it hasn’t really been overwhelming, in terms of market expansion. We’re seeing some of the initial growth projections not quite panning out. And I don’t think Cisco by itself is going to cause a massive uptick, but I think it can move the needle because, again, what we are talking about, the fact that it is such a major player in the enterprise space, I think this will help adoption across more enterprises, in terms of using 5G private networking that wasn’t quite there before because it was, for example, maybe a startup that was making the offering, or they aren’t quite sure about using a cloud provider for 5G private networking, et cetera.
And I think one thing that Cisco was keen on emphasizing is the fact that their offering can be used by a mobile operator. This is not a direct competition offering at all. And so, we could anticipate a fair amount, I believe, of service providers, quite simply, white labeling the Cisco offering and making their own brand. And so, I think this will actually help rekindle more interest in 5G private networking, which is there. It’s definitely there. It’s just, how aggressive will this market advance over the next couple of years plus is now… There’s more hedging, and I think this will help dampen some of that hedging because of Cisco’s entry into this market.
Shelly Kramer: Absolutely, and as you mentioned early on, they have the enterprise customer base, they have the trust of the enterprise customer base. There’s a lot to be said for partnering with that, depending on the initiatives you’re trying to roll out, so it’ll be interesting. We will, of course, look for more information from Cisco on that front and keep our eyes on what’s happening there, for sure.
Ron Westfall: I agree, and I think one more thing I want to add is that it will be a consumption-based model, pay-as-you-go as a service, and I think that will also help. They’re not going to be locked into some two-year contract, like with the initial mobile phones or any smartphone offerings and things like that. I think this will definitely entice the enterprises to definitely investigate more because they’re not going to be in a lock-in contract to get their private network up and running.
Shelly Kramer: Yeah. No, and I think that that’s really an important point, Ron, that you mentioned. I think that people are… not only enterprises, but organizations of all size are really realizing that when you’re looking at adopting some kind of technology solution or any kind of solution, it’s like, can I avoid vendor lock-in, because the digital landscape changes so quickly, needs change so quickly, consumption-based models are so attractive. And really, situations where you can enter into a relationship with a vendor and you know you’re not going to get locked in, I think that that gives a lot of peace of mind.
So I think that’s important, regardless of what you’re selling, to think about how you can craft your offering in such a way that it is consumption-based and it’s something that doesn’t tie a customer in on a long-term basis. I just don’t think that’s good business, really. I mean, it is good business for the brand, but it’s not good business for customers, and I think customers are getting savvy enough that they’re saying, “We don’t want that.”
Ron Westfall: Yeah. Well, you’re saying that across many market segments. It’s not just telecommunications, but for-
Shelly Kramer: Across the board.
Ron Westfall: … different car service and so forth. Yeah, there’s just, I think, more of that flexibility, and I think this is a difference-maker, in terms of speeding up adoption rates. Right on.
Shelly Kramer: I agree, I agree. All right. Well, with that, we are going to move into the final topic for our 5G Factor show today. We mentioned Vodafone earlier. We’re going to talk about Vodafone deploying Oracle technology to help support 5G standalone network core. So Ron, finish this up with, tell us about what that is.
Ron Westfall: Yeah, I think it’s fitting that we’re finishing up on the European side of the market, with Mobile World Congress taking place in Barcelona. And specifically, yeah, this is Vodafone UK working with Oracle. That is, selecting Oracle. Specifically, it’s a cloud-native policy management solution. And I think this is, again, enabling these use cases that I think are going to make a difference, in terms of being able to monetize an offering. One example of Vodafone UK is inciting with this deal is the idea of holographic calls, IE… like an emergency called Obi-Wan Kenobi type of capability. Finally, it will become something that will be mainstream and not relegated to the Star Wars sphere, and I think that would be most welcome by a lot of consumers. You don’t have to be a Star Wars-phile to appreciate a holographic call, but I think it can definitely help with things like digital twin demonstrations and just a host of collaboration possibilities there, and that, I think, is going to be a more compelling use case that will pick up steam.
And likewise, as we talked about enabling more of the Industry 4.0 capabilities, more of the game streaming capabilities, again, the multi-game AR type of game streaming. And what I think is important here is that this is demonstrating that the operators are really becoming adept using at cloud-native technologies. In this case, Oracle made sure to align their policy management solution with the Cloud Native Computing Foundation guidelines. And so, this is, again, an example of how standards and so forth can help with these types of implementations.
It’s also harking back to what we’re talking about with the 5G core. Again, on the policy management side, we have purpose-built 5G core policy control function, or PCF, working with pre-5G PCRF capabilities in order to ease this programmability, and also having policy enforcement across these 5G offerings. And lo and behold, kind of full circle, yes, Vodafone UK, just like Vodafone Germany, is using Ericsson’s cloud-native 5G core implementation. And so, this is, I think, a great example of where inner working interoperability between multiple vendors is making these new 5G capabilities a market reality, and certainly, at least, we’re having major operators adopting it and touting it and looking to advance them during 2022, which will, obviously, be a pivotal year for all of 5G.
Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. And bottom line, this is all about better serving customers and helping make more intelligent policy decisions, deploy and test new services for the standalone 5G network, and to also get new 5G offerings in the hands of customers more quickly. I mean, that’s beneficial across the board. It’s a terrific partnership, very smart. And again, when your end goal is all about better serving your customers, I think you’re well positioned for success, so I thought this was excited news, for sure.
Ron Westfall: Oh, I agree, and I think this is what we envisioned, that this is an ecosystem play. This is where partnerships are going to be more vital than ever before, as we get more toward an open 5G model and more of an open source approach versus some of the proprietary implementations of the past that had that vendor lock-in trade-off that we touched on, and so forth, heavier costs on the CapEx side, and so on, and yeah, we’re transitioning away from that.
Shelly Kramer: And that’s a good thing. That’s a very good thing.
Ron Westfall: Yeah, right on.
Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. Okay, well, with that, that’s a wrap for our show. To our audience, whether you’re watching this on YouTube or whether you’re listening by way of your favorite streaming platform, we always appreciate you hanging out with us. We’ll be back here again next week and look forward to seeing you then and bringing you all the news that we think is interesting of the week about 5G and the 5G ecosystem. And we’ll have one more show before we head off to Mobile World Congress, and following that, we’ll probably have some really interesting news as well. So for both Ron and myself, thank you for hanging out with us and we’ll see you again next week.