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The 5G Factor: Battle of the Billionaires; O-RAN Americas Advances; NEC Buys Aspire Technology; and T-Mobile Oceus Partner
by Shelly Kramer and Ron Westfall | July 26, 2022

In  this episode of The 5G Factor, a Futurum Tech Webcast series devoted to all things 5G, I’m joined by my colleague and fellow analyst Ron Westfall for a look at what’s happening across the 5G ecosystem that most caught our attention.

Our conversation today covered:

Battle of the Billionaires: Starlink-DISH Dispute over 12 GHz Spectrum Heats Up. The non-profit 5G for 12 GHz Coalition is accusing Elon Musk’s SpaceX of misleading customers and supporters that using 12 GHz for terrestrial 5G could disrupt affordable Starlink satellite Internet service, flooding the FCC with numerous concerns based on its commissioned study. DISH and key partners like RS Access, also backed by Michael Dell investments, are touting an RFK study that show 12 GHz band can be shared between 5G mobile broadband operations and fixed satellite services without disruption to either service. The 12 GHz spectrum rumble continues to sizzle as the FCC examines a resolution for the brawl.

AT&T, DISH, and CableLabs Advance O-RAN Testing: AT&T, DISH Network, and CablelLabs have teamed up to boost O-RAN Alliance initiatives in North America with AT&T and DISH having hosted the team’s PoCFest testing across four locations. Plus, the trio formed the Open Test and Integration Centers (OTC) in the Americas, using the Kyrio O-RAN Test and Integration Lab run by CableLabs, showing cable operators are also putting a stake in advancing the O-RAN interoperability and deployment cause.

NEC Aspires to Accelerate Open RAN 5G Integration: NEC Corporation entered an agreement to acquire Aspire Technology, headquartered in Dublin, Ireland. NEC’s Open RAN portfolio development strategy now encompasses Open RAN components for disaggregated hardware and software, xHaul transport, converged core, automation/orchestration software, and systems integration (SI) services. We see NEC as now in a stronger position to fulfill the interoperability and integration requirements of CSPs throughout intricate Open RAN 5G and overall open 5G environments.

T-Mobile and Oceus Pair Up to Deliver Unique 5G Services for U.S. Government: T-Mobile and Oceus are partnering to deliver key offerings to the U.S. government, including the Department of Defense (DoD). The pair are providing solutions that combine T-Mobile’s 5G network with Oceus 5G product offerings to develop solutions such as delivering applications within the DoD for AR/VR, maintenance and logistics, training, and active operations.

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Disclaimer: The Futurum Tech Webcast is for information and entertainment purposes only. Over the course of this webcast, we may talk about companies that are publicly traded and we may even reference that fact and their equity share price, but please do not take anything that we say as a recommendation about what you should do with your investment dollars. We are not investment advisors and we do not ask that you treat us as such.

Other insights from Futurum Research:

The 5G Factor: RFFE Technology – An Essential for 5G Ecosystem Product Development and Innovation

The 5G Factor: AT&T and Northrop Grumman, Intel Lockheed, DOD $600M for 5G Testbeds, HPE RAN Automation, Mavenir and Aspire, Qualcomm and O-RAN, Cisco and Verizon

NEC Aspires to Accelerate Open RAN 5G Integration

Transcript:

Shelly Kramer: Hello, and welcome to this episode of the 5G Factor. I’m Shelly Kramer. And I’m joined today by my co-host and fellow analyst here at Futurum Research, Ron Westfall. And this show is intended to cover all things related to the 5G ecosystem, IOT, and all things in between. So with that, we’re off and hi, Ron. Great to see you today.

Ron Westfall: Yes, indeed. It’s a beautiful sunny day. So looking forward to our conversation.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. We’re going to kick off today’s show. We’re going to talk about a little brouhaha between Elon Musk’s Starlink and some of the headlines on this topic have been kind of interesting, but probably the most distinctive, which is that, you know, Starlink is turning on 5G. And by the way, this is not necessarily a new instance, but I think it’s recent news. During this last weekend, we had about 70,000 Starlink customers or users or whatever, fans, whatever we want to call them, protesting Dish Networks proposal to use the 12 gigahertz radio spectrum for a 5G cellular network, and Musk has made no bones about the fact that he believes that this interferes with Starlink’s ability to be successful in serving its customers and SpaceX, Musk’s company, filed a petition claiming that the expanded 5G usage would lead to substantial interference for the company if they were forced to work along 5G.

So, I know Ron, you have some thoughts on this, but it’s interesting. So anyway, these 70,000 Starlink users literally bombarded the FCC this last weekend with messages, protesting Dish Network’s plan calling on the FCC to reject the company’s proposed use of the 12 gigahertz radio spectrum. And Ron, I know you ran across this. What do you think?

Ron Westfall: Well, yeah, it’s definitely a headline news for an otherwise somewhat slow July month. You call it ‘Battle the Billionaires’ and their studies. Obviously Elon Musk is head of SpaceX and they’re the ones who are deploying the Starlink network.

Shelly Kramer: Satellites. Yeah.

Ron Westfall: Yeah. And right on. And you have Dish and other allies such as RS Access who are backed by Michael Dell. So-

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: …This is, I think, makes it intriguing from a, you know, political perspective perhaps, but in terms of, you know, the essence of what the dispute is about is that Starlink is voicing its concern that at the 12 gigahertz span specifically is used for terrestrial 5G, that will cause undue interference with its efforts to use satellite connectivity-

Shelly Kramer: Right, right.

Ron Westfall: …To advance internet connections in rural areas, but also in some dense urban areas and so forth, wherever there is a need for enhanced internet connectivity.

And so you have the battle of the studies that is complimenting this.

Shelly Kramer: Right, right.

Ron Westfall: On the one hand you have Starlink’s back study saying that within the 10.7 to 11.7 hits the ban that you have up to 880,000 fixed satellite links that are being implemented or allocated. Whereas Dish is saying, well, that would be way too many. That would be definitely crowded for being able to support this spectrum for both terrestrial and satellite is actually only 69,000 fixed satellite [00:04:00] links that are being supported within the spectrum range and the FCC database. It tends to favor what Dish is allocating-

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: …Or advocating. And so we shall see, you know-

Shelly Kramer: We shall see.

Ron Westfall: …How that will play out.

Shelly Kramer: We shall see.

Ron Westfall: That’s pretty big spread there, you know, 880,000 versus 69,000 people. Let’s, you know, try to get a consensus here. It shouldn’t be that hard to, you know, hammer this out and, you know, proceed with using 12 gigahertz for all customers out there.

Shelly Kramer: Well, I’m going to come down firmly on the side of Dish on this one. And I will also add that Dish is part of the 5G for 12 Gigahertz Coalition. And there are a number of companies and organizations who belong to this coalition, 32 companies and organizations today. That number grows on a regular basis. Some of the organizations include Dell, VMware, Altiostar, Airspan, Mavenir, and things like the Center for Rural Technologies, the Open Technology Institute at New America, Federated Wireless, the Center for Educational Innovations, and the Rural Wireless Association. And so much of this conversation is around serving underserved areas, right? And rural areas. And it’s, I mean, obviously SpaceX, Starlink wants to be able to serve those communities. But the reality of it is what I look at when I see this coalition is formed. They’ve done lots of research, many, many organizations that we all know many companies that we all know and organizations specifically designed to serve these communities.

It’s kind of a no brainer for me. I mean, this seems like a land grab, an air grab, a spectrum grab. Whatever we want to call it.

Ron Westfall: All the above.

Shelly Kramer: But yeah, I ran across an Economic Times of India article on this topic and they were a little bit harsher than some of the things that have been written here in the States, but they flat out called it an anti-5G narrative that Musk is running in the US. And that is harmful for millions of customers who are looking for better connectivity and a chance to be able to use that connectivity to innovate. And the 5G for 12 Gigahertz Coalition was quoted in that article as saying, “This tactic, it’s a common one used by Musk, is not only disingenuous it promulgates an anti-5G narrative. It’s harmful to American consumers who deserve greater competition, connectivity, options, and innovation.” Again, it seemed, you know, the Battle of the Billionaires. I’m going to come down on the side of Dish on this one. So it’ll be interesting to see what the FCC does for sure.

Ron Westfall: Right on.

Shelly Kramer: All right. So speaking of, let’s see, we’re going to talk a little bit about the O-RAN Alliance and what’s going on with O-RAN Alliance efforts in the United States and how AT&T and Dish and CableLabs are leading those efforts. Share with us a little bit about some of what you know, on that front, Ron.

Ron Westfall: Yeah. It’s an interesting combination. You don’t normally see cable labs in the same word-

Shelly Kramer: Yeah.

Ron Westfall: …As major operator telco operators-

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: …Collaborating. But that is the case when it comes to Open RAN testing. As we know, Dish is a Greenfield network and they’re very much strategically committed to Open RAN.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: And AT&T, amongst the major telcos, has been more proactive in supporting it at least rhetorically, but they haven’t actually done any deployments in their network to date. Although it would seem to stand a reason that they would probably be the first amongst the big three to actually get Open RAN out into the field at some point-

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: …In the near future. Now CableLabs, as we know, has been set up by the cable industry, dating back to the 1980s to basically test technology for the cable industry, to make sure that it’s, you know, battle-ready for actual live deployments.

And they’ve been doing a good job of it through the decades. And now they’ve been branching more into 5G connectivity and a mobile tech technology. In fact, three of them conducted what they call APAC Fest-

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: …Across four different test areas and are now committed to opening what they’re calling their open test and integration centers in the Americas. And that will operate the Kyrio CableLabs facility. And so-

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: …Pretty much CableLabs is playing a central role here in terms of, you know, advancing Open RAN cause, which is something that doesn’t seem that intuitive. You figured like the telcos would be-

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: …Further along in this regard, but that is not the case here. And so that is also coinciding with the fact that the O-RNA Alliance has also formed what it’s called the Next Generations Research Group to focus on 6G testing now.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: And the US Department of Defense is funding what it’s calling Resilience and Intelligent Next Systems or RINGS so that the US can maintain a competitive upper hand when it comes to 6G technology. And the reason why I’m noting this is that the O-RAN Alliance for all the good work it’s doing, it’s also has membership prominent China based mobile operator, such as China Mobile and their new 6G initiative is actually being headed by China Mobile. So this is kind of like a hedge, if you will.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: While we’re still, you know, kicking the tires on 5G, it’s not too early to think about 6G more seriously and start, you know, some planning. But I think it’s definitely demonstrating, like there’s a lot of variety out there when it comes to the standards bodies and how standardized in our interoperable Open RAN technologies being advanced on a global basis.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, absolutely exciting stuff for sure. Yeah.

Ron Westfall: Yep. 5G today, 6G tomorrow.

Shelly Kramer: 5G today, 6G tomorrow. And you know, 7G right?

Ron Westfall: Right on.

Shelly Kramer: So we’re going to shift a little bit and talk still about kind of global adoption of Open RAN 5G, but we’re also going to talk about strengthening one’s 5G portfolio and the news out of NEC that they were acquiring Aspire Technology was big. Aspire Tech is a Dublin-based company. It provides tech solutions and systems integration specific to designing and integrating open networks. Let’s talk about the significance there again, as we move toward global adoption of Open RAN 5G. I know you have thoughts on this one.

Ron Westfall: Yeah, no, this move leapt out at me because I think it’s a really shrewd one by NEC.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: They really have upped their game in terms of their profile across the Open RAN ecosystem, specifically let alone the overall 5G market. And so by acquiring Aspire Technology, they’re definitely locking in valuable systems integration skills to complement their already existing portfolio that extends across different hardware, software assets. And part of the reason why NEC is prominent is that it’s been working with major operators, such as Telefónica, specifically in Germany, as well as Rakuten, which has definitely been blazing-

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: …The headlines in terms of advancing Open RAN capabilities in commercial networks.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely.

Ron Westfall: And what’s interesting is that NEC in Telefónica, Germany are already deploying Open RAN and vRAN small cells in Munich to kick off Telefónica Germany’s own venture into supporting Open RAN across commercial networks. And so, yeah, this is really cool because as I noted the NEC already has this portfolio, disaggregated hardware, software, Exhall, Converge Core and automation orchestration assets, and that is specifically linking the automation and orchestration assets to its Netcracker subsidiary.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: So I also see the move enhancing Netcracker’s ability to play a more significant role in terms of supporting 5G service enablement and also operations enablement and so forth, wherever it’s needed. And to kind of wrap this up. I think it’s noteworthy that as you noted, Aspire is headquartered in Dublin, Ireland.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: So it’s, you know, naturally in Europe and it’s in Europe that you have these major operators, not just Telefónica, but Deutsche Telekom, Orange Telecom, Italia, all rallying behind Open RAN as something that is identified as a strategic imperative.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: They’re even looking to enlist the European Commission to support basically an official Open RAN Alliance to, you know, give more heft by having political backing in addition to the technological and business backing.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: So stay tuned. I think this is going to up NECs is particularly in Europe in terms-

Shelly Kramer: Yeah.

Ron Westfall: …Of, you know, winning more deals further down the line in this important, but growing space.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, absolutely. I think it was a really smart move. So we’re going to close our show with some news out of T-Mobile and that is the alliance that T-Mobile have formed has formed with OCS. And this Alliance is intended to deliver key offerings to the US Government. And they’re going to start with the Department of Defense, which is always exciting and interesting. So this alliance was announced a couple of weeks ago, and it will leverage T-Mobile’s 5G network and OCS’s product offerings and solutions, which are specifically designed for the federal government. This leapt out at me because, you know, the DOD is of course focused on accelerating 5G adoption as they need to be. And, you know, this is all about ensuring that forces can operate anywhere and under any conditions. And so together T-Mobile and OCS will deliver acts that underpin things, AR and VR capabilities, training, active operations, and maintenance and logistics.

And, you know, as I mentioned, T-Mobile brings its 5G advanced network solutions offering, which is a suite of managed network solutions that combine 5G connectivity with edge computing. And this allows for data to be connected, to be collected, and processed anywhere. It’s generated at really rapid speeds, incredibly important in military situations, right? And OCS brings its expertise in developing tools and technology for delivering access to fast, reliable cellular based connectivity and mission critical operations. They’ll focus on secure 5G networks, multi access, edge compute, and DevSecOps. So this is a big step forward for the Department of Defense. I think it’s a super smart alliance between T-Mobile and OCS, really excited to see some of the things that actually we’ll never even know about some of the things that come out of this and that’s okay. But I thought it was a really kind of exciting news to see.

Ron Westfall: Well, I agree. In fact, yeah, I think it definitely highlights T-Mobile’s managed services capabilities. The fact-

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely.

Ron Westfall: …That the Department of Defense is turning to them for its strategically critical capabilities-

Shelly Kramer: Yeah.

Ron Westfall: …Speaks volumes and yeah, it’s also about the edge computing. I think-

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely.

Ron Westfall: …Definitely merits more attention. Basically, it’s joined at the hip with 5G connectivity or 5G builds and general, particularly in 5G standalone environments. And it’s, I think getting the proper attention here, because you obviously have to distribute the data workloads, optimize them where the activity is, you know.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: You just can’t keep back-hauling them to traditional data centers and so forth. And so this definitely is demonstrating why 5G is different from LTE. For example, you get that-

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: …Built in flexibility and agility to do that with 5G programability capabilities. And I think another key takeaway is, you hit the nail on the head there, Shelly, is the SecDevOps-

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: …Aspect, because as we know, we have to pay attention to security comprehensively.
There’s no exceptions. Zero trust is the name of the day. We saw it happen to SolarWinds.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: Recently was the fact that he actually had a hacker or, you know, a cyber threat that got into their supply chain capabilities. And SecDevOps actually addresses that very issue.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: It’s like if the software that is being used is being co-developed with built-in security from ground zero, that it definitely improves the odds of it not being compromised, even during the development stage or somewhere in the supply chain.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: And so I think that this is definitely addressing it and indicates that yes, you know, the good guys, so to speak, are fighting against, you know, that type of cyber threat. And that’s quite simply essential.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah.

Ron Westfall: As particularly the Department-

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely.

Ron Westfall: …Of Defense. And one thing I kind of like is that it includes applications as you noted, like AR VR and a lot of the augmented reality virtual reality tension’s been on the consumers side. That stands to reason because, you know, gamers, for example, are making it more commercially viable and a low hanging fruit for 5G monetization, but it has a great deal of industrial and-

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely.

Ron Westfall: …Also defense applications for things like digital twins, you know, maintaining a training, for example, using AR VR headsets and a host of other capabilities that make it, I think, very critical to a successful defense operation or training and so forth.
So yeah, I think the announcement that is high profile as Starlink versus Dish-

Shelly Kramer: Yeah.

Ron Westfall: …Definitely is showing some important developments here in our 5G ecosystem.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, absolutely. And to your point, you know, I am positive that the use of AR VR by the Department of Defense is not a nascent thing, right. I’m sure that this is something that’s been in used for a while. We just don’t think about it right. As much as we think about its applications in the gaming ecosystem. But I think really, you know, to wrap this up, I think what’s the most interesting thing to me is that seeing T-Mobile’s manage services, it’s 5G, advanced network solution offering at play here, I think is something that we’re going to be seeing and hearing a lot more of. So that is really exciting news as well. So with that, we are going to wrap this episode of the 5G Factor.

Thank you, Ron, as always for making time to hang out together and thank you to our audience, whether you’re watching on YouTube or listening on a streaming channel or reading through the transcript on our website, we are always happy to have you, and we’ll see you again next time.

About the Authors

Shelly Kramer is a Principal Analyst and Founding Partner at Futurum Research. A serial entrepreneur with a technology centric focus, she has worked alongside some of the world’s largest brands to embrace disruption and spur innovation, understand and address the realities of the connected customer, and help navigate the process of digital transformation. She brings 20 years' experience as a brand strategist to her work at Futurum, and has deep experience helping global companies with marketing challenges, GTM strategies, messaging development, and driving strategy and digital transformation for B2B brands across multiple verticals. Shelly's coverage areas include Collaboration/CX/SaaS, platforms, ESG, and Cybersecurity, as well as topics and trends related to the Future of Work, the transformation of the workplace and how people and technology are driving that transformation. A transplanted New Yorker, she has learned to love life in the Midwest, and has firsthand experience that some of the most innovative minds and most successful companies in the world also happen to live in “flyover country.”

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.