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The 5G Factor: Netcracker, Amdocs, Ericsson, Rogers Communications, Cisco and Telenor, and NTIA’s 5G Challenge Event – Futurum Tech Webcast
by Shelly Kramer and Ron Westfall | April 12, 2022

In this episode of The 5G Factor, a Futurum Tech Webcast production focused on all things 5G, Futurum analysts Shelly Kramer and Ron Westfall tackle a variety of interesting developments in the 5G ecosystem. This week’s show includes a look at Netcracker, Amdocs, Ericsson, Rogers Communications, Cisco and Telenor’s partnership, and the NTIA’s 5G Challenge event.

The topics covered are as follows:

Netcracker’s Digital Platform. Netcracker’s Digital Platform is all about helping provide communication services providers (CSPs) with new monetization and digital experience capabilities. We cover why monetization is such an important area of focus for CSPs, as well as the benefits of Netcracker’s Digital Platform, a modular, open, digital native solution designed to help CSPs power business growth Digital Platform and spur innovation.

Amdocs Expansion of its 5G Solutions Designed to Accelerate 5G Standalone Networks Experiences and Monetization Opps. On the monetization front, Netcracker isn’t the only player in the 5G ecosystem focused on helping communications services providers look for and monetize 5G opportunities to justify the investments they are making in them. Amdocs has announced the expansion of its 5G Value Plane offerings focused on serving emerging 5G standalone networks.

Ericsson’s Breaking the Energy Curve Report. Ericsson Breaking the Energy Curve report is on our radar, as the company lays out its approach to breaking the energy curve and working to harness (and reduce) the increasing energy consumption of mobile networks. According to the report, they’ve tested some 5G deployments and applied their “holistic approach” hypothesis to see what kind of results they would find.

Rogers Communications Launch of Canada’s First Commercially Available 5G Standalone Network. This news out of Canada is key as it shows Rogers Communications leadership on the rollout of 5G technology, launching the first commercial 5G standalone service and underscoring the benefits that will bring to customers (increased coverage, scalability and ability, and improving network response times – opening up a new world of potential use cases and applications.

Cisco Telenor Partnership is All About Addressing the Digital Divide and Spurring Digital Transformation. We explore the news from Cisco and Telenor on the the expansion of their joint partnership first launched in 2018, focused on expanding services for their mutual enterprise customers and supporting digital transformation initiatives.

The NTIA and the DoD Develop 5G Competition to Spur the Development of 5G. Last, but not least, we explored news of the collaboration the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS), with the U.S. Department of Defense on the launch of its 5G Challenge Preliminary Event centered on helping conquer the digital divide, expanding broadband access and adoption across America, expanding the use of spectrum, and more. This competition should be fun to watch.

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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:

MWC 2022: Netcracker Digital Platform Enlightens the Path for CSP Business Growth and Innovation

Rogers Communications and Ericsson Advance 5G SA Nationwide Rollout in Canada

MWC 2022: Qualcomm Unleashes Game Changing 5G Ecosystem Innovations

Transcript:

Shelly Kramer: Hello, and welcome to the Futurum Tech Webcast. This show is called the 5G Factor and it’s part of our show that’s focused exclusively on all things related to 5G, the 5G ecosystem, 5G related news and things that are in interesting to us. I’m your host, Shelly Kramer. I’m a principal analyst and founding partner here at Futurum Research. And I’m joined by my colleague and fellow analyst, Ron Westfall. Hi, Ron. Great to see you today.

Ron Westfall: You bet, Shelly. Good day. And yes, spring is in the air and I think this is a good harbinger for all things 5G this year.

Shelly Kramer: All things 5G. And somebody that I know has mentioned that he feels like perhaps that we are going to see the summer of 5G ahead. And I won’t… Of course, that’s you, but anyway, we have a lot of things to talk about today, and we’re going to kick it off talking about some news from Netcracker that came out of the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona in late February. At that event, Netcracker announced a new monetization and digital experience capabilities. They’re now embedded in the Netcracker Digital Platform and that affords some pretty amazing benefits to CSPs. Ron, why don’t you take it away and talk a little bit about why this is a big deal.

Ron Westfall: Yes, and I think it’s still going to be a major thing of what it came out of Mobile World Congress, we’ll be talking about it through the next two quarters at least. And I believe the Netcracker Digital Platform announcement is a good example of it. And the reason is that’s offering an open, modular, digital native solution that’s going to be key to the ability of communication service providers to monetize 5G services. After all, they’re investing a lot of money and time to building out these networks, particularly getting to a 5G standalone implementation. And the Netcracker Digital Platform is purpose-built for that scenario.

For one, it’s supporting 5G converged charging system, and that’s going to be critical for being able to support things like SLA-based charging as well as SlaaS or Slicing as a Service and not to confuse with the guitarist for Guns N’ Roses. But through SlaaS we can anticipate the ability to support multi-partner B2B, to X billing and settlement scenarios. Obviously, the operators are keen on getting a cut of that pie.

And in addition, I think another key highlight of that announcement is that it’s supporting full automation for the RAN, the mobile edge computing, the transport and core domains, and all these have to be orchestrated in order to assure 5G monetization on a realtime basis, or certainly in a flexible agile manner that aligns with, say, network slicing or use case networking, or however you want to characterize it. Being able to use the 5G network to meet the very specific and unique needs of customers, especially on the enterprise side.

Also, I think what’s important is that it’s aligning with O-RAN, API priorities. And that is another example of where the ecosystem is going to be playing a major role in the ability at the operators onboard partners, leverage developer innovation and so forth, just to simply make 5G services more sexy, more fun, or certainly more business friendly and so forth. So, yeah, I think this is definitely an announcement that will have impacts across the 5G ecosystem and including, in particular, the 5G monetization segment.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. And that’s so important. This is really all about powering business growth, helping to power business growth and value creation, helping CSPs accelerate their internal digitalization, that’s a big one to say quickly, digitalization efforts, helping build immersive digital experiences. And then, as you said, providing innovative and adaptive 5G business models. This is about business agility. It’s about stimulating innovation and collaboration. It’s really about establishing a foundation for allowing CSPs to maximize revenue and profitability and that’s what everybody wants. Right? So, I think this is important. This platform is an amazing platform. So, I think we’ll see… And of course, Netcracker isn’t the only company in the 5G space focused on CSP monetization efforts. So, I think we’re going to be talking about that a lot moving forward, because it’s a very big deal.

So, moving on, you mentioned 5G standalone networks, and those are a big deal as well these days. The next bit of news in the 5G ecosystem that we’re going to tackle is Amdocs 5G solutions and how they’ve been expanded to help accelerate 5G standalone network experiences and monetization opportunities. Again, as I promised, we’ll be talking a lot about that. So, let’s talk a little bit, Ron, about Amdocs announcements about its 5G Value Plane offerings, and what’s involved there.

Ron Westfall: Yes, Amdocs is another great example of a player that truly used Mobile World Congress to tout some new product and portfolio developments that are aimed at enabling the acceleration of 5G standalone network deployments, as well as enhancing 5G monetization capabilities. And to that end, Amdocs definitely I think made a good impression talking about expanding their 5G Value Plane.

And what that is about is supporting key capabilities, such as cross network automation, enabling, again, network slicing and targeting use case capabilities that are aimed at specific vertical industries throughout industry 4.0 environments. And it’s also, I think, interesting that they emphasize, I think, some distinct aspects, for example, NWDAF, which is network data analytics functions capabilities, and that is using analytics engines and advanced analytics to support across the board automation of all these processes and operations that are needed for successful 5G network deployments.

But also that is delivering closed-loop operations. And that’s something that we lost sight because of all of the other things that have received a lot of important attention, like Open-RAN. But again, an operator has to have closed-loop operations in order to have a successful automation strategy. And combination with that are network exposure functions or NEF, and that’s going to be important for onboarding partners, but also leveraging that ecosystem of developers, again, drive that innovation.

And to that end, Amdocs is working with the 5G Open Innovation Lab, a very aptly titled organization, to make all this happen. And specifically working with Microsoft, for example, to advance use cases that I think are intriguing, like being able to improve food resiliency in the agricultural segment. So, all these things are coming together and it’s going to be vital for end-to-end life cycle management and enabling operators to move away from 5G non-standalone networks, which were important for getting 5G kick started.

However, the limitations there are understood. You’re having to use dual communication mode and having to use 5G New Radio in combination with 4G LTE networks, particularly in the core and places like that. And the trade-off is that it limits flexibility and it’s less energy efficient. It stands to reason you’re having to use two networks in tandem in order to deliver the service. However, once 5G standalone is in place, then I think you’re really going to get these payoffs that will really make 5G monetization a lot more interesting. And I think Amdocs is another example of a player that’s going to have an impact in driving this.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Looking forward to more good things ahead out of Amdocs, for sure. Now, we’re going to talk, we’re going to take a turn and we’re going to talk a little bit about sustainability. And Ericsson just published a report called Breaking the Energy Curve. And what I like about this report is this is a… We’re seeing more and more of this and Ericsson is planting a flag in the sustainability space. And they’re saying that they believe that it’s possible to quadruple data traffic without increasing energy consumption. And more importantly, that they believe that it’s an industry responsibility to do just that.

And I thought it was really interesting, and I had a chance to dive into the report. I know you did as well. They lay out, in the report, the company’s approach to breaking the energy curve, which is increasing energy consumption in mobile networks. They’ve tested some 5G deployments. They’ve applied what they call their holistic approach hypothesis to see what kind of results they could find. And this approach of theirs is comprised of four elements. And these include preparing the network and that’s all about modernizing and improving the network, replacing old equipment with future-proof hardware. Of course, this is a foundational move, and, in my opinion, and I believe Ericsson’s opinion as well, this should be done first.

Moving away from keeping old equipment is not the best path forward. It’s like modernizing in low traffic areas can yield a payback of less than three years in energy savings alone. So, my point here, when I say is keeping old equipment is not the path forward as it relates to sustainability. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to rip and replace from the get-go, but having a conversation, diving in and looking at what your system, what your operations are today, what your equipment looks like today, what your plan is for modernizing that equipment I think is really important. And it is a foundational part of business strategy.

Another part of their foundation, four elements here is building 5G with precision and that’s makes perfect sense. It’s the right equipment in the right place at the right time. Optimizing your network performance, keeping CAPEX and OPEX within set limits and done correctly, Ericsson claims that CSPs can limit energy consumption growth when they’re introducing 5G solutions. So, that’s really important as well.

Another part of one of the four foundational elements here is using energy-saving software and making… This is common sense, making software purchase decisions based on energy efficiency, it’s smart business these days. Of course, Ericsson touts its 5G software, which has energy savings built into its RAN network. Ericsson also suggests adding machine learning and low energy scheduling solutions and things like micro-sleep offering, which they claim can reduce radio equipment energy consumption up to 15%.

And the key there is that you can reduce energy consumption, but still deliver on customer experience and user experience front. So, I think that’s super important. Then, the last of the four is intelligent site infrastructure operations. And AI of course is a big part today of any intelligent operations. Ericsson approach and formula recommends integrating AI into site infrastructure operations. And they claim that customers and service providers have been able to reduce site energy consumption by up to 15% using intelligence site control solutions.

So, the report does a good job of breaking down challenges that operators face and highlighting solutions and customer use cases demonstrating the impact that Ericsson has been able to accomplish in terms of energy savings. I’ll link the report in our show notes. Ron, I know you likewise took a dive into the report. What were your key takeaways there?

Ron Westfall: Oh, I think you really hit the major points, Shelly. And one thing that I think made a strong impression is the emphasis on the holistic approach. And it seems intuitive that, oh yeah, naturally an operator should take a holistic approach to really improve their clean energy credentials, boost their sustainability ratings and so forth. However, it’s a little easier said than done. There is still the silo aspect.

I think most folks can understand that. But I think the point is, is that with 5G networks, we are definitely looking at opportunities to really break through that energy curve, as Ericsson eloquently described it. That is avoiding the treadmill. It’s like, oh great, we gain energy conservation in one domain of the network, but the other domains haven’t followed suit. So, even though we’re scaling more traffic, we’re not really getting any energy efficiency breakthroughs that accompany with it. And that’s a challenge that’s been going on, for example, in the data center realm.

What I think it’s different here is that, yes, 5G has, I think, well understood standards that are driving its implementation in many key areas. That’s not to say there’s plenty of work to be done there that we’re really striving for, for example, an open 5G network environment, an ecosystem. For example, Open-RAN is a great place where that could happen.

However, each operator has their own specific requirements. So, regardless of how they evolve their network, they have to keep in mind, “Okay, we’re getting energy conservation in the RAN domain, but we also have to do in the core domain and the transport domain and the edge computing domain and so forth.” And making sure that everything is firing in all cylinders or firing on the common EV battery, however you want to make the apt analogy as to how this can really be done.

And I think it’s important. And I think what’s very encouraging is that the report pointed to examples where this is happening. For example, Ericsson’s working with Deutsche Telekom and using solar panels and solar farms at the network site itself to achieve some of these energy breakthroughs. And I think that’s a good starting point.

Today, we know that solar energy is not going to be ready across the board. But wherever it can be used to diversify energy sources, improve what ways can be done to make it even better. That I think was a good for the entire 5G ecosystem, let alone across the global economy. And also, to your point, Ericsson’s been working with Vodafone UK and they had that demo in London that showed that their RAN implementations, specifically the AIR technology can deliver that fourfold or at least a 43%. Let me rephrase that, 43% energy savings across the entire radio implementation.

Shelly Kramer: That’s a lot.

Ron Westfall: That’s even better during peak time.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: Yeah. So, we’re seeing that these are tangible possibilities. And once they are implemented that there will be these positive gains in terms of energy efficiency. And again, breaking the energy barrier. So the operators can scale confidently and also have actual tangible energy savings in the process as well. And not just being on that treadmill. So, yeah, this is, I think, an important report and it’s definitely driving our research on 5G sustainability and why that’s going to become even more critical at understanding 5G network builds and 5G decision making across the board.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. And I think that there are key benefits. I mean, of course, there are key benefits for Ericsson to produce research like this. Of course, they want customers to be attracted to that and to them. The very real benefits here for service providers though are all about managing traffic growth, reducing costs and being a technology leader and reducing their environmental footprints. Those are things that all resonate with customers today, too. So, I think that being able to talk that talk and walk that walk from a CSP standpoint is very important as well.

So, again, as I said, I’ll link the full report into the show notes here. So, if you want to take a look at it, again, it’s Ericsson’s Breaking the Energy Curve report and it’s definitely worth your time to check out.

Ron Westfall: It’s good business.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, good business. So, moving along and touching base on something happening in our neighbor to the North, we’re going to talk a little bit about Rogers Communications and their launch of Canada’s first commercially available 5G standalone network. We’ve had two snippets of conversations so far in this broadcast about the importance of 5G standalone networks. Here’s yet another example of somebody showing some leadership on the rollout of 5G technology and launching this. And really let’s talk a little bit about some more of the benefits that this will bring to customers, Ron.

Ron Westfall: Yes. I think, it’s significant. Because anytime you see a nationwide 5G standalone network rollout that forms the basis for the claim of the first commercial one in a country, that’s big news. And I think what’s very important here is that Rogers is, I think, pointing to how operators can use 5G standalone networks to really drive the use cases and services that will enable them to up the revenue streams and really put the pedal to the metal in terms of making money off of their 5G network investments. And what’s integral to this is that they partnered with Ericsson and Ericsson’s the sole supplier of the 5G core.

Shelly Kramer: Oh cool.

Ron Westfall: And that is really… Yes.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. I didn’t know that. That’s awesome.

Ron Westfall: Yes. Yes, indeed. And that’s an important takeaway. Because the 5G core is really going to be that element that’s going to make the 5G standalone networks agile and able to support ultra low latency and deliver network slicing capabilities and distributing mobile edge computing capabilities and so forth, just aggregating it and so on. So, that does then indicate, okay, with these capabilities, what are the use cases and services that Rogers is looking at in the immediate term to deliver?

And that includes dedicated private networks. We’ve certainly had talked about that and how that is certainly an example of how operators can make a difference, because they have the in-house mobile expertise to really deliver either a managed private network service or play an integral role if a enterprise is doing kind of a do-it-yourself approach to do it. So, either way, this is, I think, an ample opportunity for operators to show their mettle and how they can definitely make a difference in terms of using 5G to drive a dedicated private networks that’s aims at specific verticals.

In addition, consumer AR/VR, I think we’ve seen Nreal, it’s in Asia. And what I think is interesting is, for example, multi game, I mean, multiplayer AR gaming. And I think this is something that will definitely gain traction, because as more and more users have 5G phones, 5G devices, et cetera, they’re better able to take advantage of this capability. And it stands to reason, because we know gamers are a hardcore bunch and that they will be willing to spend on getting the latest abilities to gain an edge, for example, in the competition, or just being able to experience, have a great experience.

And it’s not limits to only gaming. Obviously, there are VR capabilities and so forth that are adjacent to it. In fact, I think Rogers, once they prove how they can sell 5G AR/VR capabilities, will have the ability to better sell into the business side, because of work from home and digital workforce scenarios, where people who are working from home need to use AR/VR for things like research and developments for training, for digital twin applications and so forth. So, yeah, I think there’s a real clear tangible upside to this.

The other examples are public safety, critical infrastructure. And that includes a host of capabilities such as drone technology, such as autonomous driving capabilities. All these things can definitely come together to make a smart city safer or to do it on an automated 5G network basis. And I think this is something that we’ve been talking about for a while. But I think Rogers is showing the momentum as how this can really be delivered in a high profile use case scenario.

And then, what is also, I think, important is the fact that internet of things, something that was really joined at the hip with the initial 5G network conversations and earliest deployments. And then, it kind of got dialed back because non-standalone networks really weren’t ready to scale and monetize internet of things on a mass scale. But I think with standalone networks that will change. So, we’re looking at the continuous build out of IOT capabilities, sensors, and so forth, that can be orchestrated by a 5G network and allow operators to monetize that on not just a mid term, but certainly a long-term basis.

So, taking these all together, I think, it’s an important announcement. It’s also interesting that when they’re talking about their 5G device certification, that the Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro smartphones were highlighted and that’s good news for customers and ecosystem, because we know at least in North America and other markets that Samsung and Apple dominate, 5G smartphone handsets, and this could be a nice way to rustle things up. And I think it’s interesting that Google’s getting this high profile announcement to help drive awareness of, “Hey, we got something to offer the 5G customers out there.” So, it is just an encouraging announcement across the board.

Shelly Kramer: I had a Google Pixel phone for a while. Somebody gave it to me and it’s actually a really cool phone.

Ron Westfall: No doubt. Yes. I think it’s just a matter of being able to have the opportunity to kick the tires and understand there are real choices out there that can save you money or deliver a better experience and so forth.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. Well, good stuff. Good stuff. So, we’re going to shift gears here. We’re going to talk about the digital divide and what’s going on there. And something that caught my eye this week is a partnership between Cisco and Telenor, which is a continuation. The two companies first established a joint partnership in about 2018. And this has been focused all along on supporting digital transformation initiatives, expanding services for their mutual enterprise customers, developing security systems, which are incredibly important for the modern workforce and the modern distributed workforce, which is of course even more distributed these days than ever before.

So, the companies just signed their fourth iteration of their joint partnership agreement. And they’re working to help companies leverage internet, mobile technology, and help me to close the digital divide. I thought that part of… What was interesting here is that this particular iteration of the agreement involves piloting programs through Cisco’s networking academy and Telenor’s existing sustainability programs with pilots are taking place in Thailand and Bangladesh.

The companies are also going to target the Norwegian market, providing some enhanced services for business customers and offering as a service solutions, which are becoming more and more attractive as it relates to meeting customer needs. So, the overarching goal here for Cisco and Telenor is to take information and learnings from these pilots. And of course, apply them to Telenor’s global operations. I noted that Telenor is joining Cisco’s Accelerator program, and this will enable Telenor’s customer facing team to better master Cisco’s products and ensure closer collaboration between the two companies and that is intended to spur innovation at a more rapid pace and to create value at a more rapid pace.

We talk a lot about cybersecurity around here these days. And this is really, I see this as being all about championing cybersecurity, enhancing digital capabilities and spurring digital transformation efforts. Also, allowing, at a time when highly skilled tech talent is… There is very much a dirt of that. I think that having programs like this that are devoted to helping develop and fine tune these advanced skillsets and then fostering collaboration between these two companies is, I think, a big deal. And this is designed to bottom line allow the companies to deliver more are value to customers beyond just connectivity. So, I think that is an interesting, I’m glad to see this partnership continue. I’m glad to see the objectives here. I don’t know if you had a chance to take a look at that at all, Ron, and have any thoughts on it, but I’m always a fan of anything that we can do to address the digital divide and closing that gap where we can.

Ron Westfall: No, it’s a very important issue. And I think both Cisco and Telenor have been at the forefront of addressing how to solve the digital divide. For example, Cisco has been developing the Rural Broadband Innovation Center in North Carolina. So, that is targeted specifically at this very challenge. What I think is an important outcome from that, or it’s certainly something that is going to improve the ability of anybody who lives in a rural area or has limited internet access. It doesn’t matter what the scenario is. But it can boost their outcomes in education, healthcare, economics and so forth.

We’ve already talked about, again, the digital workforce and more work from home capabilities. And it’s essential to have that internet connection. So, you’re not having to commute to the office two hours in a round trip, for example. That helps the environment, it certainly boosts work productivity and morale. So, yeah, this is something that’s very important. And I think it’s also key to enabling the ecosystem to really up its game. That is, we can use things like LEO satellites to really get to hard-to-reach customers. But also become smarter about how we get 5G to people who are living in suburbs and other areas, where-

Shelly Kramer: Well, and across the world, not just in the United States.

Ron Westfall: Exactly, exactly. So, I think, yeah, Telenor, as we know, has a presence in the Nordics, but also has presence in South Asia and, yes, Bangladesh, Grameenphone phone is the Telenor operation there. And likewise, Thailand, dtac is the Telenor operation there. And I think this will demonstrate the ability to really address those challenges. And I think what’s important is that Telenor has been doing this in the Nordics, for example, using 5G fixed wireless access technologies. And those hard-to-reach area is in the Nordics. So, 5G FWA, I think, is going to be a key part of how do we solve this? Yes, we can use satellites in some scenarios, but it’s not going to be applicable in some areas. And we can use fiber in some areas, but we know that it’s very expensive to roll it out to these hard-to-reach areas. But 5G fixed wireless access can be a key player in addressing these digital divide challenges.

So, it’s really about bringing these different technologies together and enabling it. Certainly, Cisco brings key pieces in terms of streamlining routing, making the networking more accessible and more affordable upfront. Because one problem with the digital divide is just being able to spend the right funds on it. And that’s why, over the last couple years, we’ve seen a lot of allocation by the US Congress, for example, but also in other countries in the world to address this, and part of that was fueled by the pandemic, when people were in lockdowns and it’s like, “Well, geez, how am I going to be able to work effectively?” and now we know.

Shelly Kramer: Now we know. Now we know.

Ron Westfall: It’s through robust connectivity and certainly 5G is going to be essential to all of this. So, it’s good to see this.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, I agree. I agree. And I think that what Telenor and Cisco learn as a result of the pilot programs that they’re doing in Thailand and Bangladesh and in the Nordics, they’ll be applicable in other areas. So, I’m really looking forward to that. I think that’s great. And we’re going to keep talking about the digital divide. And I thought that it was really interesting to see what the US government is doing to accelerate 5G development. And news out this week is that the National Telecoms and Information Administration, NTIA, and the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences is collaborating with the US Department of Defense and they announced just this week, the launch of their 5G Challenge Preliminary Event.

The NTIA is located within the US Department of Commerce, by the way. And that’s the government agency that’s primarily responsible for advising the president on all things related to telecommunications and information policy issues. So, that’s sort of the connection there. But these programs, NTIA’s programs and policymaking are centered on conquering the digital divide and expanding broadband access and adoption across America, expanding the use of spectrum by all. And then also ensuring that the internet… Now, when we talk about the digital divide, this is what’s so important, ensuring that the internet remains an engine for continued innovation and growth for everyone, not just people who live in cities and have great internet access, but for everyone across the board. That’s why this is so critically important.

This joint initiative and the competition illustrates how important cost effective, secure 5G networks are regarded by NTIA and the Department of Defense. And it plays a role in national and economic security. And I think it goes a long way also of showing the commitment of the US government as a whole in what 5G has to offer. Of course, we know what 5G has to offer. And anybody listening to this show probably has an idea of what 5G has to offer. But it really is great to see a government entity stepping up and doing things in this way.

So, this 5G challenge competition, it’s focused on providing an assist with the acceleration of an open 5G ecosystem, including the adoption of open interfaces, interoperable components, multi-vendor solutions. It’s also about increasing the resiliency and the security of the supply chain. Something that we have learned over the past couple of years is incredibly important. And then also increasing the diversity of suppliers who are working in and innovating in the 5G ecosystem, which is also incredibly important.

So, this challenge, it’s called the preliminary event, and it’s the first of two competitions under this initiative. It affords an opportunity for companies or developers to submit hardware and/or software solutions focused on radio unit, centralized unit, distributed unit, 5G network subsystems, so many things. To win a part of a total prize purse of up to about $3 million. So, this preliminary challenge event has launched now, and it’s focused on RAN subsystem interoperability and it’s open for applications through May 5th. So, you’ve got a little less than a month there. And then there’s going to be a second event next year. This will happen in 2023 and details on that will be coming out, I would guess, about this time next year. So, I think it’s a good way to wrap our show, to talk about something exciting like this. I hope if you’re listening and you’re working on some cool solutions that you’ll get involved in this challenge event, I think it’s really exciting, Ron, what about you?

Ron Westfall: Oh yeah. I think one thing that stood out for me is that this competition has a keen eye on Open-RAN technology.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely.

Ron Westfall: And yeah, the RU, CU, DU innovation, incentivizing folks to step up and make a difference is, I think, another great example of private-public collaboration, being able to make an ecosystem advancement in this area. And we all know it’s not a secret. The US government, it’s not the only government, the UK and others are keen on Open-RAN because of, again, supply chain stability. And it’s another way to really spur domestic productivity in terms of suppliers, because as we know with proprietary RAN technology, it’s limited to a handful of players and none of them are really headquartered in the US. Although, they have a strong presence in the US, companies like Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung come to mind.

However, it’s also, I think, pointing to the direction that the US government would like to see the 5G ecosystem take and certainly Open-RAN is a big foot in that door. But ultimately, the open 5G networking. And as we know, here in the US, we have players like Mavenir, headquartered in Texas. And we also have players such as Altiostar, now part of Rakuten Symphony, by the way, but again a company that is headquartered in Japan and allied with the US. So, the upshot is let’s drive Open-RAN as much as we can in the near term to really help that part of the market become stimulated and demonstrate its mettle and the fact that it can really provide a competitive alternative that meets supply chain priorities and national security priorities, as well as spurring US companies and manufacturing and so forth. So, yeah, that I think is all well understood, the incentive and the motivation for doing this.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. And I think that we talk about 5G and the important role that it plays in advancing so many things. And the bottom line is that it really does play a big role in national and economic security. And that’s what programs like this are intended to spur. So, it’s great to see government-led initiatives like this. So, once again, the 5G Challenge Preliminary Event focused on RAN subsystem interoperability, open for applications through May 5th of 2022. And with that, we’re going to wrap our 5G Factor show for today. Ron, always a pleasure hanging out with you and talking all things 5G. And to our listening audience, if you haven’t yet subscribed to our show, do that, whether you’re watching on YouTube or listening on your favorite stream platform, hit that subscribe button, and we’ll be here with you every week. And with that, thanks for spending time with us. And we’ll see you again next time.

Ron Westfall: Happy 5G networking.

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.