The 5G Factor: T-Mobile and Samsung, Nokia’s Revised Brand/Strategy, Vodafone and Raspberry Pi, and 5G Sustainability Report Overview
by Shelly Kramer and Ron Westfall | April 24, 2023

In this episode of The 5G Factor I’m joined by my colleague and fellow analyst, Ron Westfall to talk all things related to 5G, the IoT, and the ecosystem as a whole.

Our conversation today covered the following:

T-Mobile rumored to be partnering with Samsung on 5G network equipment. We kicked off the show talking about news on the street that T-Mobile is rumored to be exploring partnering with Samsung for 5G equipment and explored why that isn’t surprising, but how it does likely upend some progress that Nokia and Ericsson have made on the network front with T-Mobile.

Nokia’s refreshed brand identity and brand strategy. Speaking of Nokia’s 5G market position, Ron and I covered Nokia’s recent refreshed brand identity and brand strategy. In late February and perfectly timed for Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Nokia announced a refreshed brand identity and a refreshed brand strategy intended to reflect where the company is today positioning themselves as “a B2B technology innovation leader pioneering the future where networks meet cloud.” They laid out a three-phased company strategy designed to deliver sustainable, profitable growth, and established six strategic pillars, underpinned by four key enablers.

Vodafone and Raspberry Pi. In other news that came out of MWC 2023, Vodafone unveiled a prototype 5G network on Raspberry Pi, a credit card sized personal computer with a super small but advanced silicon chipset. For small businesses and households who want to extend 5G coverage and increase capacity, but also to do that affordably and securely, this is an exciting move.

And last but not least, Ron and I walked through our recently published 5G Sustainability Market Insight report (download here) and highlighted some of the progress we see in the market as well as a look at market shapers that are driving 5G sustainability programs and initiatives.

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Shelly Kramer: Hello and welcome to this episode of the 5G Factor. I’m Shelly Kramer, principal analyst and chief evangelist here at Futurum Research, and I’m joined today. I’m on my colleague and fellow analyst, Ron Westfall. We are going to have a conversation about 5G, the IOT and the 5G ecosystem as a whole. Ron, welcome. Always great to kick off these conversations.

Ron Westfall: Well, thank you Shelly. It’s a pleasure to be here, and I’m definitely looking forward to diving into today’s hot topics.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. Well, I’m going to kick off the show talking about news on the street that T-Mobile is rumored to be exploring, partnering with Samsung for 5G equipment. This wouldn’t be a total surprise, but it might well upend some progress that Nokia has made on this front. So it definitely caught my eye and I think it’s worth chatting about a little bit.

So Samsung. Samsung is not really a stranger to T-Mobile. Of course, before T-Mobile’s purchase of Sprint, Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung all played roles in building out Sprint’s network across the United States. That network has been since dismantled, but Samsung is not really a new player here. Samsung has been making some inroads in the network buildout space, recently providing Dish with 24-ish thousand plus 5G radios that Samsung is installing. They’re also working with Comcast for its 3.5 gigahertz CBRS and 600 megahertz network build out.

Samsung is also selling open ran technology to Dish Network, and as we see the open RAN team at T-mobile start to mature, it makes sense that this might be of interest. So I thought it was interesting. T-Mobile has historically had very close relationships with Nordic vendors, Ericsson and Nokia. Today, T-Mobile’s 5G deployment has basically been split about 50/50 between Nokia and Ericsson, and of course, as I said earlier, this connection to Samsung, I think comes by way of the relationship with Sprint, which T-Mobile acquired in 2020.

Why is this change happening? There’s probably a few reasons. T-Mobile’s leadership team is changing a bit. Network lead, Neville Ray is leaving and/or has left, and other key executives have joined the team, including network equipment executive Mike Simpson. Mike has spent time with Nokia and Clearwire before Clearwire was subsumed by Sprint. So bottom line, I thought this was interesting news. I think there is certainly room in this space for Samsung to slide in, and it’ll be interesting to watch this play out and see whether Samsung does in fact get a piece of T-mobile’s 5G network build out.

Ron Westfall: I love rumors. I think this is a sound strategy by T-Mobile.

Shelly Kramer: I agree.

Ron Westfall: For example, it’s common sense supply chain supplier diversification.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely.

Ron Westfall: And this is going to keep Nokia and Ericsson, the incumbents a little more on their feet.

Shelly Kramer: On their toes, right?

Ron Westfall: Can’t take T-Mobile for granted. And what I think is interesting, I think you did a great job, Shelly, pointing out where Samsung has already gained traction. Certainly Dish Network leaps to mine and also the $6.6 billion deal with Verizon that was signed three years back. And so this is showing that Samsung is very shrewd about how it is playing in the 5G ecosystem because they’re a chip supplier, they’re also a handset supplier, mobile device supplier. So on the infrastructure side, they have, I think a great deal of intelligence and expertise that can be shared in making an end-to-end 5G network work all the better. And so I think these are all factors driving T-Mobile’s decision making and potential to make Samsung a part of the strategic mix.

Shelly Kramer: Well, and I think that the reality of it is Nokia and Ericsson are terrific vendor partners. And as I said this, I feel like there’s plenty of room for Samsung and maybe even other vendors to play in this space. And as you said, we’ve learned a lot about supply chain over the course of the last two to three years, and having a really robust supply chain with the diversity of vendors is just good business sense. So it’ll be interesting to watch and see what happens. I know that T-Mobile sent news of an announcement here taking place tomorrow, so it’ll be interesting to see what that’s about. It may or may not be about this, but it’ll be interesting.

So with that, I want to slide over. We started talking about Nokia, so I want to slide over and talk now about Nokia’s 5G market position. And we were at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona together, Ron, which was at the end of February, beginning of March. And news of the event was Nokia’s new brand identity, and along with that refreshed and completely redone brand identity, Nokia has brought to market a refreshed brand strategy, and this is intended to reflect where the company is positioning themselves. And today that positioning is as a B2B technology innovation leader pioneering the future where networks meet cloud. Nokia laid out a three phased company strategy that was designed to deliver sustainable profitable growth. They established some key pillars and some key enablers underpinning those pillars. So I know that you spent a little bit of time studying this, Ron, so talk with us a little bit if you would, about what this refreshed brand strategy on the part of Nokia means.

Ron Westfall: You bet, Shelly. I think when it comes to the Mobile World Congress event, Nokia stole the show in some key regards. They had a tremendous booth. It was Oz-like, a miasmatic effect. And the new logo and the color schemes and so forth, it was all very imaginative. And I think it’s simply reinforcing when President and CEO Pekka Lundmark outlined at the show. And that is the six pillars that Nokia is using to drive their strategy throughout the mobile ecosystem. And I’ll briefly state them and drill down on a couple of the key ones. One, they’re going to commit to the service provider market, which is a no-brainer, as that’s where the vast majority of their revenues are. And in addition to that, they’re looking to expand their presence in the enterprise market, and that I think is what opened up some eyes in terms of, “Okay, Nokia is going to do something different.”

And that makes sense, they have a strong position in say private networks, with 5G private networks definitely looking to expand significantly. And so they’re looking to expand from an 8% revenue stream from the enterprise market to 10% plus. They’re talking about 20% eventually a couple years out plus. So this is a big move for Nokia and the industry. Also, they’re looking to maximize their portfolio that I think is straightforward. That is they’re really going to play in spaces where they can really assert leadership, emulating Cisco in that regard. Also, they’re looking to expand their IP and R&D capabilities for Nokia technologies. So it’s not just about mobile devices, but monetizing in other technology areas, and also driving more of as a service capabilities. I think we’re seeing that with their SaaS model being more integral to their overall offerings. And the sixth pillar, which is develop ESG into a competitive advantage, and thus become the trusted provider of choice in the industry.

And I think this is very smart because it’s not just about Nokia upholding its own ESG goals, but also being a strategic partner in ensuring that their customers meet their ESG goals, but also being really a motivator, a driver across the entire telecommunications industry, and here are some creative ways to really make sustainability a competitive advantage, not just something that you need to fulfill, but also in terms of demonstrating that the telecommunications industry itself is going to make a huge difference in terms of society as a whole, in terms of ensuring that as a planet that we avoid some climate pitfalls in the future that are looming. And so I think this is all inspirational. I think definitely heightens an Nokia’s marketing in this area, but also I think it allows people to factor in Nokia, not just in terms of mobile technology, but also in terms of meeting these strategic ESG and sustainability goals and that as we see is going to become increasingly vital and essential.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, absolutely. And really impressive, I think. I certainly walked away from my interactions with Nokia at Mobile World Congress, and really their keynotes and all of the information they shared in this strategy and focus. It’s the right thing at the right time. It makes a ton of sense. And when it comes to all things sustainability, being able to leverage that as a competitive advantage is something that’s really important, and I think that a lot of organizations are looking to be able to do that and being able to provide leadership, guidance and assistance with that is really a key part of Nokia’s offering.

Ron Westfall: Right on.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, absolutely. All right. Well, we’re going to move on and talk about something else coming out of Mobile World Congress, and that was news about Vodafone and its little 5G network surprise in Raspberry Pi. Vodafone unveiled a prototype 5G network on Raspberry Pi, which is a credit card sized little PC with a super small but advanced silicon chip set. This is designed really, I think to help small businesses and households, people who want extended 5G coverage and they want to be able to increase their capacity, but they need to be able to do it in a way that’s both affordable and secure. So talk a little bit more about that, Ron. I know you wrote about it for the Futurum website, so take us through that a little bit.

Ron Westfall: Yeah, this is another development at Mobile World Congress that jumped out. There are a lot of great announcements, lots of partnerships and new products. And this one I think is very innovative and creative, at least it has a potential to do so. I think Shelly, you hit it right on. This is based on Raspberry Pi, and so this is very right sized, if you will, for fueling broader 5G deployments. And so yeah, the Raspberry Pi, they’re using it to make 5G based mobile private networks more accessible specifically to the 22 million plus small and medium-sized enterprises across Europe. So this coming out is you very European-centric, but also I think it can serve as a template for the rest of the industry if this really takes off. And so to your point, yeah, the Raspberry Pi uses a 5G compatible, embedable software defined radio circuit board that’s made by UK based specialist Lime Microsystems.

So I think this is, again, taking best of breed, combining two technologies and coming up something that can, I think be a difference maker. And so what is actually, I think also important to note here is that Vodafone is now looking and shopping around to have a partner step up and be willing to help them build this en masse. And I think this is, I guess one caveat is we’re looking forward in this year, and we’re certainly monitoring this, and Vodafone’s success in recruiting these partners who can make this design and thus push it out to the mass market, because all Raspberry Pie products come in below $100, they usually average $35.

And to have a 5G mobile network that you can install, plug and play into your small business or a small enterprise setting or even your home, and it comes in below $100, and it’s the size of basically a wifi router. Well, gee whiz, that I think would be very compelling and definitely accelerate, I think mass uptake of 5G and make it all the more accessible and all the more able to do things like close the digital divide.

Shelly Kramer: Well, I want that and you want that. You know what I’m saying? In today’s hybrid workforce, having a remote workforce is not new for us. As you know our team has been virtual since our company’s inception, so we’re kind of pros at this. But the reality of it is we want fast networks, we want 5G access, we want all of these things. And when it can happen for, you saying under $100, well, $35 is significantly under $100. I’m sure there are probably some other costs in there, but I think it’s super exciting, and like I said, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find people who don’t want this, right?

Ron Westfall: Yeah. What’s not to like? Let’s hope that it really does take off. And so we’ll certainly do our part in terms of monitoring it and providing our perspective on how Vodafone can find partners in this key regard.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. Well, Ron, you touched on Nokia’s focus on sustainability, and so I am going to now transition and talk a little bit about a market insight report that we developed and published here really at the end of February, and it is on 5G sustainability. And in this report we looked at key considerations and market shapers driving 5G sustainability programs and initiatives. And we looked also at the top communication services providers, 5G market shapers that were driving sustainability, what the top criteria was on this front, some of the things that we see as top sustainability priorities and strategies. And then we also took a look at some companies that we identified as being the top 5G CSB, having the top 5G communication services providers, sustainability programs in market today. So I’m going to take you through the reported its entirety. Of course, we’re going to link it in the show notes, and of course we hope you’ll be interested enough that you’ll tap that link and download it.

What I just wanted to touch on though is that some of the key things that we explored were the market shapers driving 5G sustainability programs and initiatives and those things, including addressing the very real need for energy management, things like energy and cost savings that can come as a result of artificial intelligence, machine learning and analytics. We touched on, of course, network slicing efficiencies, which are a key part of things that customers are demanding these days. We touched on the importance of 5G standalone networks, and of course last but never least, we talked about the key role that cloud plays in handling mobile data workloads and beyond. So those are the top market shapers there that we covered in the report. We also touched on what we see as the top 5G sustainability criteria that communication services providers and 5G network decision-makers are focusing on.

These are things that if you’re playing in this space, you probably want to be aware of. And so what we identified there as these top sustainability criteria were things like carbon emissions, energy efficiency, no surprises here, clean energy adoption, establishing an organized wide sustainability plan, and also being able to meet 5G reporting requirements. So we dove into each one of those and explored the role that they play overall. We also talked about what we see CSP’s doing to meet these criteria. And then we talked a little bit more about, we identified five companies that we see as having the foremost 5G CSP sustainability programs. How did we identify them? I can’t remember the term that we used in the report, but it was something like the Shining Stars that we identified-

Ron Westfall: Yes, the Ring of Honor.

Shelly Kramer: The Ring of Honor. The Ring of Honor. And so I will tell you that the companies that we identified in this Ring of Honor at this moment in time were Vodafone, T-Mobile, Orange, Telefónica, and SK Telecom. And in our report we explain why we identified these companies being worthy of recognition in our Ring of Honor. And again, I’m not going to go into a whole lot of detail about the report because that is something we hope that you’ll be inspired by this little introduction and want to download and read it. Ron, do you have anything to add without giving away the goods?

Ron Westfall: Well, yeah, strike that fine balance, and Shelley, you did a great job of covering it. The only thing I will add is the fact that we’re seeing the CSPs that made our Ring of Honor doing a better job prioritizing stakeholder input, for example. And I think this is going to be increasingly vital as the CSPs understand that they have to work with the entire value chain to really advance things like fulfilling their ESG goals, but also very importantly, scope one through three GSG reductions, greenhouse gas reductions, and aligning that with some hard scientific objectives. So this is not a greenwashing exercise. That’s why we selected these particular CSPs, because they really provided the most information at this point in time, we believe. And as result, we see them not only adhering to these principles, but executing on sustainable supply chains, part of that scope one through three criteria, and also sustainable energy management and so forth. So this is definitely an area that is going to become increasingly important. I think when we were at Mobile World Congress, the key theme in all of our conversations with sustainability, sustainability, sustainability.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. 100%.

Ron Westfall: And don’t get me wrong, there are other important things like AI and 5G monetization and cloud integration and so forth. They’re all important, but this definitely was at the top of the list from our perspective, and that’s why we have issued the report and definitely welcome input and feedback, practice what we’re preaching, and look forward to getting more information on this hot topic throughout the course of this year.

Shelly Kramer: Well, and I’ll say that for vendors who are doing exciting things in the sustainability space, we can’t cover what we don’t know about. So if you’re doing something that is significant, you want us to be aware of it, where to find us, we’d love to hear what you are doing as it relates to sustainability and delivering on ESG initiatives. And so we will always make time for those conversations, right, Ron?

Ron Westfall: Right on. The Ring of Honor could ultimately emulate the Oscars, going from five best picture nominees to 10 best picture nominees. But again, they did that after they realized they got a lot more input, and this is something that is feasible.

Shelly Kramer: So the Ring of Honor could include you. Just keep us in the know. All right, well, with that, Ron, I think we’re going to wrap this episode of the 5G Factor to our viewing audience, to our listening audience. Thank you so much for tuning in. Ron, thank you for making time to spend with me this afternoon, and we’ll be back next week with another episode of the 5G Factor, so tune in then.


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.