5G has become one of the biggest buzzwords in the technology world over the last three years. The promise of a brave new world of connectivity with automated factories, self-driving cars, remote surgeries, futuristic cities and so on – the possibilities are endless.
Critics of 5G go on about how 5G is all hype, citing lackluster developer innovation and lack of real-world use cases as reasons this technology will not be as ubiquitous as its predecessor, 4G. But I’d not be too quick to dismiss 5G; after all, it is still a relatively nascent technology. Consider the healthcare sector: a new EY study revealed that 85% of respondents say the global health crisis drives 5G interest. At Dell, 5G has enabled remote medicine and allowed businesses like Banfi to optimize production processes.
We have also pivoted to converging technologies where cloud meets the edge, compute meets mobile and 5G trends drive innovation. Gartner predicts that by 2025, cloud-native platforms will account for more than 95% of new digital initiatives and the telco cloud market is expected to grow to reach $125 billion by 2030. Communications service providers (CSPs) are capitalizing on the promise of 5G, adopting cloud-native approaches to enable greater flexibility, scalability, and efficiency. The advent of 5G has also led to the focus on virtual and open RAN – allowing operators to expand their networks and meet critical connectivity, including newer 5G applications.
Now it begs the question – how long more till we reap the full potential of 5G? To answer that, we need first to acknowledge the challenges in front of us.
Cybersecurity has emerged as the biggest threat to a technology driven world. With a cybersecurity workforce gap of 2.72 million, there is a shortage of cybersecurity experts in our region. While we can turn to security automation and machine learning solutions (Read here for my perspective of AI and ML as emerging technologies) to fill the gap, they cannot cover all risk areas. The increase in frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks require today’s digital businesses to build a strong security-awareness culture with employees – where everyone has a part to play to defend against cybersecurity threats.
Disaggregation allows organizations to innovate new dynamic and flexible services and avoid being entrapped with a single-offering telco service. However, the reality is that the complete revolution in disaggregating hardware has yet to occur. Their customized network management tools still limit many vendors. Moreover, integrating multivendor solutions and efficiently managing RAN infrastructure across geographically dispersed locations have posed a challenge. Hence, there is a need to build an ecosystem of Open RAN partners to create and validate solutions to streamline and simplify the upfront requirements for CSPs deploying Open RAN.
Compelling end-to-end experience
A genuinely seamless open RAN system would address end-to-end performance gaps and eliminate the need for multiple parties. However, due to the differing architectures of greenfield, brownfield and mixed networks – there is an increasing complexity to enable end-to-end service orchestration. Consolidated maturity of network virtualization is key to a leveled playing field. If we can prime the ground, we are a step closer to achieving a thoroughly engaged ecosystem.
Building a robust ecosystem
The last two years have demonstrated the importance of telecom networks in empowering everyday living. 5G has the potential to accelerate even more real-world applications, but we must first address the tech talent, network designs and customers’ expectations. Moreover, the lines between industry verticals are blurring. CSPs need to embrace the shift from vertical integration to open ecosystems and develop strategic business relationships to build, configure and optimally serve new industry verticals and digital tech providers.
A whole-of-society approach is a key to developing a mature 5G ecosystem. With a group of operators, partners and experts, Dell is part of the “SoftBank 5G Consortium”, which aims to accelerate 5G adoption and create an intelligent and connected world. Dell Technologies is also a member of Samsung’s 5G vRAN ecosystem, a multiparty collaboration to cultivate a more scalable and flexible network that delivers carrier-grade performance.
Undoubtedly, CSPs will undergo significant changes in business models and IT infrastructure to ride the 5G wave. Ecosystems allow our customers to tap into best-in-class partners for expertise, talent and experience. Therefore, when defining business use cases, look at how the business can grow in the ecosystem. These strategic business relationships will help operators innovate new services for different industry verticals.
The mission to unlock the fullest potential of 5G is not to be carried alone. Right partnerships across the spectrum would be critical to achieving the desired goals for any organization to fully leverage the benefits of 5G. Customers will have new windows of opportunities that allow them to freely choose and adopt the best-of-breed solutions that meet their needs and enable the next generation of real-world applications. The 5G revolution is just beginning and there are exciting times to come.