Episode 33: 5G is Coming…to Transform Connectivity

The difference between 4G and 5G isn’t just "one G faster”. 5G is a fundamental change in the way devices communicate with each other. It’s faster broadband, yes, but also with much lower latency and much higher capacity for simultaneous connections. In the next decade, 5G will enable everything from tele-medicine to self-driving cars to millions of internet-connected devices. On this episode, Dell CTO, Sr. Vice President & Sr. Fellow Liam Quinn explores all the possibilities.
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Faster Mobile Broadband Is Just the Beginning for 5G’s Potential

5G connectivity is almost ready for prime-time. Wireless providers, broadband providers, and device makers are all readying a major push to roll out the technology.

While 5G will substantially improve download speeds, it’s more than just faster data transfer. Vast improvements in latency and connectivity will speed up the development dozens of up-and-coming technologies like self-driving cars, tele-medicine, always-connected computing, and IoT-enabled sensors. 5G has the potential to transform existing businesses and spring to life entirely new business models.

Dell is working with technology partners around the world to help realize the potential of 5G. On this episode, Liam Quinn, Senior VP and Senior Fellow at Dell, discusses the technology’s potential, what type of business applications can benefit most from it, and how it will change our daily lives of many over the next decade.

Featured Luminary: Liam Quinn, Sr. Vice President and Sr. Fellow, Dell Technologies

Liam Quinn has been with Dell since 1997 and currently leads the Pan-Dell Technologies 5G strategy. Key areas of focus and research include, Converged mobility, Digital & Workforce Transformation, Security & Manageability, IoT and xR with specific applications of augmented and virtual reality in areas of remote maintenance, gaming and 3D applications.

Mr. Quinn holds has over 120 granted and pending US patents, and is a published Author on Networking. He was named Dell Inventor of the year in 2005, 2007 and 2014. He was an Associate Professor of Engineering at the Dublin Institute of Technology, the University of Texas Austin, and Texas State University. He is a frequent speaker at Wi-Fi and Networking Forums and also represents Dell on the boards of the Wi-Fi Alliance, and The Open Fog Consortium.

Mr. Quinn has designed network systems and wireless solutions and has managed Engineering teams in systems architecture and product development. Mr. Quinn serves on the Engineering Advisory Board of the University of Texas Cockrell School of Engineering and the Texas State Ingram School of Engineering. Mr. Quinn hold undergraduate and graduate Degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering.

“5G will enable the era of hyperconnectivity where devices, machines, and humans will be interconnected in a very rich way.”

— Liam Quinn, Sr. Vice President, & Sr. Fellow, Dell Technologies

Luminaries Hosts

  • Mark Schaefer Author, Consultant, College Educator. Mark is a leading authority on marketing strategy, consultant, blogger, podcaster, and the author of six best-selling books, including "KNOWN." He has two advanced degrees and studied under Peter Drucker in graduate school. Some of his clients include Microsoft, GE, Johnson & Johnson and the US Air Force
  • Douglas Karr Technologist, Author, Speaker. Pre-Internet, Douglas started his career as a Naval electrician before going to work for the newspaper industry. His ability to translate business needs into technology during the advent of the Internet paved the way for his digital career. Douglas owns an Indianapolis agency, runs a MarTech publication, is a book author, and speaks internationally on digital marketing, technology, and media.


ANNOUNCER: Luminaries. Talking to the brightest minds in tech.

MAN: And my hope is that we come together to share more than technology, and expertise, and products, but that we share a vision of a future that is better than today. A vision of technology as the driver of human progress.

ANNOUNCER: Your hosts are Mark Schaefer and Douglas Karr.

MARK SCHAEFER: Welcome, everyone, to another episode of Luminaries, where we talk to the brightest minds in tech. And this is Mark Schaefer. Douglas Karr is my co-host. And Doug, this is a special milestone event for us.


MARK SCHAEFER: We have our first repeat executive. And Liam Quinn is here. He’s the senior vice president and senior fellow of Dell Technologies. We’re going to be talking about some exciting new ideas today, but first, we have a presentation to honor this milestone, our first repeat visitor. So Liam, we have this fruit basket for you.


MARK SCHAEFER: I’ve been carrying it around for a few months waiting for this. But we hope you enjoy it, you and your family.

LIAM QUINN: Looks good. Looks good.

MARK SCHAEFER: So thank you–

LIAM QUINN: Like all the colored fruit there.

MARK SCHAEFER: Yeah. It’s interest– many different colors.

LIAM QUINN: Mm-hm. Some local. [CHUCKLES]


MARK SCHAEFER: So we thank you. We thank you for being our first time repeat executive. And this is going to be a very, very special episode. And we’re going to be talking about 5G technology. And there are so many implications for this development, and it’s a major foundational strategy for Dell.

So Liam, I am not a tech kind of person. I have a marketing background. So talk about 5G. What is this, even in terms that I could understand.

LIAM QUINN: OK, Mark and Doug. It’s great to be back. I remember the first time was a couple years ago at Dell Technology World and CES, so– in Vegas.

MARK SCHAEFER: In Vegas, right.

LIAM QUINN: So come a long way, and so 5G. I see five different fruits here, so. It’s a cool coincidence.


LIAM QUINN: So 5G, think of that as the next iteration on the cellular technology path. We had 1G in the ’80s, which is voice and analog. Then you had 2G, which was digital, and you had voice and text. And 3G was more of voice, text, and SMS, and mobile data.

And then 4G, in the 2010 time-frame, was really where you had the mobile cloud, mobile internet. And people started to realize that the bandwidth and capabilities of a 4G environment allowed a great experience where you can upload and download YouTube, and content, and so forth.

And 5G is the next step from that. But it’s not just a faster speed. It really is a transformative innovation in the cellular technology path in that it’s going to transform the whole telco infrastructure. It’s moving towards more of a digital decentralized environment, decentralized architecture that’s going to have impacts to all aspects of society.

And there’s three primary usage models around 5G. One is a massive mobile broadband. So if you think of what you’re happy today with 4G, 5G is 10x [INAUDIBLE], in theory. In theory. So can you imagine what you would do–

MARK SCHAEFER: Wow. This is a quantum change.

LIAM QUINN: Absolutely. So what can you do with all that data coming down? Or what could you do if you had the ability upload 10x the amount of data that you do today?

The second is ultra-low latency. And that’s a usage model synonymous with telemedicine, smart cars, smart cities, autonomous driving and so forth, where you need extremely low latency.

And then the third one is massive connectivity. So that goes around to the domain of IoT. So when you think of billions of devices all connected to the internet with low connectivity models of data rates and so forth, monitoring sensors and oil tanks and leakage and so on and so forth, when you think of those three diverse workload types and connected devices, you start to realize that the telco and carriers had no choice but to transform their network infrastructure in order to support diverse workloads with the right prioritization, with the right bandwidth, with the right quality of service in order to support those diverse workloads.

So that’s why I started off with the 1G to where we are today. You can see that huge transformative capability of end devices. And the current environment we have with 4G today, it’s not scalable for this future world where you have AI, machine learning, IoT, smart cars, AR, VR, and so forth. So that’s why you’ve got this excitement around 5G.

I want to be clear. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s a journey to 5G. It’s a journey over multiple years in order to get there with the right build-out from the carriers, with the right usage model and application for devices.

And you’re going to see new businesses coming out of this, just like you had Instagram and Uber was enabled by 4G. What’s the next Uber of the 5G world? And believe me, there’s a lot of startup companies right now, a lot of incubation, a lot of investment’s gone into the 5G environment of what 5G will bring across our lives. So the way I like to frame it is, the 5G is the era of hyperconnectivity where devices, machines, and humans will be interconnection in a very rich way.

DOUGLAS KARR: What are some of the– when you look at 5G technology being adopted by consumers, what does that mean for the everyday life of a human being connected that way?

LIAM QUINN: I think there’s different models and different phases of impact for society. For the consumer, is something going to radically change tomorrow? I think the answer is no.

There’s a lot of applications of 5G as a fiber replacement into the home. So you could actually get 5G data rates into the home, and instead of having a cable going in, either Comcast or the cable companies, or Time Warner, or coming in through a fiber connection, or coming in through a DSL connection or a satellite connection, now your broadband may be delivered over a millimeter-wave 5G link. Massive broadband in there into a router. The router then can redistribute that around the home using Wi-Fi.

In fact, some carriers and service providers are looking at pushing 5G deeper into the home so that maybe the connectivity from your router to your smart TV, your router to your smart application or device in the home is now over a 5G link versus a Wi-Fi link. So that would be one example of an impact to the consumer.

We know that some of the telcos in North America are rolling out what’s called fixed wireless access into the home. And you’re going to see that in certain cities, certain areas. But also, the more excitement from a carrier perspective is the mobile broadband content of 5G. And we can go into the spectrum and the technical areas of what it means in that domain.

MARK SCHAEFER: So this is really remarkable. What I’m learning today is that this is not an evolution. This is really a quantum shift-away. I think I read it’s sort of like a once-in-a-decade implications that sounds like it could create new business models.

LIAM QUINN: It can. And another example, just to go back to your point, Doug. With 3G, if you were to download an HD movie, it might take you multiple hours, maybe the best part of a day. With 4G, it probably took you seven to eight minutes. With 5G, it’s probably seven to eight seconds.


LIAM QUINN: So imagine, if you go on a trip, and you want to download content, and you can download a lot of that in seconds versus minutes versus hours, that’s a very rich and compelling experience of what you can do. When you look at ruggedized applications with 5G in there from the first responders, where you could do a triage, let’s say, on an incident or an accident, and get all of the content delivered in a very clear quality service-based environment up to the hospital so that by the time the ambulance get there with the patient or patients, all the content is there. And you need massive bandwidth in order to do that with things like X-rays, and so forth, and imaging. That’s another example.

I think there’s a lot of excitement around the low-latency applications around autonomous cars and smart cars. Because you can’t be waiting for a second or two make a decision on an impending incident. You want it in milliseconds.

So another example would be, in 3G, the runtime latency is probably 120, 140 milliseconds. In 4G, it’s probably 45 milliseconds. In 5G, it’s down to less than a millisecond. So again, you need that near-time instant response for mission-critical applications. So when you think of telemedicine, tactile internet, low latency is a key factor there.

And again, there’s this aspect of network slicing where the carriers are going to be able to slice their network even all the way for the radio through to the edge compute environment in order to guarantee different paths for different applications so that the voice may go on one latency path, the imaging may go on another latency path, and the text or whatever may go on another one. So again, that ability to have an agile environment is very important for the carriers in this emerging disruptive environment.

So in reality, the carrier infrastructure, the carrier architecture is moving from a centralized core into an OpenStack, open standards-based environment where you have actually six servers, software-defined networking, software-defined storage now being applied in their architecture, and it’s moving from a centralized architecture to a distributed architecture where you have more compute closer to the source of data– edge compute is a term that’s normally used for that– where that computer’s moving more towards the edge closer to the devices, closer to the user, closer to the car, closer to the machine. Where analytics can be done there, decisions can be done there, and not everything has to go to the core and then come back to make a decision.

So it is exciting when you look at this, when you look at it’s a multi-year journey, and when you look at the rich environment we’re going to have in a number of years versus what we have today, similar to what we have today versus what we had 10 years ago with 3G, versus 20 years ago with 2G. Our lives are very much enriched by cellular capability, networking capability, and this world of convergence between the IT compute world, and the telco service provider world, and an infrastructure and cloud world. So now you can see there’s a lot of convergence being driven around the edge, to the core, to the cloud.

MARK SCHAEFER: So you mentioned there’s going to have to be a big investment from the telcos. And some of the benefits are going to be obvious to consumers, and the business and new business models. But how will the telcos justify this investment? Is it something more than we just don’t want to be left behind, or is there a business benefit for them as well?

LIAM QUINN: I think it’s a bit of both. The current model is not sustainable and scalable in this emerging world where everybody has got a smart device. And by the way, the compute capability of the smart devices are a lot richer than they were five years ago. So what’s in here right now is really, really capable of generating a lot of data, crunching a lot of data, and moving and a lot of data. And that’s only going to continue to increase and get more proficient.

So the current infrastructure from the telcos and service providers has to scale, has to change in order to adapt to this type of device as well as IoT, as well as smart cities, smart applications, and so forth. So they’ve got to invest. They’ve got to change. But they also own the customer as well, and I think it’s a long-term bet for them. Go big or go long– go home or go big, you know?

DOUGLAS KARR: Yeah. So we talked about two kind of dimensions there, obviously, to these infrastructure changes. But there’s also a third one, and that’s that 5G requires a huge change in how municipalities and government work with the private sector. Can you describe the race underway to deploy 5G, the timeline, and then, is this eventually going to be something that cities are going to use to attract business?

LIAM QUINN: So the investment is happening today. All of the major telcos are investing. They’ve already got spectrum.

There’s two areas of spectrum. One is what’s called sub-6 gigahertz, which is both licensed and unlicensed. And the other one is up at the millimeter wave. 24, 28, 37, 39, 47 gigahertz. Very short wavelength, which means you have to have more access points, which means more picocells in order to deliver that rich massive broadband capability.

So they are investing. It will be an overbuild on the existing 4G infrastructure, in addition to new build-out on the millimeter wave side of things. So those investments are in place, or continue to be deployed. If you go across the major carriers like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and so forth, you can see where they’ve identified some key cities in North America where they’re doing proof of trials. You’re going to start seeing a lot of that this year.

MARK SCHAEFER: Who are some of the leaders? Can you mention?

LIAM QUINN: Well, obviously, Verizon’s big, and they’ve got a lot of deployments out there in big cities. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint are very complementary in the spectrum that they have. I think they will have a big play in that. And there’s also spectrum auctions in flight, where you get a lot of service providers which are non-telco buying up spectrum because they want to plan for the future as well.

So Doug, to your point, will that attract businesses? Anywhere you’ve got smart cities, or smart technology, or savvy environments, I think it’s a very attractive thing for new companies coming in, or companies to expand. When you look at millennials and what they make choices on when they make a decision to go to work for company A versus company B, a lot of it is predicated by the technology that’s going to be disposable out there for them, and the technologies that they can use, and the platforms. So I think it is going to be a factor in decision-making for companies based on employees and where they want to work and how they want to work. So yes, I think it goes hand-in-hand.

MARK SCHAEFER: Liam, in a Dell report, it noted that 5G could have a significant impact on workforce transformation. And that got my attention. There wasn’t a lot of explanation about it, so could you talk a little bit about that, how it will impact the workforce?

LIAM QUINN: Yeah. So again, it’s having access to the right tool, having access to the right data. We at Dell, on the client side– and we can talk later about our broader initiative across Dell– we have a number of experiences, one of which is the always-connected experience. And when we talk about always-connected, it means you open your notebook or your device, it is connected, always connected.

Now, there’s a lot of implications for that. It means that if it’s always connected, it means you have to have great battery life all its availability. It means you have to have the right security strategy, because, again, it’s always connected. And you have to have the right technology sets in there in order to be always connected, because I want to be always connected either inside the corporate walls and enterprise, or even outside, or in the trenches between one environment and another. I want to be always connected.

Very similar to the smartphone of today. There’s a lot of new things we will add to differentiate on top of that, and we’re putting tremendous amount of plans and proof of concept and due diligence into that paradigm of being always connected.

So happy where we are today. More work to do. But it’s also part of a bigger initiative which I call the pan-Dell technology 5G initiative. And I’m an exec sponsor with that with my peer Kevin Shatzkamer that’s over on the networking team.

And we actually kicked this off back in August of last year, and we have a regular core team when we started this. First, there was dozens upon dozens upon dozens of what I call enthusiastic work in flight, but it wasn’t coordinated. And we had a number of face-to-face off-site meetings with the right team members, identified who’s working on it.

We’ve got a tremendous team right now with capabilities and experiences from the telco service providers. IT, services, applications, hardware, software on the team. And the combination of that was a readout to the ELT and Michael and the executives before we broke for December on a line strategy all the way from the CSG edge, right through to the core, right through to the cloud, across all of our Dell Technology teams, including VMware with their NSX. It’s tremendous.

The result of that was a great show we had at Mobile World Congress where we had demos, we had keynotes, we had interviews, we had demos in partner booths like Intel. And it’s great to see the richness of that work being culminated in what we did at Mobile World Congress.

More work to be done. Now we’re in the execution phase of the different respective business units working on this. We’re working with a number of the telcos and our preferred account teams on RFPs with the telcos as they plan their rollout. We’re also working with a number of our solution labs around the world, including Cork and Limerick in Ireland on proof-of-concept demos and test beds there. We’re also working with the VMware team on porting in their network slicing architecture as well as their VMware NSX capability for virtualization on the edge platforms.

So it’s exciting times. But it’s taken a while to get everybody aligned, but there’s huge amount of enthusiastic engagement. There’s an alignment of what we’re doing. We’re working off a strategy, and we’re going to continue to work on that. So you’re going to see even more rich demos and discussion at Dell Technology World in a couple of months. So that’s good to see.

DOUGLAS KARR: It is incredible. There’s a lot of opportunity here for non-traditional businesses as well. When we were talking about Dell’s evolution and keeping ahead of it, and Verizons, and of course, the technologies and startup companies. But this could impact all businesses, right? And what should businesses be doing today to prepare for this evolution?

LIAM QUINN: Well, I think– and this has come up a lot, Doug. I think what we need to do is continue to engage deeply with our customers and our partners, and understanding, first of all, what they’re going through is part of their digital transformation. 5G is one element. It’s not the only element, but it’s a key enabler for a lot of other drag effects around AI, machine learning, around AR, VR, around smart manufacturing, around smart access to data. The always-connected paradigm that I talked about.

And if you look at the capabilities that Dell has, and what we can bring to their discussions, I think that sets us up very well for really deep, rich engagement with key partners. Because it’s not about a technology, it’s really understanding what they’re doing. The transformation that they’re going through. But also, giving them the confidence of what we’re doing in these spaces in order to work with them to deliver solutions as part of their transformation.

So that’s the joy of what we come to work to do. And when you have the right teams in place, and the right vision in place, it really sets it up very well for a very exciting future in this space.

MARK SCHAEFER: It creates an opportunity for partnership, doesn’t it, really, with your–

LIAM QUINN: Well, I think it actually deepens the partnership. It deepens the partnership, because it’s not we’re trying to sell you a box. It’s part of a discussion of which we have great tools in the box, and we’ve got great flexibility in our tool set and the architecture that we can deliver not only in hardware, but software, and services, and applications, security manageability, and those assets that they need as part of their transformation. And I think that’s the exciting part, is to realize the tool set that we have, the capability we have, and the vision we have in order to back that up.

DOUGLAS KARR: You’re leaving it to the businesses to innovate while you support everything on the back end that they need.

LIAM QUINN: Well, I think it’s engaged process. It’s not like we’re going to be on one side and the business on the other side. It really is a vision that we got to implement and got to realize, and work with our partners, both internal and external.

MARK SCHAEFER: Liam, thank you so much for your time today. Get ready, everybody. 5G is coming! And Liam’s going to help you get there. So what a fascinating discussion. We sure appreciate your time today. And maybe a year from now, you’ll be our first three-time. And who knows where the gifts might lead us then, so.

DOUGLAS KARR: It’s a bourbon basket.

MARK SCHAEFER: No, I don’t– well, maybe I might take that one. So Liam, thank you so much for your time today. And thanks, everyone, for listening. We never take you for granted. Thank you for all the nice comments you’re leaving us on the program. This is Mark Schaefer, and on behalf of Douglas Karr, we thank you for listening, and we’ll see you next time on Luminaries, where we talk to the brightest minds in tech.

LIAM QUINN: Thanks, Mark. Thanks, Doug. Appreciate it.


ANNOUNCER: Luminaries. Talking to the brightest minds in tech. A podcast series from Dell Technologies.