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NetEvents’ webinar titled  ‘Market Opportunities for 5G, IoT and Edge Compute’ started off with Jeremiah Caron, global head of research & analysis – Technology Group, GlobalData sharing new research and market outlook data and exploring the current state of affairs of the industry.

A panel of industry visionaries examined the opportunities in 5G as well as some roadblocks in its progress. The panelists were as follows: Mikael Bäck, vice president and corporate officer, group function technology, Ericsson;  Saratendu Sethi, vice president - AI, GEP; Terence McCabe, chief technology officer for Asia Pacific and Japan, Nokia; Shamik Basu, director of IoT products, Verizon Business; Stephen Spellicy, vice president of solutions and product marketing, service provider and edge, VMware, while Jeremiah Caron moderated the discussion.

The path for discussion was set by recognizing that 5G services and edge computing was driving a concept of a highly automated, cleaner, safer, and generally more productive industrial world that has traction with businesses worldwide, particularly around 5G enterprise deployments.

GlobalData findings mainly pointed to two things:

  1. Transitioning from 4G to 5G with more options around the spectrum, different service rollouts, and alliances picking up in 2021. Enterprise 5G services via public network starting to emerge requiring application priority and guaranteed bandwidth as well as demand for 5G URLLC and MMTC (for massive IoT). Operators productizing private networks with a focus on value addition beyond the networks with 5G advanced standards being approved by 3GPP.
  2. Edge computing models emerging with consistency with a diverse range of companies targeting edge computing. Edge computing use cases seeing a proliferation even post COVID19.

The first theme the panel addressed was “where are we right now, what's really possible?’

From a service provider perspective, Shamik Basu sought to shed some light on the 5G and Edge computing’s practical enterprise use cases. He pointed out that massive IoT use cases will see the use of sensors in many sectors. “The second element is much greater levels of latency that the network can afford, and the third is extremely high levels of throughput delivered to devices and network,” he said.  However, he stressed that it was important to provide business value to customers. “Taking that very large gamut of sensors and bridging into 5G to rapidly centralizing the environments and scaling that up, you've got software-as-a-service and AI capabilities running on top of that and driving value,” he said. “5G is one of those things that really takes mixed reality off the ground,” he added.

Trying to explore the transition of the 5G and Edge computing technology from a theoretical aspect to its actual deployment, the question was directed to Mikael Bäck, who felt that there was “clearly a huge interest in private networks, from manufacturing plants and ports, to remote locations for mines, etc. Regarding network slicing, he said, “I think that whole aspect of providing control to the end-user being an enterprise is quite extreme.” “We see a lot of things happening around the smartphones, gaming private users, fixed wireless and so on,” he added.

Chiming in the conversation, Stephen Spellicy said, “Massive increase in device count and use cases in manufacturing are unavoidable. You have a greater amount of sensors, but also industrial IoT at large, smart meters infrastructure, and the huge amount of actual device density is pushing operators to look for the next network which is 5G. So, the modernization of 5G infrastructure is key to the customers we're working with today,” he said.

Joining the conversation, Terence McCabe said, “The ultimate destination is a hybrid environment where edge computing and slicing come together with 5G to create virtualized private networks, hybrid with the enterprises on the infrastructure itself, and the applications can migrate across that developing ecosystem,” he added. “So often, starting from a private network gives the enterprise or the non-traditional ecosystem player, an opportunity to develop capabilities and experience, and have those first experiences without having a nationwide coverage footprint or a universal availability of 5G technology or edge computing,” he added.

Discussing the second theme “Developments on the horizon, and coming soon,” the standards of new technologies such as advanced 5G versus stand-alone 5G were explored.

Terrence McCabe said, “When you are building a nationwide network, there's a lag between the first site brought online, the coverage footprint supported by building use cases, and the scale of deployment that may be necessary to support reliable service for these applications. Starting from the other end of the scale, private networks give you a more controlled environment that can be dedicated to specific use cases and can iterate through the standards more quickly. We do have today a combination of carrier customers and private customers who've rolled out 5G standalone and there will be early adopters for the ultra-reliable low latency use cases as we move forward. But right now, I would say that standalone is table stakes for those who are interested in the higher end low latency use cases for 5G.”  Adding that “many of the cases we hear about don't require ubiquitous latency service and can be built using the non-standalone networks that are more generally available today.”

Shamik Basu said, “The operative word is creating a single management layer and you will see the discussion shifting to the managed layers, so it’s not about who is providing connectivity but how they are streamlining the experience to customers to get access to devices and platforms that manage the network and how they can manage multiple sites of customers with multiple private networks running in every single one of them. We were able to do that with the Associate British Ports”

On the question of how service providers can advance their private networking offers and in the market with the emerging technologies, Stephen Spellicy said, “Private networking is the first 5G footprint that many enterprises will experience. Building access for more advanced use cases around things like manufacturing, healthcare, campuses, or anything smart, is going to require an additional network. Of course, 4G provides quite a bit of capabilities for some of them. But, as latency becomes strained, 5G will be the go-to network,” he said.

He added, “5G is not for everyone and also network equipment vendors and ISVs, who work in this space are instrumenting their stacks for specific use cases and not supporting all use cases. […] It's the value add on top of that, that comes with edge application orchestration, managed services and lifecycle management in the infrastructure where the opportunity is going to be in the future,” he added.

“Having a whole network performance predictability will lead many industries to change their deliveries fairly quickly, and it’s not so far away in time,” added Mikael Bäck.

Finally, in the theme ‘The future, 2022 and Beyond,’ Saratendu Sethi covered the areas of how 5G and Edge computing would impact the industry’s supply chain and pointed out some barriers that may be encountered.

Sethi felt that the promise of 5G’s low latency has garnered a lot of interest in the manufacturing industry, in transport vehicles automation, as well as in leveraging the technology for better connectivity for indoor and outdoor environments. However, he said that a lot of customers are still figuring out the future of 5G as its infrastructure is still very diverse with a handful of primary investment vendors making high-cost infrastructure investments. He also pointed at the geopolitical situation as well as the pandemic disrupting the supply chain.

Touching upon the topic of the future of the supplier ecosystem, Terrence McCabe said, “What the hyperscalers are doing with their edge deployments isn’t a simple competitive or cooperative dynamic, there's a lot of ‘coopetition’ going on and the role of ecosystem players in the long run is very ambiguous. Hyperscalers are partnering with CSPs at a national level to deploy edge data capabilities to host applications, thus, developing telco cloud solutions. So when we talk about edge and the role of hyperscalers, I think it is a space to watch out for as the dynamics are not fixed, and we are going to change a good deal over the coming years.”

He also said that when it comes to global network connectivity such as subsea cables, the largest investors today are the hyperscalers with the ability to create global footprints. However, he believed that they cannot be everywhere and would require the local intimacy that CSPs can provide. Another important point he stressed was the greater recognition of national boundaries and data sovereignty. He cited examples of heightened sensitivity about image processing and facial recognition in some markets. He said that CSPs can play a crucial role as national integrators in the development of applications and services because there are unique characteristics and unique constraints in many markets.

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