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5G Factor: CSPs Testing New 5G Waters

5G Factor: CSPs Testing New 5G Waters

In this episode of The 5G Factor, our series that focuses on all things 5G, the IoT, and the ecosystem as a whole, I’m joined by my colleague and fellow analyst, Todd R Weiss, for a look at the top 5G developments and what’s going on that caught our eye.

Our conversation focused on:

Vodafone is Testing GenAI Waters. Vodafone is testing genAI waters, getting Microsoft tech to write code. Plus, Vodafone was prominent in the Oracle Database@Azure launch with the major goal of easing AI workload administration, scaling, and migration across multi-cloud environments. Vodafone is running proofs of concept (PoCs) to figure out where Generative AI could productively and safely be used. We assess the impact of Vodafone’s GenAI moves including its ten ChatBot PoCs and exposing some developers on its CyberHub team to GitHub Copilot, the code-writing version of ChatGPT.

Deutsche Telekom and Microsoft Azure Test New Private 5G Capabilities. Deutsche Telekom is testing its new private 5G network solution with Microsoft in a lab setting at Bonn. Specifically, DT is branding its new solution “Campus Network Smart” solution, which will be delivered in collaboration with Microsoft. The new offering augments its current portfolio of private 5G networks for industrial use in Europe. The new campus solution is built on Microsoft Azure private MEC, which includes the Azure Private 5G Core service deployed on Azure Stack Edge. We evaluate the potential benefits of DT’s Campus Network Smart offering, especially in supporting key use cases such as AR-enabled remote support, robotics, video analytics, and IoT.

Verizon Adds Mobile NaaS Unit. Verizon is adding the new Mobile Onsite Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) unit to its fleet. Cell on Wheels (COWs) and Cell on Light Trucks (COLTS) use radio access technology to deliver temporary network connectivity at venues or during natural disasters. The Mobile Onsite NaaS can be characterized as an entire data center on a small trailer, functioning as a compact, portable, edge-based network that Verizon is using as-a-service to provide 5G, edge compute, security, and connectivity to locations that need that type of service. We assess the impact of Verizon Mobile Onsite NaaS including support for private network, private MEC, SD-WAN, and satellite connectivity to customer locations and use as a Mobile Lab as-a-service to test enterprise applications and devices on a 5G standalone network.

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Disclosure: The Futurum Group is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of The Futurum Group as a whole.

Transcript:

Ron Westfall: Hello, and welcome everyone to The 5G Factor. I’m Ron Westfall, research director here at The Futurum Group. Today I’m joined by my distinguished colleague, Todd R. Weiss, our team analyst focused on key areas such as communications networks. Today we’re going to dive into The 5G factor, which is all about the 5G ecosystem and the IoT and the major developments that caught our eye. So Todd, welcome back to The 5G Factor and many thanks for joining. So how have you been bearing up between episodes? What have you been doing with yourself?

Todd R. Weiss: Oh, hi Ron. Nice to be here with you again. Well, there was a great Eagles-Vikings game last night, and it was a wild night around here, so that was fun. But yeah, I’m glad to be here, and this is a great topic. This is a really great topic that we’re working on today.

Ron Westfall: Yeah, I agree. We’re focusing on the communication service providers or CSPs, also known as carriers or operators. There is certainly a lot going on, and this has been a busy last week plus. To start off, let’s look at Vodafone who may not have had a direct interest in the Eagles-Vikings game, but does have a direct interest in gen AI. Specifically, they’re testing the gen AI waters and working with Microsoft to write code. So what is important about this is that Vodafone was prominent and the Oracle database at Azure launch that was done this week. The major goal of that particular launch is to ease AI, workload administration, scaling and migration across multi-cloud environments. So already Vodafone is playing, I think, a major role in terms of establishing Mindshare and gaining some thought leadership as to how AI technology and gen AI in particular can have an impact on telcos specifically.

Todd R. Weiss: This is really interesting ’cause it might’ve been a hard idea where in the world are they going to use this? It was like, boom, writing code. That’s a brilliant idea. It’s going to be a really great thing for companies like Vodafone that don’t have consumer-facing software or don’t have consumer-facing products, but they have these services. So using it to help increase and build their services, it’s brilliant.

Ron Westfall: Yeah, I agree wholeheartedly. To drill down a bit, Todd, Vodafone is running proof of concepts, naturally, to figure out where the gen AI could productively and safely be used to your point, and well, they’re diverse. As many as 10 involved chatbots, and that includes TOBi, and that is Vodafone’s customer-facing chatbot as well as Asker. Hopefully, I’m doing that justice in terms of the acronym, and that’s the chatbot that’s used by the employees and systems also that are targeted at supply chain management and other telco-related activities. Now, a key interest is that Vodafone has now exposed some developers to its cyber hub team to GitHub Copilot, and that is basically the co-writing version of ChatGPT. That’s how it could-

Todd R. Weiss: Oh, wow.

Ron Westfall: … be best thought of.

Todd R. Weiss: That’s interesting.

Ron Westfall: Right on. With that, what that can do is churn out code when asked in natural language to solve a programming problem. So this is in contrast to ChatGPT, which is getting the lion’s share of headlines and publicity and so forth, basically enabling any internet user to gain say, an essay on how dandelions grow and things of that nature. So this is a different animal altogether, being able to do code. It’ll do other, I think, important capabilities such as translating from Python to JavaScript and between various other programming language. So this is something that’s been flying under the radar a bit, but it’s very important integral to AI. I know, Todd, you have definite thoughts on this.

Todd R. Weiss: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. As far as this, this to me, I’ve been covering gen AI, and I’ve been covering AI for a number of years, gen AI in the last few years, but this could really make a giant difference because using gen AI to write code could make code better if it’s well-trained. If it’s well-trained, then it won’t make perhaps mistakes that a developer might make, inadvertently. Gen AI could certainly help us create better code, which would be more reliable code. That, to me, is one of the things, and it makes so much sense.

Vodafone, like I said, these kinds of things, the code that they need is the code that runs their systems, the code that consumers don’t see, business users don’t see, but it’s the code that makes it all possible. To me, this would be a great thing. It could make Vodafone have new features more quickly. It could give Vodafone better reliability. It could give Vodafone so many benefits because all of this could be helped along by gen AI. It’s not going to replace, it shouldn’t replace developers. They’re going to be needed there, but this can help them do more code, more code that’s even better. So to me, I think this is a huge thing.

Ron Westfall: Yes. In fact, I think you hit on a key point there. It’s a society-wide concern-

Todd R. Weiss: Oh, yeah.

Ron Westfall: … will AI replace jobs en masse? I think we’ve been here before, we’ve seen technological innovations that changed the landscape. So it’s not necessarily a zero-sum aspect. In fact, I think it has been well put that AI can enable better productivity, more efficient workflows and so forth. So I think it’s not so much AI will replace existing workers, I think what is going on is that the workers who use AI capabilities will just be more effective. The challenge is workers who are using AI versus workers who, unfortunately, may not be using AI. I think that is how we have to level set, understand the impact of AI, not just on the telcos, which is certainly important, but across all of society.

Todd R. Weiss: Oh, of course.

Ron Westfall: Right on. So yeah, it’s not just Vodafone who is pushing the proof of concepts out there and some of the experimentation that is so vital to getting this right. We’re also seeing, for example, across the English Channel, Deutsche Telekom testing its new private G network solution with Microsoft as well. This time it’s in a lab environment in Bonn. So Deutsche Telekom is emphasizing that this launch is following a successful pilot that they had with a major pharmaceutical company in Germany. So this is establishing, okay, this is something that has actual real-world capabilities. So now what we’re seeing is that DT is saying that the new offering compliments its current portfolio of 5G private networks for industrial use in Germany. I think, yes, that DT has done a pretty remarkable job in that regard in terms of establishing private wireless as certainly a viable use case, but also something that the telcos themselves can make a major contribution. As we know there’s a do-it-yourself option. From my view, that’s a bit limited in its applicability, but there will be enterprises that will try that.

But also you have managed service offerings that involve, say, the cloud providers and specialists who focus on wireless connectivity, and certainly private 5G is a big part of that mix now. So clearly the telcos I think can have a huge role in this because their forte, their DNA is in spectrum, it’s in radio access technology and so forth, you get the idea. So private wireless and private 5G in particular, I think, is well-suited for them to diversify their revenue streams. With that in mind, we’re seeing their collaboration with Microsoft specifically taking on the Azure MEC capability, which includes the Azure Private 5G Core service that is deployed on, naturally, the Azure Stack Edge. This can provide customers with a campus network offering, which includes the planning, the building of the private network using, again, the Azure services with RAN components as well as the operations offered as one unified package managed service that I touched on.

Now further boosting of the DT private 5G network solution in combination with Microsoft is DT, Ericsson, Avenir and Ciena’s Blue Planet recently did a joint demonstration that showed the benefits of multi-domain orchestration with open APIs to automatically create new slice-based services on demand. So this is coming together. Yes, as you can see, there’s intricacy here involved. It has to involve multi-domain orchestration, being able to sustain clearly the commitment to open networking. Certainly open RAN comes to mind, but certainly it’s the overall open 5G mission that’s important here. As well as again, using AI to help drive the automation that’s going to be integral to enabling network slicing, which I believe is something that the operators can really take advantage of because it’s a connectivity type of offering. Again, connectivity is something that the operators, the CSPs know thoroughly well. With that, Todd, now, what is your take on what’s going on here with what DT is doing in terms of private 5G?

Todd R. Weiss: Well, it’s always interesting to me whenever we’re talking about something interesting, innovative, different, it always comes up, Deutsche Telekom is probably behind it. I don’t know, but this company seems to look ahead and they seem to look at things that are, they’re Germans. The Germans are very focused on making things better, finding ways to analyze them, finding ways to do things. It’s been that way through technology. Automobiles, German automobiles, look how incredibly well-built they are. Anyway, but here in this space, to me, this is always a really interesting thing. To me, Deutsche Telekom TeamViewer Frontline xAssist, this is fascinating. It’s an augmented reality remote support product. It can also be added to that campus network smart product you were talking about. This whole thing allows experts to connect remotely to a pair of AR glasses, augmented reality while 5G connectivity then allows for live support and knowledge transfer while potentially reducing costs by eliminating travel and minimizing downtime.

This to me, I swear to God, Ron, I’m thinking of this as we’re looking at it, and I’m thinking 2001: A Space Odyssey. We’re seeing Google Glass came out, was that in 2008 I think, or 11? Somewhere between 2008 to 2011, it was seen as, “Oh, my God, this is going to be amazing.” I remember writing stories about it when I was writing as a tech journalist about Google Glass, how Google Glass is going to be used by a jet engine repair person. They’re standing there under the engine in front of the engine and they see in the corner of their eye the manual for this engine, and they can get the torque spec for this fastener, or they can get whatever information they need, or they can look at a parts catalog and say, “Oh, yes, I need to order that part,” and order it.

We saw that for a couple of years, then Google Glass went away and other things have come up. But even now, 10 years later, 15 years later, we still haven’t seen a monetized version of something like this that’s really happening in the enterprise for big companies to be able to do this kind of work. This thing from Deutsche Telekom, this might finally make it happen. I really feel like this is the kind of thing that it took a brilliant idea and then a way to monetize it, and now maybe we’re at that place. So I really think this is amazing. Deutsche Telekom also said that a broad selection of robotics, video analytics and IoT use cases will be made available, which is what I’m saying. They’re monetizing these things that we were just imagining 10, 15 years ago, and these things will be tailored to specific customer needs, like we’re talking about creating end-to-end services for customers. I think this is amazing and let’s hope that this time it’s for real.

Ron Westfall: To your point, I like the 2001: A Space Odyssey analogy because your point about the first iterations of VR and AR having limited commercial impact happen to coincide with the Les Herald to 2010 SQL to 2001 with Roy Schneider in it. So I think it’s demonstrating an important point. This is still a use case that has a great deal of potential, but the breakthrough hasn’t really happened on a society-wide basis or on a broader basis, like when Uber broke out or Netflix broke out in terms of here’s a great use case that’s leveraging advances in mobile technology. I think we see other players like Qualcomm making important contributions to advancing AR, VR capabilities at the chip set level, also labeled XR extended reality. What I think is also interesting on the business side is that it can, I think, enhance and augment things like research and design.

Being able to leverage an AR capability can definitely, again, streamline the overall research process, be able to more comprehensively conceptualize how this design will work more effectively and likewise with companion technologies and capabilities such as digital twins, which I think definitely has more potential. So yeah, it’s brewing. I think a key factor will be when the operators on a more mainstream level, i. e., the majority who have deployed 5G, start using 5G standalone right now, it’s only about a quarter. So once that number moves, once that needle moves, then I can see what you’re talking about. This is something that I think deutsche.com, we agree, is really more at the forefront and as a result can encourage other operators to pick up the mantle more.

Todd R. Weiss: I want to add something. It’s also, it’s incredible. This was all with Google, the Google Glass thing. That’s a consumer-y company. Finally, we’re seeing this actually start with a tech company, a tech company that’s focused at enterprises, at business. That’s why I think this is finally going to be effective and happen because Google Glass for the consumer market, that wasn’t going to work. But for business, showing business how a telecom company, which already gives them premiere telecommunications now is adding this thing which will give them almost live, well, not almost, but live video communications as well that can help them solve these problems. A repair person out in the field at a remote site, an oil and gas place where they can’t communicate, now through satellite or 5G or enhanced 5G, whatever they can bring in, oh, my God, that person can now connect and find out, “Hey, in this remote space where the temperatures are terrible, whatever, I need somebody to look over my shoulder.”

Now we can do that kind of thing, and it’s all because telecoms are involved. If this works for DT, oh man, if it’s for Deutsche Telekom makes this work, Verizon’s going to have it. T-Mobile’s going to have it. Everyone’s going to build these things. So this is the start, and that’s where the innovation from Deutsche Telekom is… Like I said, that’s where the innovation, when it starts, it just gets bigger and bigger. So this is the thing I believe really firmly, we didn’t see it with Google Glass 15 years ago. I think, I predict, we’re going to see it this time. This is where it’s going to finally launch because it brings together telecom and these needs and these reliable infrastructures of 5G and satellite and all these things. That to me, is where this is finally going to work, and we’re going to see it happen over the next couple of years. It’s really going to be amazing to watch.

Ron Westfall: Yeah, and I think that’s right on cue because I was thinking remote locations, what else are the operators doing to deliver 5G capabilities that can make a big difference to have an impact on society and-

Todd R. Weiss: It all fits together. It’s like pieces coming together with a puzzle.

Ron Westfall: Exactly. Specifically, I have Verizon who you mentioned as a good example. As they’re in the process of adding a new vehicle to its fleet called Mobile Onsite Network-as-a-Service Unit, NaaS. Reminds me of the ’60s psychedelic band with Todd Rundgren, and specifically, it’s also known as cell on wheels or COWs and cell on light trucks or COLTs. So these are handy acronyms to help people remember what is the technology involved here. It’s using radio access tech to provide temporary network connectivity at venues or during natural disasters. Public safety is always a top priority.

So the mobile onsite NaaS is basically a small data center on a small trailer. So this is something that I think is very important, or I should say really, a complete data center on a small trailer. I think that’s a more APTT description. So fundamentally, it’s just that it’s a small portable edge-based network that Verizon’s using as a service to provide, again, what you’re talking about, a combination of capabilities, 5G edge compute, security, and of course all important connectivity to these remote locations that quite simply warrant these services. So Todd, what are your expectations for what Verizon’s doing here? What about COWs, COLTs? What is going on in terms of what’s standing out here?

Todd R. Weiss: Well, I think the COWs and COLTs have been around for a while. Those have been around for, I don’t know, maybe five to 10 years I think. They’re the things that when you go to a big football game or a World Series game or a Super Bowl game and there’s 100,000 people and all those local telecom communications networks are overloaded, this is where they bring these in to try to bolster it to add more capacity, and they’re brilliant. They’re also great because they can be brought in when there’s a natural disaster, when there’s hurricanes in Florida and massive damage and all the lines are down or when there’s tornadoes in the planes and all over the place, these things are great. What the new NaaS is going to do is provide even more capabilities because this isn’t just cells on wheels, this is networks on wheels.

This is network services that they’re going to be able to expand and connect to those cells on wheels and those cells on light trucks, the COWs and COLTs. This is going to broaden this whole entire thing and give it even more capabilities. Verizon’s, they just deployed their first deployment of this thing, a portable 10-foot trailer at their customer’s facility. Lockheed-Martin in Waterton, Colorado, they just put this mobile onsite NaaS to be able to have a private network, private MEC, SD WAN and satellite connectivity to the customer locations. That’s huge. Instead of having to sit there and build it for months or years or however long, months, weeks, they can just bring it in. They roll it in, it can be used as a mobile lab as a service to test enterprise applications and devices on a 5G standalone network.

If you want to see what the capacity is or see if you can do something, roll this in, have a bunch of them, have them in different parts of the country, put them in before you build it, make sure it works or make sure it fits the needs. This is a great, almost a laboratory on wheels for them. I think this is great. This mobile onsite NaaS, it can communicate to the cloud for remote management and monitoring, but the applications all live locally at the edge-based system. That to me, is really a big deal because now they can bring in all this extra connectivity. They can bring in all this extra monitoring and management, and then all those applications are already there. You’re now supplementing them. You’re supplementing what you already have. Maybe you weren’t able to do something, bringing in something like this can show you. “Wow, now we can do that.”

I think these are huge, I really do. And I wanted to say one other thing. While the mobile onsite NaaS is using a satellite connection at Lockheed Martin, it also could use a wireless or a wired connection as well. So again, it’s incredibly flexible. Whatever you need, wherever you need it, what do you have? Do you have access to satellite? Do you have access to whatever? Use what you have. And for this deployment, the mobile onsite NaaS is going to be collecting sensor data and video and assist in analysis of network operations. I just think this is huge. This is a great thing. Again, they’ve got this at Verizon. The others, if this works, are going to follow this. This is the kind of innovation Verizon’s doing with this particular thing. This could be used for any number of use cases. It could be surveying, it could be farming, bridge inspections, mine inspections., it could be anything.

Ron Westfall: Yes, I agree wholeheartedly, Todd. In fact, I think it does have global implications, to your point, about natural disasters, public safety. What comes to mind are the tragedies such as the earthquake that struck in Morocco and the floods that hit Libya, and clearly COWs technology would be most applicable to those situations because we don’t know when it can hit. You have to have that mobility built in, that flexibility, that being able to fundamentally deliver a complete data center to that site really on an ad hoc basis, but on an emergency basis. So this is important.

Todd R. Weiss: I never thought I was going to say this in this recording, but today, four years and four days from 9/11, have these things been available, had these capabilities been available, do you remember the horrific telecom communications that happened in New York City that day? Because so many of the antennas and things were on top of the World Trade Center and they were destroyed. So people couldn’t communicate. They were texting because that worked. This is exactly the kind of thing for a disaster, a natural disaster. I hate to bring up terrorist attacks, but this is a way of communicating, bolstering communications when communications are impaired in a big way. So I think this is for all kinds of uses, just giant. These telecom companies, Verizon, DT, others, they’re doing amazing things to give us capabilities that are so important. I really think this is a big deal.

Ron Westfall: So, right. Yes. I think we have some lessons learned, and now we’ve taken steps to make the public safety aspect paramount so that it’s less vulnerable to these types of disasters. On that important note, thank you so much, Todd, for joining our… today. To the viewing audience out there. We certainly appreciate you taking the time to listen to our views on what’s going on in the 5G world. Again, don’t forget to subscribe to The 5G Factor. With that, everyone has a great 5G day. Thank you.

Todd R. Weiss: Thanks again for having me, Ron. Thank you.

Ron Westfall: You bet.

Other insights from The Futurum Group:

Nokia and Verizon Shine Spotlight on Key Private Wireless Use Cases: Transportation and Logistics

5G Factor: T-Mobile, Vodafone, Orange, and Telefonica Shine at 5G Sustainability

5G Factor: New Cloud Formations Driving 5G Innovation

Author Information

Ron is an experienced, customer-focused research expert and analyst, with over 20 years of experience in the digital and IT transformation markets, working with businesses to drive consistent revenue and sales growth.

He is a recognized authority at tracking the evolution of and identifying the key disruptive trends within the service enablement ecosystem, including a wide range of topics across software and services, infrastructure, 5G communications, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), analytics, security, cloud computing, revenue management, and regulatory issues.

Prior to his work with The Futurum Group, Ron worked with GlobalData Technology creating syndicated and custom research across a wide variety of technical fields. His work with Current Analysis focused on the broadband and service provider infrastructure markets.

Ron holds a Master of Arts in Public Policy from University of Nevada — Las Vegas and a Bachelor of Arts in political science/government from William and Mary.

Todd joined The Futurum Group as an Analyst after over 20 years as a technology journalist covering such topic areas as artificial intelligence (AI), deep learning (DL), machine learning (ML), open source and Linux, high-performance computing, supercomputers, cloud computing, virtualization, containers and microservices, IT security and more.

Prior to his work with The Futurum Group, Todd previously served as managing editor of EnterpriseAI.news from 2020 through 2022 where he worked to drive coverage of AI use and innovation in the enterprise. He also served in the past as a staff writer for Computerworld and eWEEK and freelanced for a wide range of tech websites, including TechRepublic, Channel Futures and Channel Partners, Computerworld, PC World, Data Center Knowledge, IT Pro Today, Linux.com and The Linux Foundation.

Todd holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A Philadelphia native, he lives in Lancaster County, Pa., and spends his spare time tinkering with his vintage Mazda Miata convertible and collecting toy taxis from around the world.

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