Exploring Intel’s Private 5G Networks and Other Announcements from MWC 2021 – Futurum Tech Webcast Interview Series

On this episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast – Interview Series I am joined by Caroline Chan, Vice President, Data Platforms Group and General Manager, Network Business Incubator Division. She is responsible for driving advanced technology solutions that are enabled and accelerated by 5G capabilities. We had an exciting conversation about the key announcements made during Mobile World Congress 2021 including looking into Private 5G Networks.

Intel’s Private 5G Networks

In our conversation we discussed the following:

  • A primer on the rise of private networks
  • A highlight of the work down through 5G Open Innovation Lab
  • What Intel’s announcements mean for the market
  • An overview of TIP’s 5G Private Network Group
  • An overview of how Intel’s overall, end-to-end 5G strategy evolving

Intel has made some big announcements this week. If you’d like to learn more about each one check out their website or listen to the full episode below. Don’t forget to subscribe so you never miss an episode

Watch my interview with Caroline here:

Or listen to my interview with Caroline on your favorite streaming platform here:

Disclaimer: The Futurum Tech Webcast is for information and entertainment purposes only. Over the course of this podcast, we may talk about companies that are publicly traded and we may even reference that fact and their equity share price, but please do not take anything that we say as a recommendation about what you should do with your investment dollars. We are not investment advisors and we do not ask that you treat us as such.

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Daniel Newman: Hello, and welcome everybody to the Futurum Tech Podcast, Webcast, and Tech Television. I’m Daniel Newman, your host, principal analyst, founding partner at Futurum Research. Excited for today’s Futurum Tech Podcast Interview Series, where I will have Caroline Chan from Intel joining me in just a moment.

It’s MWC time, and anyone that’s followed our pod, or read our blog, or our research over the years knows that Mobile World Congress is usually a giant event and we are normally not at home. We are normally in Barcelona, Spain, and it’s normally not at this time of year, so all kinds of oddities, but after 2020, I think we’ve all become a little more used to these kinds of stranger than normal travel or non-travel experiences.

Anyway, excited to talk today. We’re going to talk about private 5G networks and some of the other things that Intel has going on at this year’s MWC hybrid event. And without further ado, I want to welcome Caroline Chan to the show. Caroline, welcome-

Caroline Chan: Hi, Dan.

Daniel Newman: … to the Futurum Tech Webcast. Excited to have you here, appreciate Intel’s partnership in putting this pod and this show together. Excited to talk to you about private 5G, what’s going on there.

But first and foremost, before we get into the nitty-gritty and I start asking all the really tough questions of you, just a quick introduction. You’ve been here before, you’ve been on my pod before.

Caroline Chan: Yes.

Daniel Newman: We’ve talked, but as much as I like to assume everybody listens, remembers, and knows every guest, it’s also probably great to give them a quick refresher. So tell everyone about your work at Intel.

Caroline Chan: Hi, everyone, and really glad to be here. I work in Intel. I’ve been part of what we call the network platform group, so we deliver silicon platforms and software to enable infrastructures in 5G from the RAN, to the core, to the edge. So I led what we call a network incubation division. What it is, it’s looking at what 5G edge can enable, especially with the addition of AI driving new segments, new business, new verticals, new business models, all the exciting things what 5G can bring, including what we’re going to talk to today, which is private networks.

Really happy to be here and share, and have some little fun and talk about the non-travel that we’ve been experiencing for the last year.

Daniel Newman: Oh, absolutely. So tell me, is it a little weird for you to be doing Mobile World Congress from your living room, family room, home office, kitchen, and not traveling or not dealing with the chaos of having scrum teams putting together every announcement? Isn’t this just a little odd for you?

Caroline Chan: It is. And honestly, I miss the action, I miss being there in person. I miss all the shoulder rubbing, running into people that you haven’t seen for a long time, checking out your competition and your customers.

Daniel Newman: I know.

Caroline Chan: I miss the surprises, and just the chaos of it. I’d really miss it. I can’t wait to get back, and I hope, gosh, I hope we get back. The next Mobile Congress, it better be in person and have some Spanish wine with tapas to go along with it. Not mine, now it’s just the coffee that I’ve to take every morning.

Daniel Newman: You’re making my mouth water. I am telling you, I think this is the first time the entire mobile comms network connectivity industry all agree. I’ve done several pods, talked to a number of execs this week, been on a lot of briefings across the industry.

And that’s funny because there’s some events I don’t think we miss. There’s some places you travel, but I think that annual pilgrimage to Barcelona, hall four, not being able to quite move, but just seeing all of the technology in one place. If you’re in enterprise tech or in this space, there’s probably not a show like it every year, and there’s some big shows, but we’re going to have to cope for one more year. And I think maybe February we’ll be back.

So with all that in mind, let’s dive in. I want to talk to you a little bit today about what’s going on in 5G private networks, and this has been a hot topic. I’ve had a lot of briefings. I’m hearing a lot about this.

I think when everyone thinks 5G, they think about the little connectivity in the corner of their mobile device that tells them what network they’re on. But 5G has got all kinds of implications for the enterprise, for the way we connect, the way we work, it’s changing everything, but not everybody knows this. Not everybody’s familiar with all this.

So let’s do the primer here, Caroline. Just what’s going on with this rising private network market? What is even the difference, for those less familiar, between these public and private connections?

Caroline Chan: So, first of all, I’ve been in the industry for a long time. I’ve gone through 3G and 4G and now 5G. In all of the previous generation of wireless standards we’ve been really focusing on the mobile device, the consumer device, driving mobile broadband, the bad-ass capacity throughput that you can get into a phone.

With 5G, we actually set aside really the focusing on not just a consumer device, but really also focusing a lot on the enterprises. And what that means is that we’ve built 5G from the ground up to provide ultra reliability, to provide low latency, to connect massive IoT devices. So the entire standard was designed differently, was designed with the enterprise in mind, not just you and I’s phone.

And that drives a different economics. The different economics that enables a hospital, a retail venue, factories, to really start looking at, how do I leverage connectivity as an enabler for a digital transformation? So because the standard is designed differently, because it was decided with the mind to enable a lot of different enterprises, verticals, you will see different characteristics that enable that. And that’s where Intel has been focusing on for the last few years.

Even at the very beginning when we started building what we call a virtualized 5G cloud, native 5G, we always keep in mind that the 5G network needs to be more cloud-like, and started adding a lot of innovations and softwares that will enable the enterprises to take advantage. It’s not going to connectivity just for the connectivity sake, but connectivity in a way to improve the business efficiency.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. I’m glad you pointed that out because disaggregation is a big focus and that’s the big word, that’s the big complex word for what we’re doing here, but essentially for everyone that’s out there, the telco and comms space was, for a long time, beholden to a very custom infrastructure that was very rigid and didn’t provide a lot of flexibility.

And as we continued to upgrade through standard, the hardware, there was a limited number of providers and a limited number of options. And now, a lot of companies are like, “Well, for over the top stuff, we could build it on the cloud and we can do it using general purpose CPUs, and we can do it very fast with open source, and we can build, and we can build it, and we can scale and we can be agile.

And the carriers and comms partners of your company are probably looking to come to a company like Intel saying, “We want to do the same thing for our networks. We don’t want our networks to be limited. We don’t want to be able to only scale with custom hardware.”

So I think you bringing that point is really important then, and you alluded to this, but I want to be pretty specific when I ask you this question. So this year at NWC, private networks are in focus. We’re hearing a lot about it. We’re hearing an industry transition to 5G. Intel’s positioning in 5G as a leader, how is it positioning specifically regarding its private network offerings?

Caroline Chan: So we really looked at private networks as the convergence of both IT, the OT, and the telecom infrastructure side. So what you just described, it’s not just the custom hardware for the best special efficiency, which is the given.

But we’re looking at this as providing the all-around experience, such as low-latency, determinism, pervasive coverage, and so in other words, today, if you look private net, a lot of the enterprises use wifi, which is a very good, by the way, has been serving us well for many years, but we’re really looking at more range, more mobility, more determinism, as a compliment of 5G and wifi, and SD-WAN together.

We start driving many different use cases. So you’ll some of the announcements we had made recently, connectivity for the schools, we have done different announcements with Dell, with Red Hat, with Smart Edge, that is providing a one box on-prem solution to serve the enterprises.

So really seeing a much more, not just bandwidth or just capacity, but providing security and privacy and adding a lot of the CIO requirements into the private network. So I really looked at private network as an extension of what we have done to enable a cloud native 5G, but really driving beyond the operator domain that serve the consumer devices into the factory force, into the CIO space, really started to converge the IT and the OT together.

So you can look at it as a cloud reaching the edge, enabled by the 5G network, with a combination of now you can incorporate the video processing, you can incorporate the AI, the machine learning, all the intelligent edge together.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, absolutely Caroline, and you started going into some use cases and some case study type things. And I’m going to probably come back to that in a minute because I’d like to talk a little bit more because I think bringing it to life is always easier when people can think about it in terms of, where many of these private networks start to infiltrate my life? Where may I find myself using 5G that’s not the mobile 5G that I’m using for watching my favorite movie on Netflix, on the tube? Where is this happening in my business or at school? So you started to mention, I’m going to come back to that.

But one of the things that caught my attention reading through the press releases and all the news and the clippings that happened this week was you made some ecosystem-focused announcements.

You had the TIP 5G private network group, you had the 5G open innovations lab. I can’t begin to say enough how important I feel the ecosystems have become for being able to deliver innovation at scale.

Why is Intel so focused on this right now? Why is ecosystem positioning seemingly so valuable as opposed to just going at it from the standpoint of Intel and its own strong brand recognition?

Caroline Chan: It’s funny that you ask this question because Intel has always been an ecosystem-enabler. We’re really always looking at it. We produce the best in class silicon platforms providing the reference software, but the end goal is pulling a village together to deliver the end product. That’s always been that case.

But because of the fact that we now talk about private networks, because of the fact now we’re getting into different verticals, the ecosystem players are different and not everyone has been in the 5G space. But what we really want to do is to drive some of the software that we talked about.

At the end of the day, it’s software that enables the private networks. It’s not just us, and Dell, and HPE, it’s really about to be able to attract the developers who have been developing software for the cloud, for the enterprise space, but really bring them to take advantage of all the 5G network characteristics to deliver such use cases that serve enterprises, not just the phones that we’ve been used to.

It does require a different mindset. It does require a different set of tools to attract these developers, and when we get into some use cases later on, you’ll see why that the wider outreach to different players is so critical to a private network scaling up, and why the role that we’ve been traditionally playing in the [inaudible] space and enterprise space is really necessary to enable 5G private networks.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, absolutely. And a couple of points there. One is almost every large global company that’s driving innovation in any space respectively has an extraordinary ecosystem. We also have converging forces, right? We’re seeing vertical integration, some companies are going that approach.

But even in the most vertically integrated companies, you’re still seeing horizontal, whether that’s industry partnerships, whether that’s technology partnerships, and there just isn’t going to be a path to market for any one company, no matter how much some companies might want that, are going to be able to own and take every part of delivering.

I remember one of your partners and, for the sake of the show, I don’t know what’s private, but it was an oil and gas company, right in Texas where you live and where I’m soon to live, that was using machine vision in their plant to basically be able to determine the safety of their cargo on the train was carrying in and out the supplies, and they were using AI, and they were using cameras and machines.

And what I’m saying is this was a few years back and just a simple use case, but it was being able to basically detect an anomaly, detect any safety risks, detect any breach on the property, any shrinkage or loss. Just what I’m saying is, and this was pre 5G, as 5G comes into market, this fixed connectivity, Caroline, we’re going to be able to speed this stuff up, make sure that the streaming, there’s less risk of any failure, the connectivity levels are higher and more consistent.

So like I said, I don’t want to give away any of your specific case studies, but I still remember this was an ecosystem, it was a partnership, it was multiple technologies coming together and it was early. And now, with fixed 5G, a factory that’s in the middle of nowhere in Texas can have the type of connectivity potentially that it’s required to be highly connected and robust, even in a setting where something like wifi may not be as reliable or traditionally cellular.

So do you have a case study or two, a story, a customer story, or just a general use case that you think is a really convincing one around private 5G?

Caroline Chan: I can give one that we recently just did this is in Snohomish County in Washington state at the height of the crisis that we’ve faced since last year. We had a food shortage. There was grocery stores, there was panic buying. So we joined together with a group of five ecosystem: T-Mobile Microsoft, Azure, Dell, VMware, together we actually formed something called 5G Open Innovation Lab.

We started driving a 5G full resiliency project. Actually, this is a private-public partnership, including some of the federal fundings. We started working with the farmers in Snohomish County to wire up their farms with 5G, with sensors, to both secure a food supply. Everybody got to eat, and also to significantly reduce the cost.

They were facing labor shortages, they were facing water shortages. So we put sensors all around in the farm to detect soil moisture, fertilizer usage. You don’t want to overuse the chemicals, that’s really a cost issue. Detect when is it the right amount of water? Harvesting, using robo arms in the farms to do harvesting.

It became a really good showcase of what connectivity, in a traditional [inaudible], when you think about farming, you don’t think about high tech. In reality, a 5G wired connected field tech environment in a farm actually improves the harvest, improves the yield ultimately, and increases food security for all of us.

And that model has been done so well it’s now being replicated elsewhere. Because it’s an innovation project, we brought in a different… There’s actually startups coming in in precision agriculture that really start applying to software onto a 5G-enabled environment, including edge compute.

Think about all the things that AI can bring, come in, to start analyzing yield and improving the farm operation. We’re now replicating that in vineyards in Eastern Washington and actually, it’s now being replicated in Midwest, in Dakotas, in the Missouri farms, in the greenhouses. It’s a multiplying effort.

And ideally, we want to take them beyond the boundary of the United States. Think about all the rest of the world is facing a food crisis, a food shortage. This is really a 5G for good project. We jokingly call it 5G to farm to table.

But to me, this is the ultimate goal for using 5G as a technology to solve some of the big problems that we’re facing, the climate change, the food shortage. I’m so proud of what we can pull together that really illustrate the fact that it takes more than a village to solve an issue, big issues like this.

Daniel Newman: Absolutely, and a great example. And of course, hits close to home. ESG, for instance, while there is obviously a business side to developing technologies that can support global food shortages, and helping solve crises, and keeping climate change. There’s a business, but there’s also an overwhelming desire by society to see efforts from big tech, from companies with significant resources, to put those resources and put those technologies to use to help solve the world’s biggest problems. And this sounds like it has the potential to influence how this is being approached.

So as we wrap up here, Caroline, and by the way, it’s always great to have you, so thank you so much for spending some time with me here. Getting back to Mobile World Congress, I want to just broaden the scope.

So we’ve talked a lot about private 5G, but of course, 5G is an end-to-end strategy. It will not tend to exist in a silo, just private. We’re talking about, when it comes to Intel and its entire approach to 5G, this is maturing. What are the stand-out use cases beyond private networks where you feel Intel is really showing market leadership and has an opportunity to continue to scale and expand its global reputation in 5G?

Caroline Chan: I’m really proud of the fact that from the get-go we were really looking at 5G more than just a connectivity. It’s a transformational, so we’re looking at this as a cloud native network. We’ve been driving to software-defined 5G, both from the core to the RAN, and extend that all the way to the edge private network is one of them.

But ultimately, we’re looking at us being on the forefront of transforming the 5G network, providing a scalable CPU-based, server-based economy that’s really leveraging all the way from the cloud, economic, to the network, to solve the big problems that we just talked about, but really is to using 5G to enable them into every corner of our lives, anywhere from what you mentioned, downloading a Netflix, nothing to be ashamed about that, but also extend that into the education, into the network.

We provide the best technology from a CPU storage together, by solving the problem of using 5G as a connectivity, transforming that and using the best in the cloud economics to really start solving the total cost of ownership of 5G to enable the operators to deploy 5G widely in a very cost-effective way.

So I’m really proud of that, and I do think that 5G will lead to 6G, will lead to even better, more precise, private networks serving all of our needs in the future.

Daniel Newman: Oh, you said it, 6G, I wouldn’t have said it, but since you said it I’m going to draft on that, but in tying this together, I think the idea is pervasive, ubiquitous connectivity, secure, high speed. In the end, enterprises and individual users shouldn’t have to sacrifice the ability to take advantage of their software, their applications, their devices, because of inconsistent connectivity. And that’s really where 5G is going to ideally fill a lot of gaps as private networks, as extended 5G has got low, mid, and high band offerings that are going to go into the market and we’re going to create, like I said, more consistency, more ubiquity, maybe even the end of the, I’m in a dead spot. I’ll have to call you back.

While maybe a little ambitious, a boy can dream, Caroline Chan, thank you so much for joining me on the Futurum Tech podcast webcast and on our TV element for Mobile World Congress. Excited to share this with the world and, as always, great to have you. I hope to have you back soon.

Caroline Chan: Thank you for having. Welcome to Texas.

Daniel Newman: Welcome, she says. Now everybody, I’m not going to be in Texas just yet, but give it a few weeks and I will be finding myself in Austin, Texas, but from now, and hopefully for next year, we’re going to find ourselves at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. We had Caroline Chan here talking private 5G networks. Great conversation so much going on in 5G. And I promise you, it will only get more interesting, it’ll get better, and it will be covered here on the Futurum Tech podcast.

For this episode, I appreciate you tuning in. Check out the show notes. You’ll learn more, and we’ll make sure we give you some links where you can learn more about all the things Caroline talked about. Hit that subscribe button, join us. And of course, follow us on all of our social channels. For this episode though, it’s time to say goodbye. We’ll see you later.

Author Information

Daniel is the CEO of The Futurum Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise.

From the leading edge of AI to global technology policy, Daniel makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology investments. Daniel is a top 5 globally ranked industry analyst and his ideas are regularly cited or shared in television appearances by CNBC, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal and hundreds of other sites around the world.

A 7x Best-Selling Author including his most recent book “Human/Machine.” Daniel is also a Forbes and MarketWatch (Dow Jones) contributor.

An MBA and Former Graduate Adjunct Faculty, Daniel is an Austin Texas transplant after 40 years in Chicago. His speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.


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