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The 5G Factor: Speedy T-Mobile, Ericsson, Qualcomm, Thales Collab, China and Private 5G, Thumbs up on the Ericsson Vonage Deal, and a Vacillating Elon Musk Loses Allies

In this week’s episode of The 5G Factor, I’m joined by my colleague and fellow analyst, Ron Westfall, for a look at the 5G ecosystem and the goings on that recently caught our attention.

Our coverage includes some of the latest 5G news, including:

Ericsson, Qualcomm, and Thales collab. Ericsson, Qualcomm, and Thales are collaborating to take 5G to space — which is pretty exciting. The companies are looking at using satellite driven non-terrestrial networks, or NTN, using low Earth orbit satellites (LEO), to enable this communication capability on a worldwide basis. This will be a game-changer delivering connectivity only for under-served area and hard to reach areas, and providing a solid assist in worldwide military operations, workers stationed in the middle of the sea, remote deserts, dense forests, and other places that are incredibly difficult to reach.

Each of the three companies are making unique contributions to make this happen. Ericsson is testing the vRAN stack, Thales is ensuring the 5G payload will work for satellite comms, and Qualcomm is is working to ensure the 5G handset form factor will support all these capabilities.

T-Mobile outruns the competition. T-Mobile aces speed tests – again, and largely performs better than its major competitors when it comes to speed (upload and download), and overall network tests. And not only is T-Mobile winning when it comes to speed tests, it’s also coming out on top as it relates to overall mobile experience, voice experience, and games experience. These kinds of results are as significant for consumers as they make decisions about devices and mobile service providers as it is for enterprises who seek enhanced collaboration experience for their WFH teams and field personnel and beyond.

Elon Musk might not be winning friends at the FCC. Analysts are discussing the fact that Elon Musk, who likes to whine when things don’t go his way, might be losing support from both Democrats and Republicans with the Twitter games he’s playing. Last week we covered Elon Musk’s (lame) move against 5G, claiming that 12 GHz spectrum will be harmful to his SpaceX Starlink satellites. Analysts are opining that this might bode well for DISH as the primary user of the 12 GHz band, providing service to satellite customers. Watching this shift in sentiment is interesting.

China isn’t wasting time on private 5G. Thwarted in other 5G-related undertakings, Chinese operators are wasting no time building out enterprise private 5G networks. In fact, they’ve deployed 6,518 private 5G networks so far this year, up from 1,655 just a year ago. Where are they putting those private 5G networks.

U.S. Regulators Greenlight Ericsson Vonage Deal. Ericsson gets final approval from U.S. for Vonage acquisition. This both diversifies and strengthens Ericsson’s offerings base and is a good thing for customers as well.

That’s a wrap for this week’s episode of The 5G Factor. You can watch the show in its entirety here:

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Thanks for listening, watching, and/or reading, and we’ll see you next week.

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Shelly Kramer: Hello and welcome to this episode of The 5G Factor. I’m Shelly Kramer from Futurum Research. And today I am joined, as always, by my fellow analyst and co-host here for The 5G Factor, Ron Westfall. Welcome, Ron, it’s good to see you.

Ron Westfall: Well, you bet. Thank you, Shelly. Staying cool on this hot, simmering summer day.

Shelly Kramer: I think that is a really touchy topic. Ron’s located in Texas, I’m located in the middle of the United States where it’s also very hot, but I feel like we really can’t complain very much given what’s going on in the UK right now, and their scorching temperatures, because we are built for it, right? Air conditioning.

Ron Westfall: It’s all the scale, yes, air conditioning.

Shelly Kramer: So we feel for our friends, our many friends, across the pond and hope that you get respite from this weather soon. So we’re going to dive into our show today, again, the 5G Factor where we cover all things related to the 5G ecosystem, the IOT ecosystem, and all things in between. And we are going to talk a little bit about T-Mobile. And T-Mobile is basically kind of blowing away the competition when it comes to 5G speed tests. It’s interesting, as I was looking, as I was kind of putting my thoughts together for this segment, I saw a headline that got my attention and reads like this, “T-Mobile versus Verizon versus AT&T, so many new 5G and overall network experience tests, one big winner.” That headline was from PhoneArena.

And basically, as you might imagine, what this is really is T-Mobile’s move to acquire mid-band spectrum is paying off in spades, and both Verizon and AT&T have been slower to turn on C-band and this is really paying off for T-Mobile. So I wanted to touch real quickly on some of the results from the speed tests. Let’s see. So T-Mobile has moved… Now, I’ll put all of this in our show notes too, so you’ll be able to see the graphs and everything from the report, but what’s interesting with regard to T-Mobile… And this information, by the way, is from Opensignal, we’ll touch on another report that’s just come out this week too.

But according to Opensignal’s testing data, T-Mobile has logged in at about 171 Mbps, and that has increased from 150 during the September to December testing period. So that’s a pretty considerable increase, dramatically extending its lead over both Verizon and AT&T. They both have improved going from, let’s see, Verizon went from 56.2 to 72.8, AT&T went from 49.1 to 53.6, but essentially T-Mobile’s just killing it.

So I’ll also note in some of these categories, Verizon actually wins in both the 5G Gaming Experience category and the 5G Voice App category, but when it comes to 5G download speeds, which is what a lot of people care about; 5G download speeds, upload speeds, 5G availability, 5G reach, T-Mobile takes it all in terms of winning in these tests. And one of the things I mentioned, download speed and how important that is, and we’re all sitting here from time to time with our mobile devices waiting, trying to download things, but T-Mobile’s, basically their download speed experience comes in double that of its rivals. And that’s pretty impressive.

So T-Mobile’s landing at 61.7, AT&T is 34.4, Verizon is 29.8; that’s pretty significant. And most impressive of all and where T-Mobile really shines, I think is keeping customers connected to 5G networks. Opensignal’s tests show that T-Mobile keeps users connected 40% of the time on their phones, AT&T finally beats Verizon here coming in at 18.7, compared to Verizon’s 10.6. So those are some pretty big disparity between numbers, I think. And so I thought that was awesome.

All that data was from the Opensignal report. And I’ll just super quickly go over to… Ookla® released its Q2 2022 Speed Test report, which also, of course, shows T-Mobile dominating. These testing, they’re not going to come out with markedly different results, right? But what I thought was interesting here, and again, 5G performance T-Mobile dominated, but one thing I think that’s interesting is that… I wanted to touch just a minute on how customers use networks and Ookla®’s data showed that most AT&T, Verizon customers are still spending most of their time on 4G networks, even if they have a 5G capable device.

Ron and I were just talking about this before we started this show. Only 28% of Verizon’s customers with 5G phones spent more than half of their time on 5G networks. AT&T customers were more likely to use 5G with 49% of them spending most of their time on faster networks. And T-Mobile subscribers with 5G phones were accessing 5G about half of the time. To me, what that all boils down to is that we… Of course, Ron and I, and everyone working in this space understands how important 5G is and how significantly 5G is going to change, it is changing and will continue to change the world as we know it.

That said, on the consumer front, I think many of us still are using 4G networks; don’t know if we’re using 4G networks or 5G networks; don’t know if the phone that we have is a 5G phone; don’t care. Ron, wouldn’t you say that’s probably the case based on our observations?

Ron Westfall: Oh yes. I think you are hitting the nail on the head there, Shelly. And in fact, even the most advanced, sophisticated users can sometimes be mystified as to what network they’re on, and it definitely depends on the device they’re using and how much information it readily shares, et cetera. But it is fascinating, I think, that in terms of whether you’re on a 5G network or a 4G network, it’s attesting to the on-the-ground reality that many of the initial 5G deployments are using what is called a non-standalone implementation. And that is, basically it’s the blending of 5G and 4G networks in order to at least deliver some early 5G capabilities.

And what I think is important though, about, okay, if that’s the case, why is it a big deal that T-Mobile is registering these speed tests advantages what does it really mean? Well, first of all, it helps capture early mind-share, so it’s always important. Get out in front of this and to prove that your network is ahead and it’s really ready for when 5G really becomes turbo boosted, and that is when 5G standalone implementations become more readily available to all users across the US, let alone in other countries.

And I think one important fact that came out of the test is that T-Mobile today their 5G ultra capacity package is available to 225 million users today, but by the end of the year, they’re expecting that to also extend to 260 million users. And by the end of next year, that will be up to 300 million Users. And so that’s underlying the fact that T-Mobile is advancing its 5G standalone capabilities and that these speed advantages will start translating to more interesting use cases that can definitely interest monetization objectives or advanced monetization objectives, everything from enhanced collaboration capabilities, AR/VR, you hit on the gaming, which certainly I think elevates gaming for any user on any network in the US, at least.

And so, this is definitely important today and I think it’s a feather in T-Mobile’s cap that they’re capturing this early mind-share because 5G will definitely be coming on board with more capabilities over the next couple years, at least. And that’s when it’s going to really matter even more when you users, whether consumer or certainly an enterprise says, “Wow, okay. I see the difference now,” versus today where it’s kind of mystifying in many cases.

Shelly Kramer: Well, and what I think is interesting here is that what consumers really care about is network availability. “Is it there? Is it going to work when I need it,” right? “Connectivity, do I have it? And I want to have it at all times, and speed.” And they want to be able to communicate when they want; they want consistent speed, they want performance from all their devices on the network. And, “I don’t want to be impacted by the fact that I’m trying to use a device and somebody else on my network is trying to do something else,” or whatever.

But I think that where this is really significant is that when you see headlines like this, when we have conversations in the analyst community and say T-Mobile is really dominating in speed test after speed test after speed test. And by the way, T-Mobile is not really only dominating as it relates to speed, there are many other variables here where T-Mobile is also… Let’s see, in the Overall Mobile Experience category, T-Mobile dominates, reclaiming, by the way, games experience, and voice experience from Verizon in this different category, same testing body. Okay?

And they’re winning everything except service availability, which AT&T gets, and 4G experience coverage, which Verizon gets. But if you’re a consumer and you’re thinking about getting a new phone, upgrading a phone whenever, and you’re consistently hearing that T-Mobile is killing it when it comes to the things that matter the most to you, I don’t know, you think that’s maybe going to sway your decision about what service provider you want?

Ron Westfall: Oh, sure.

Shelly Kramer: I’m thinking it might.

Ron Westfall: At the very least, yeah. Yeah, it’s about value and it’s value is tied to experience and naturally, security factors into all this. And I don’t know if it’s even going to be about tie breakers. It’s just like, they want the best value, and so I don’t even see coin toss scenarios until AT&T and Verizon quite simply up their game in these types of tests. And so there’s still runway. I mean, the competitive mix is still evolving. And I’m also, as an editorial note, looking forward to seeing DISH in these tests.

So that will give even more thought or options for customers out there. And certainly the consumer size is always going to get a lot of attention, but it’s also, as we know, enterprises and businesses will need this for anything ranging from enhanced collaboration, work-from-home, assurances, et cetera, say at an emerging sassy-type architecture and so forth. So all these things are coming together and I think-

Shelly Kramer: Everything plays its own little role.

Ron Westfall: Exactly.

Shelly Kramer: But no, this is great. Kudos to T-Mobile for all the work they’ve done on this front and for these great results. And I mean, as always, we continue to watch this space and look forward to what competitors are doing, whether it’s Verizon, AT&T, DISH or anyone else, so it’ll be interesting to watch for sure. And with that, we’re going to shift away, aren’t we? And we’re going to talk about Ericsson and Qualcomm and Thales, and what they’re doing to take 5G into space. So Ron, take it away.

Ron Westfall: Well, yeah, I see this alliance as out of this world. Yeah, it’s really, I think, a smart move seriously because it’s about what is 5G really delivering that’s different. And we touched on that with the whole T-Mobile speed discussion and speed is always important, but it’s also about the applications that can be delivered, the use cases that can be advanced. And this trio is really looking at using satellite driven non-terrestrial networks, or NTN, using low Earth Orbit satellites or LEO satellites, to enable this communication capability on a worldwide basis.

And what I think is really exciting is today we still have to use satellite phones and we know you have to use a completely different form factor and you had to have a different service and so forth, usually with a satellite company, in order to have it. And it’s very important in very difficult to reach areas, whether you’re talking about an energy platform in the middle of a sea, or either talking about remote desert areas or dense forest areas, you name it. I mean, there’s just a host of reasons why 5G terrestrial networks by themselves, aren’t able to extend that coverage.

And the vision here is ultimately is that the 5G phone will basically become the new form factor for satellite enabled communications. And so I think that would be welcomed by the entire ecosystem. That would definitely allow people more flexibility and options in terms of how they can get their communications across the world, regardless of where they’re situated or their line of work, say [inaudible] wind turbines in the middle of a sea and things like that. And so this is, you could say, a reincarnation of satellite phones and a more user-friendly, more cost-effective form factor.

And so this is a hit on the energy sector, but also a hit the transportation sector, the health care sector, because as we know, it’s always important to get a quick read as possible on, say, a potential pandemic outbreak. And it could be in a remote African village, it could be anywhere on the planet. It could be in Asia or into the Americas. It doesn’t matter. You just want to have those capabilities ready to go in the event of something like that, let alone something like a tsunami type of a crisis.

And also, the good news is they can have other capabilities like backing up terrestrial networks. Because as we know, like with the public safety example, natural disasters can knock out terrestrial networks, but hey, here is a capability that allow people to have communications in these hard hit areas and definitely save lots-

Shelly Kramer: Now, you need those in Texas.

Ron Westfall: Well, sure. Yes.

Shelly Kramer: With your situation.

Ron Westfall: There are hurricanes along the Gulf Coast.

Shelly Kramer: Well, somebody needs to figure that out. The other thing that I think is particularly attractive, being a bit of a security freak, is that the 5G NTNs mean that national government communications can well be a main use case. And so secure, safe, national security and public safety… you were hitting on the public safety thing, but National Security, military use, that sort of thing. Those are all really important use cases, I think.

Ron Westfall: Exactly. And this is where the trio comes in. They’re all making their unique contributions to make this happen, hopefully in the near future. Ericsson is testing the vRAN stack to make sure it will happen in this situation. And also, Thales is ensuring that the 5G payload will work for satellites communications. And actually Qualcomm is working hard on ensuring that the 5G handset form factor will support all of these capabilities. So this is just great news and we’re just appreciative that they are literally taking 5G to the next level where the sky is not the limit, in this case.

Shelly Kramer: Exactly. You can always be counted on, Ron, for a clever headline, “It’s out of this world. The sky is not the limit.” Love that about you. Well, speaking of-

Ron Westfall: Well, I try, at least.

Shelly Kramer: I know you do. I know you do. And I know that you always come prepared to wow me on that front, and I appreciate that. I appreciate that effort. Well, speaking of space, we’re going to barely segue here. And in our last show, we talked about Elon Musk’s and SpaceX’s efforts to kind of thwart 12 gigahertz band efforts on the part of DISH and the 5G for 12 gigahertz coalition, arguing that the two cannot possibly coexist and all of that sort of thing. And so we covered that last week and this week it looks like I’m seeing analysts start to weigh in on, now, as everybody knows, Elon is in the news because he is withdrawing his offer to purchase Twitter.

And that is embroiled in a lawsuit that’s making headlines in some way or another every day. And so analysts are saying that, “This is actually probably a good thing for DISH and for the 5G, for 12 gigahertz coalition and their efforts.” And attention is sometimes… What is it they say? “All attention is good attention.” I don’t know exactly what that’s saying is, but in the case of Elon Musk, it’s being viewed as what he’s doing, what he’s embroiled in right now with this Twitter mess, is not going to help him in terms of his behavior.

Let me start over there because I don’t want anybody to hear me say, “Sort of became,” so Joel edit that out. Elon is an interesting character, I think, by any measure. People love him, people don’t love him, some people are ambivalent, but I think everyone would agree that he’s kind of an interesting cat. And so in case you didn’t see last week’s episodes, SpaceX and DISH have been embroiled in this fight over the 12 gigahertz band and really our… And in DISH in the coalition have put forth that SpaceX has launched a misinformation campaign to get people onto the side of Starlink. And it’s just really kind of been a messy thing.

And of course, Starlink claims that the DISH-led plan for 5G in the 12 gigahertz band, will potentially cause harmful interference and it’ll ruin their satellite-based service, and the coalition doesn’t agree. And so right now, this is being evaluated by the FCCS Office of Engineering and Technology, the OET, and they’re doing an engineering study. And the whole point of this is that it was originally kind of hoped that given Musk’s popularity with Republicans, that he would likely be able to count on a couple of Republican commissioners who might either delay or who might vote against a recommendation out of the OET and that would help him.

And what analysts are now saying is that he might have worn out his welcome, not only with Democrats, but also with Republicans, and all of this in a nutshell is being viewed as positive news for DISH. So DISH has been the primary user of this 12 gigahertz band, they’ve been providing service to satellite TV customers. They argue that if 5G were to pose an interference risk, they would of course be the first to oppose it. But they believe, as does the coalition, that sharing between satellite and terrestrial operations is the best use of the spectrum. I tend to agree on that front. Ron, I think you do as well, but it’s just interesting. It’s interesting to watch the shift in sentiment on this issue.

Ron Westfall: Yeah. And there is the pure technical aspects and I think they are in DISH’s favor overall.

Shelly Kramer: Yes, absolutely.

Ron Westfall: And we talked about this before. We’ve seen this where the FCC is having to referee between competing interests, and the entrenched interest is going to try to throw out some FUD out there, fear, uncertainty, and doubt, about unleashing more spectrum for new 5G players and capabilities and so forth. And at the end of the day, the engineers are saying, “Look, this is a non-issue,” they will prevail.

Shelly Kramer: It’s a non-issue. It’s a non-issue.

Ron Westfall: Remember the airline industry trying to block using the spectrum near airport.

Shelly Kramer: Not that long ago.

Ron Westfall: And weather satellite, same type of issues. And so it’s kind of a back-to-the-future element here. And as for the Twitter controversy, I guess it doesn’t hurt DISH at the least, because again, DC is all politics all the time. Just like when is Elon Musk not in the news? That’s basically an all the time type aspect, like we know he’s in the Greek Isles vacationing right now, for example.

Shelly Kramer: No, he had to come back. He had to come back.

Ron Westfall: Oh, okay, nevermind. You got the scoop.

Shelly Kramer: He had hoped for a delay, he had asked for a delay and the judge denied that. So he had to come back, poor guy, had to come back, feel so sorry for him. Anyway.

Ron Westfall: Well, yeah, so that was exactly my next point, was about Twitter and the legal clash, and yes, no delay in the trial. And so that may not be in Musk’s advantage. However, what will be interesting is two paradoxes, at least, that I think we’re all familiar with. First of all, Twitter was trying to stiff arm him about acquiring the company. Now, they are trying to force him to acquire the company along the original terms. However, with a court proceeding, we might finally get the data on how many bots are really across the Twitter universe.

And I think that is a valid point. If Twitter is saying, “It’s less than 5%,” but through discovery we find out, “Okay, that number is significantly higher,” then there could be more validity to Musk at least not going through with the original terms and perhaps getting the acquisition through on a discounted, but so stay tuned.

This is not like, okay, Musk could still very well end up taking over Twitter either because a court orders him to do it, or because through the discovery, through this legal clash, in this case, it could be, “Careful what you wish for, Twitter,” that it’s revealed that Twitter is not acting in good faith in terms of the intrinsic value of their overall network and proposition. And we noted before how Twitter has been fined for violating user privacy in terms of advertising exposure and things like that.

It’s not unique to Twitter. We know these games go on with all the major social media platforms, but it doesn’t help their cause because if they then are going to be obliged to respect some of the more stricter privacy restrictions, then that could actually impact their advertising revenues as a result. So there’s a lot of factors in play here and so this is going to be a drama.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. I think that we digressed a little because this isn’t too… this isn’t really 5G related. I think that I’ll close this out just simply by saying, I find it almost impossible to imagine the logic of forcing someone to buy a company and that doesn’t really benefit anybody. And I really don’t see that happening. I am more seeing him having to pay a fine and everybody going down the road. I could be very wrong, but I just don’t see much logic there.

And the other point, to your point about bots, every social platform has bots. Facebook has millions and millions of bots and many, many negative things that they don’t disclose. And we’ve got what’s going on with TikTok and the concerns that the government has about TikTok and using user data. I mean, this is a whole mess of we can spend an hour alone on this topic. So I’ll wrap it up by saying I think this Twitter brouhaha is not casting… it’s not helping Musk and SpaceX’s efforts to try to sway public opinion about the fact that there’re claims that this ecosystem is not shareable because… And it is.

And he doesn’t want to, “But Elon, I’m sorry. Sometimes you don’t always get your way.” So that’s kind where I am on that. Well, we’re going to do a complete shift here and we’re going to turn our sights on China and we’re going to talk about 5G enterprise and what China operators are doing on that front, after pretty much reality is being stymied on the 5G fronts many instances, based on geopolitical issues and concerns all over the world. I think that Huawei and other Chinese companies had kind of very firm sights set on what they intended to do as it related to 5G and 5G networks.

And in many ways that has not quite worked out the way they originally planned. And so I think they’ve done a little pivot here. And so I’d love to hear your thoughts on 5G enterprise in China and what’s happening?

Ron Westfall: Yeah. I think it’s very instructive. I think this is something that could be object lessons for those operators that are targeting 5G or private networking in general, in terms of what are the categories that are demonstrating the most adoption here over the last year. And some key data points specific to China. First of all, there are 6,518 private 5G networks that are up and running. And that is up from just 1,655 a year ago. Now, these are impressive numbers, so that means we got to pay attention to it, even though we understand that China has a unique market and that their regulatory structure is distinct; however, it doesn’t deny that what is being proven successful there can’t have application elsewhere.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely.

Ron Westfall: And some of it’s not too surprising. The leading category are smart factories, at least 1000 private networks are deployed in China. And so, that is getting a good amount of attention, smart manufacturing and so forth, and is one of the more low hanging fruit type of applications for 5G.

Shelly Kramer: And we’re seeing that here in the United States.

Ron Westfall: Yeah, exactly. Yes.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, absolutely. This is not surprising in any way.

Ron Westfall: Right. This is kind of like not too surprising. What I found slightly surprising is that the next category was healthcare, that there were over 600 hospitals that are now on private networks. And this has definitely helped in terms of making medical care more efficient and quite simply more cost effective. For example, China UCOM, in working with Huawei has reached over 2,600 village clinics.

And as a result of their collaboration, they’ve reduced wait times by two fifths. And you can imagine that’s going to be important for any scenario that involves getting to a medical clinic, especially in a rural area where that pretty much is about the only chance many people have to get important medical attention and in a timely fashion.

And so that I think is something that we’ll see more of here in North America and other markets, is that the 5G private network use case can have a lot of impact on quite simply the healthcare sector. It doesn’t have to be rural clinics. It could be in any network that requires improvement in how they use communications to treat people, to accelerate wait lines and so forth, and so I think that that’s a key takeaway.
And the other ones included 200 smart ports, 180 smart grids. And one I found very intriguing was CATL, which is the largest lithium iron battery maker in the world, and it has literally over a 5 million square metrics facilities across six different provinces that are building these batteries for folks like Tesla, for BMW, Toyota.

Shelly Kramer: Wow, that’s a lot.

Ron Westfall: Exactly. And so this is again, China Mobile and Huawei collaborating to make this happen. And this is demonstrating that first of all, that 5G private networks can definitely have a significant commercial impact in reaching many different key verticals, but also that collaboration works. So it’s literally, when it comes to a private network that’s adopted by enterprise, the operator could definitely be that trusted, managed service partner that will enable this to be optimized, to really help it take off. And it’s not so much a do-it-yourself type of scenario.

So this is good news for operators in terms of learning what else they can gain from investing more on their 5G private networks. Other ones of note that I found interesting was smart agriculture, and I think this is another one that will pick up more steam. They were definitely showing improvement in like rice crop yields from using the sensors out in the field and using private 5G networks to leverage the sensor information, and being able to gain more real time knowledge as to how to make the crops yields even better.

And also, another interesting one was enhancing digital museum capabilities. So there’s just a lot of interesting possibilities here that have been tapped on, as you noted, Shelly, here in the US and Europe, but there are [inaudible] emerging ones that definitely can be energized just from learning from the China example here. So this is a thumbs up for the 5G ecosystem.

Shelly Kramer: Well, I happen to be listening to a story on NPR this morning, talking about famine in Africa, actually drought in Africa, which is of course leading to lots of problems, including famine, but one of the things on your… you mentioned agriculture use cases, and one of the specific things that I saw was for instance, so it’s easy to talk about these concepts broadly, right? But when you dial in and you see some of the amazing results and some of the things that you’ve shared, it’s like, “Wow,” then you really start thinking about what the applications are.

But for instance, in the ag market, one of the examples was they were able to increase rice production between 5 and 20%. Okay, that’s significant because they used AI analysis to guide planting, and they used smart machinery to replace labor, to replace manual labor, which is a problem the world over, right? They improved farmer efficiency, they improved outcomes. This technology is now being applied to other ag projects, including sheep and hog farms and citrus production. I can say that.

And another use case that I thought was super fascinating, again, given supply chain issues and stories that we’ve seen of backups at ports and ships backed up waiting in the water because they’re not able to unload. Sometimes it’s a labor problem, right? That’s attributed to. And so one of the use cases here was automated port served by a 5G network. It allows intelligent unmanned services like remote crane operation and what they’re calling the world’s first one-click unloading. So it’s not people doing it, it’s machinery doing it, powered by AI and, of course, 5G.

And one of the things that they said in the report on this was that since this technology was deployed in 2019, so it’s been underway for a while, this specific port in question has… they’ve been able to improve efficiencies by 20%, cut operating costs by 10% and reduced energy consumption per container by 20%. So that is ticking a whole lot of boxes, right? Dealing with significant problems and challenges.

And I think that for me, when I hear conversations or when I read articles, but when I hear conversations like the ones that we’re having, it’s like, what’s most valuable to me is when you can actually look at specific use cases, this is what they’re doing, this is what they’re seeing in terms of savings. And then all of a sudden, it seems like the sky’s the limit when you start thinking about the other application. So it’s really pretty exciting stuff.

Ron Westfall: Yeah. It definitely provides a template for how to do this right.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely.

Ron Westfall: And to your point, this is something that’s not an overnight implementation. And what I think is very instructive about all these great use cases, I love the smart ag one because it just benefits everybody.

Shelly Kramer: And I mean, we have lots of problems right now with that.

Ron Westfall: Right. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Obviously the Ukraine-Russia clash is causing disruption and like grain supplies and that’s fundamental for many areas that probably had a direct link in the Sri Lanka meltdown, for example. And so this is important, this is serious, it has society wide implications. And what I’m hopeful for is that this will accelerate the ability of the ecosystem to get more of these up and running, to really deliver the society wide benefits.

It’s no longer about nice to have, or just efficiency gains, it’s about, well, saving lives. And it’s about just making the technology work in a optimized way that it can actually yield these benefits, and that now we know that the 5G networks are coming along far enough that these are real world benefits. The standalone capabilities are really delivering the hype we’ve been hearing about for a while. And so this is again, positive momentum for getting more players out there to make this happen.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. It’s really cool stuff. So in many ways we, as we know, Asia has led the way in a lot of technology advances and things like that. And so hopefully the rest of the world won’t be too far behind. And I think that’s important for all of us. Well, we’re going to close this show today with just a super quick mention of some good news. The US approved Ericsson 6 billion dollar Vonage acquisition. This merger is actually expected to wrap this week ahead of its originally forecasted completion by the end of July.

This move by Ericsson, we believe is a smart one, expanding into new business by way of scooping up a company that focuses on something completely different from what Ericsson does actually. And Vonage was a pioneer in this space, but today the company is providing businesses with internet-based communication services for customer service and other use cases. And so, I see this as a smart diversification move and really look forward to seeing what Ericsson is able to do here. And so congrats to everyone on that front.

Ron Westfall: Yes. That I think is resonating more with the audience out there. There are still some skeptics about the deal, the size of deal, over 6 billion dollars.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, it’s a big deal.

Ron Westfall: Yes, literally, and again, it’s about execution. How far can Ericsson really take the Vonage assets and make it integral to enabling the service providers to monetize the 5G networks, to make conductivity more experienced, enhanced, and so forth? And I think the synergies are there. And I think it’s aligning with what we just already talked about, is that the Vonage communications platform capabilities align with 5G standalone capabilities that are becoming more widespread. For example, using 5G core programmability, granular policy capabilities to deliver, for example, enhanced collaboration capabilities that are operator specific.

And so what the impact there is that this is allowing operators to have more value in terms of the 5G ecosystem that they’re already integral to, so that they are not going to be as reliant on using cloud partners to get more applications out there. And this is where Vonage’s expertise really comes in because they have the APIs to allow operators to create what can be characterized as federated services. That is… it’s great for, let’s say, a T-Mobile or Verizon to offer this great 5G service to, say, a enterprise, but that enterprise has global presence, remote workers in Asia, branches in Europe, so how does that work?

Well, you have to have these APIs enable inner carrier exchanges to deliver the innovation, so all the operators that are partnering in this benefit. But what’s equally important is that they’re leveraging this vast community of developers. And so Vonage kind of catalyzes the ability of Ericsson to allow the operators to take advantage of that vast developer community, to make these type of applications work specifically to 5G networks.

And so I think what’s also important to note is that, yes, to date Vonage is focused on connectivity, and that is enabling what could be characterized as over the top capabilities, but Ericsson does have a near-term balancing act, as to making sure that the Vonage capabilities are benefiting their core communication service provider customer base, and it’s not say a separate Vonage revenue stream that kind of leaves the operators, not in so much in the monetization loop.

But what I think is also important is that when it comes to offering enterprises these 5G enhanced services such as advanced collaboration capabilities and so forth, is that aligns with what we also touched on say, sassy architectures, which we know will be important because of the work-from-home transformation that’s occurring, at least distributed workforce and workspaces being the dominant way for many organizations to support their workforce. And so it’s not just about having an NPLS connection between the headquarters and a branch office anymore. It’s about making sure that your work-from-home employee is not going to be a security vulnerability.

So you need those granular policies that enable a work-from-home employer, wherever they are, to be able to go into the corporate network and using 5G capabilities and having all these built-in security assurances and so forth. So this is lining up, I think, overall to really allow Ericsson to enable the service providers out there to become more innovative, to really take 5G monetization to another level and really make their 5G investments pay off sooner.

Shelly Kramer: Well, so there was nothing short about this end to our show. I think I will wrap by saying that we have had the pleasure of working with the team at Ericsson over the course of the last number of years, and for the naysayers out there, the commitment that Ericsson has to the operator ecosystem, to network monetization, to helping their customers and partners develop strategies and execute on those strategies, can Ericsson do it? Absolutely. So it’s my opinion, I’m looking forward to great things ahead here. I think that it was a super smart move on so many fronts, many of which you touched on, and so we’ll watch and see what happens, right?

Ron Westfall: Naturally.

Shelly Kramer: Naturally. All right.

Ron Westfall: So this is definitely one that is going to be a game changer if everything lines up according to plan.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. Well with that, we’re going to wrap our show, thanks to our audience as always for sharing your time with us and for hanging around. And if you haven’t yet subscribed to the show on your favorite streaming platform or on YouTube, I will put… We’ll do some show notes that’ll include the things that we talked on, that’ll be included in both the YouTube notes and everywhere else, but you’ll be able to also see in greater detail, some of that information that we shared early on about the speed tests and T-Mobile, and AT&T and Verizon and all of that. So with that, that’s a wrap of our show. Thank you again. Thank you, Ron. And we’ll see you next week.

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.


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