The 5G Factor: Qualcomm and Vodafone on 5G Open RAN, General Dynamics forms 5G and Edge Accelerator Coalition, AWS Nabs Lead in Telco Cloud, Smart Buildings on the Rise

In this episode of The 5G Factor, a production of the Futurum Tech Webcast, I’m joined by my colleague and fellow analyst Ron Westfall to talk all things 5G, IoT and the news and happenings in that ecosystem.

Our show today covered the following:

Qualcomm and Vodafone build on previous commitments related to 5G Open RAN prospects. Qualcomm and Vodafone announced plans to develop, test, and integrate next gen 5G distributed units (DUs), and Radio Unit (RU) with Massive MIMO capabilities, intended to help deliver the commercial deployment of Open RAN in Europe.

General Dynamics forms 5G and Edge Accelerator Coalition. General Dynamics has formed a 5G and Edge Accelerator Coalition with AWS, Cisco, Dell Technologies, Splunk and T-Mobile aimed at accelerating the adoption of 5G, edge, and advanced wireless technologies across government agencies.

AWS takes an early lead in the telco ‘cloud wars.’ Although it’s still early days, there are signs that AWS is making a pretty solid land grab in the teleco cloud space, capturing considerable market share among telecom network operators. While that’s impressive, and it wasn’t surprising to also see Microsoft’s Azure making considerable inroads, what we find equally impressive is seeing Oracle and IBM taking some of that market share as well.

AWS_early lead in telco cloud wars

Smart buildings market is going nowhere but up. The Smart Buildings market is expected to hit $121.6 billion by 2026 and with many clients working in that space: Cisco, IBM, Dell, Honeywell, Siemens, and Intel to name just a few, this news, driven by a number of factors, was of interest. Why is the smart buildings sector on fire? Lots of reasons, and ones that we dive into, alongside a mention of some data points from our recently published Honeywell Environmental Sustainability Index, developed in partnership with Honeywell that is a comprehensive index designed to measure sentiment around the pace and adoption of climate technologies within organizations.

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Disclaimer: The Futurum Tech Webcast is for information and entertainment purposes only. Over the course of this webcast, 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.


Shelly Kramer: Hello and welcome to The 5G Factor. I am your host, Shelly Kramer, principal analyst and co-founder here at Futurum Research. And I’m joined today by my erstwhile co-host and partner, Ron Westfall. Hello, Ron. Glad to see you.

Ron Westfall: Well, good day. Yes, it’s always a pleasure to jump on and talk all things 5G. Definitely, Shelly.

Shelly Kramer: All things 5G, IoT, and all things related to those ecosystems. So we’re going to dive right in and we’re going to talk today about Qualcomm and Vodafone and 5G Open RAN. And with that, Ron, take it away. Let’s hear what’s on your mind with regard to that today.

Ron Westfall: Yeah, I think we had a very interesting announcement come out, and that is Qualcomm and Vodafone re-igniting their collaboration. It’s been established for over a year. Fundamentally, they’re looking to drive Open RAN across a broader swath of the ecosystem. So that part isn’t surprising, but I think what’s important here is that both of them are providing a level set, what is realistic in terms of Open RAN expectations now that we’ve gone through this hype cycle and Open RAN hasn’t quite made the inroads that many expected say just over a year ago.

I think what’s important here is that both players are pointing to this is something that is going to be a journey, it’s something that’s going to require a great deal of work in terms of getting everything synced up. But I think that the partnership is pointing to is the fact that by using Qualcomm’s X100 5G RAN accelerator card, a combination with its QRU 100 5G RAN platform that operators can really punch through and get the power consumption efficiencies that they are prioritizing. And we know why this is important. It helps them meet their sustainability goals, helps the environment and all these strategic reasons. Plus that ties in directly to boosting total cost of ownership benefits. And we know that’s always important. But now it’s like Open RAN is more tangibly being tied into that.

So this is I think providing an impetus that also is aligned with other things that need to really be in play. And that is the massive MIMO technology needs to be in place. And actually, they’re using Qualcomm 64T, 64R and 32R/32T technology, or I should say 32T/32R. But the Ts standing from transmit and R standing for receive.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: And why that technology is important is because that’s going to be essential for delivering 5G Open RAN capability capabilities to dense urban areas. And so that’s really where we’re going to see, I believe, many of the Open RAN use cases gaining more traction to give it more market validity. What I think is interesting is that Vodafone is sticking to its guns, they’re planning to use ran in up to 30% of its mass across Europe. So I think-

Shelly Kramer: That’s a lot. That’s significant.

Ron Westfall: Yeah, no doubt. I think this is, to be clear, a European-centric initiative, and I think though it will definitely be applicable to other regions once this is proven out more for the simple reason that Vodafone is truly a multi-regional operator for one, but lessons learned that Qualcomm and other partners can apply to other Open RAN initiatives.

Shelly Kramer: Right. Absolutely.

Ron Westfall: And that includes, for example, the fact that Qualcomm is working with Rakuten Symphony, it’s working with Viettel in Vietnam, it’s working with Fujitsu and also Mavenir. So this is really clearly an ecosystem play and it really requires all these players to be able to get the initiative more on track to gain the significant takeaways that will enable the operators to simply push brand forward and as part of an overall 5G play.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. I think I saw that it was April of 2021, which is when the companies, Qualcomm and Vodafone, made a commitment to develop technical blueprints that could be used across the industry. I think that that’s really an important part of what we’re talking about here. This ecosystem and success here is really, I believe, contingent upon and really powered by strategic alliances like this in understanding that much like any digital transformation initiative, this is a journey. It’s not a, “We’re going to check all these boxes and be done.” And so it is great to see a revisiting of that and the commitment, even though this is admittedly not a quick process, not a speedy journey, but it is great to see Qualcomm and Vodafone’s commitment here to move this forward.

Ron Westfall: Yeah. In fact, they define success that Vodafone will have commercial deployments by the end of 2023. So this is going to be certainly a significant milestone and definitely that’s going to be essential if they really want to walk away and say, “Okay, this resulted in a successful collaboration.”

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. Absolutely. It makes a lot of sense. So speaking of the importance of partnerships, alliances, coalitions, and all of those things in the 5G ecosystem, I saw some news out this week about General Dynamics forming a 5G and Edge Accelerator coalition with AWS, Cisco, Dell Technologies, Splunk and T-Mobile. And this is all about accelerating the adoption of 5G, Edge and advanced wireless technologies across government agencies. Again, these kinds of partnerships are truly the path forward. I’m sure everybody’s heard of General Dynamics, right? Global aerospace and defense company working with all areas of the US government has for decades. The companies involved as part of this coalition, again, AWS, Cisco, Dell, Splunk, T-Mobile, they’re all involved in this space and they all understand really how the role that 5G and Edge in advanced wireless tech capabilities will play in transforming government operations.

So bringing all those skills, all that knowledge base and all those skills together as part of this coalition, it will be called the General Dynamics Information Technology. So GDIT. It’s a business unit of General Dynamics. It makes a lot of sense. I don’t know if you had seen that news yet, but I think that bringing all of these skills together, all of this knowledge together, leveraging GDIT’s advanced wireless Emerge lab will be how this coalition will identify use cases and then develop prototypes and customized solutions all designed to make it easier, faster, more cost effective to deploy 5G, advanced wireless and Edge capabilities. So all of that thing. And then of course the importance of supporting the federal, the state, local agencies and their unique missions across the enterprise and being able… I mean, we’re talking about touching military, logistics, supply chain, healthcare, smart infrastructure education.

So I think this is a really exciting initiative and I was glad to see movement on that front. I think that as we look at across the 5G ecosystem, and again, military, logistics, supply chain, healthcare, education, smart infrastructure, I mean that that’s a huge ecosystem and that’s really why when we talk about this show and while we talk about all things 5G and IoT and really what’s happening, it’s a huge space and really exciting things happening here.

Ron Westfall: Yeah. This alliance announcement is exciting for the reasons he touched on, Shelly. It has it all.

Shelly Kramer: It has it all.

Ron Westfall: Yeah, right? Yeah, of course the fundamental components, 5G Edge capabilities, 5G core capabilities, now those are built in, you have to have those. What I find refreshing about this particular collaboration, it’s shining a spotlight more on things like cybersecurity automation and why that is critical. I think it’s well understood-

Shelly Kramer: Well, especially for government agencies, right? I mean, probably one of the number one targets of threat actors are infrastructure, industrial government agencies. So this is huge on that front.

Ron Westfall: Right. I mean, nobody can afford a high profile breach. We’ve seen this happen. And 5G networks really have to be purpose built from the ground up natively to have this built in. And so that’s why it’s important to have somebody like Splunk, somebody we haven’t talked about much as part of this alliance providing this cybersecurity automation as part of this fabric for this end to end 5G implementation.

And so we’ve seen it before, the internet itself, it was first battle test by government and then it became a commercially powerful platform. And so I think we can anticipate the same kind of thing. How do we really make end-to-end 5G networks work with security integral and built in? Well, the government once again is I think paving the way here.

And I think it’s also making it clear that Edge computing has a critical role as well. I think it’s something that is kind of mentioned in these announcements, but I think this particular collaboration is shining a spotlight on that because clearly the players that are involved, Cisco, Dell, Splunk, T-Mobile, all of them have invested significantly in the age operations capability in terms of making open Edge of reality in terms of 5G network builds and so forth.

So yeah, no, I think this is definitely the type of alliance that’s really needed to make it clear to the ecosystem that these things can work and this is the type of array that could make it work.

Shelly Kramer: Right. Well, I think the reality of this ecosystem in general is that there’s rarely in instances of a go it alone use case. This is really success happens and certainly much more quickly with alliances, whether it’s Qualcomm and Vodafone, whether it’s General Dynamics and AWS, Cisco, Dell, T-mobile and beyond. I think that this is the path forward when it comes to success in this space and having these key players in the market all focusing on sometimes the same areas of the market, sometimes different areas of the market, but coming together to expedite success, to prove out theories and test cases and things like that. So I think that I thought that this was really an exciting move and I was glad to see it.

Ron Westfall: No doubt.

Shelly Kramer: And like you said, it was really great to see Splunk involved here. It was really great to see Cisco and Dell involved here for a bunch of different reasons. T-mobile of course, the strength of their network is undisputable. AWS makes perfect sense. So I thought it was really interesting.

And so with that, we’re going to roll on, speaking of AWS, it reminded me, we’re going to roll on to some other interesting news in the telecom space and the competition that’s happening there between AWS and Microsoft and Google and what some are perceiving is maybe an early land grab. So talk with us a little bit about that.

Ron Westfall: Yeah, a great segue, Shelly. And I agree, I think we need to look at the cloud competition.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: We’ve certainly have spent a great deal talking about the operators that is inherent. And so yeah, it’s a good time now I think to take a snapshot. And I want to start by saying yes, it’s still early in the market.

Shelly Kramer: It is.

Ron Westfall: So yeah, this is a horse race that can’t be called… I don’t know if it’s ever going to be called because I think my second key point before getting to more details is that I think the vast majority of operators, certainly the major ones, are going to be committed to a multi-cloud play.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely.

Ron Westfall: Yeah. So while AWS will get some early announcements, and certainly Azure will get early announcements and so forth, this is something that isn’t going to wall garden, what the operators want strategically. For example, our collaborative research with Ericsson pretty much verified that common sense notion that the operators don’t want to be hamstrung by being overreliant on one cloud player.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: With that said, I think we can still point to what is going on. There’s been some recent research, some of it coming from Omdia for example, that indicates that AWS does have the most partnerships in place that we can talk about. They accounted about 70, Azure is coming in at 57. But what I think is interesting is that third, it was Oracle.

Shelly Kramer: Oracle?

Ron Westfall: Yes. Yes.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, that’s impressive.

Ron Westfall: Yes, it is. I think that’s a tribute to just how much they’ve strategically committed in building out Oracle Cloud and making it not just for cloud database applications, but for a vast array of verticals and so forth. And here we are talking about the fact that they have a major play in the telco space. And not surprisingly, Google Cloud comes in next, but they are gaining momentum. They are generating, I think, the most new headlines at least in the first half of this year. So

Shelly Kramer: Well, and IBM is showing up on that list too.

Ron Westfall: Exactly. Alright.

Shelly Kramer: I mean, they have a small amount of market share compared to these other players that we’ve mentioned, but I think that’s impressive as well. IBM definitely has a focus in the 5G space, and so seeing them end up on this list. And I do have to back up and say since we’re we’re in the research business, this study from Omdia was really 49 executives asking them what public clouds they were using for, or clouds they’re using for their network functions. So as you said when we started, this is early stages. This is a super small group, but I think these results are impressive nonetheless.

Ron Westfall: Yeah, I think it definitely validates IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat in this area.

Shelly Kramer: Yep, absolutely. Absolutely.

Ron Westfall: One thing I think was also worth noting is who wasn’t really directly mentioned, although there was an others category.

Shelly Kramer: Others. Yeah.

Ron Westfall: That’s Alibaba, which theoretically would’ve had a higher number had it not been for geopolitical realities setting out.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely.

Ron Westfall: They’re still certainly out there working strategically with operators such as Saudi Telecom. So this is something that we’ll definitely keep an eye on, but Saudi Telecom is going to work with other cloud players. So again, it’s not a zero sum competition.

But I think one that I think we will pay more attention to is Azure, particularly Azure for Operators because they’re the one cloud players so far that’s invested directly into telco specific assets, specifically the acquisitions of Affirmed and the acquisitions of Metaswitch. I think this will help them in terms of supporting SDN capabilities that the operators will require as well as CNF and DNF capabilities, as well as ultimately container builds as the operators become more familiar and sophisticated about how to really leverage the cloud [inaudible 00:17:08] to meet their strategic ends.

They’re the one cloud player that’s had a high profile announcement with AT&T where AT&T has said, “We are working with Azure to strategically have our core assets supported. I mean, Azure Cloud.” Now, Verizon for example, said, “We’re never going to do that.” And many other operators are pretty much pointing to that same thing. But who knows? I mean, nobody thought AT&T would come out with this type of announcement. And we know that AT&T personnel have onboarded onto Azure to make this strategic decision work. And so stay tuned. It’s just fascinating that these developments have already happened. Tunes can change quickly, if say AT&T definitely makes vast inroads with its Azure partnership, et cetera.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, that will be really interesting to watch for sure.

Ron Westfall: No doubt. I think it points the fact that the operators need to invest in, again, cloud native capabilities, certainly CNFs. And also Google, I think, actually has a very compelling SDN proposition. That’s why I think they’ll rise in these counts in its short order. So this is something that’s going to be, I think, good news for everybody really. It’s a rising tide.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely.

Ron Westfall: And so, both the operators and the cloud operators will figure out ways to quite simply please the customers to make 5G even more mainstream, more agile, more use case savvy and so forth.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, exciting times ahead for sure.

Ron Westfall: Amen.

Shelly Kramer: We are going to wrap this show talking about smart buildings in the smart buildings market. So here’s the thing, smart buildings are all around us. We have many clients working in this space, Cisco, IBM, Honeywell, Siemens, Intel to name just a few. That’s why there was a report I just saw out of MarketsandMarkets on smart buildings and some thoughts on what that market is going to do that I thought made sense to touch on here, because of course, 5G and the IoT play a big enormous role in smart buildings.

So according to MarketsandMarkets, the global small smart building market size is expected to grow from 72.6 billion in 2021 to 121.6 billion in 2026, okay? That is but a few short years away, okay? And so what’s driving this? The rising adoption of course, IoT-enabled building management systems, and huge and increased and continuing to increase at a rapid pace focus on all things sustainability and the more efficient, more effective use of space, and of course a demand for more energy efficient operating systems. So then of course you can go back to, “Okay, Honeywell, Siemens, Intel, Cisco, IBM.” There’s a reason that all of these companies are such big players in this space, right?

And then of course, so the last thing you have… Then of course not the last thing, but another key thing that you have in this IoT-enabled building space is of course always changing industry standards and regulations. And of course those change from country to country and all that sort of thing. So what we’re seeing then, of course, is technology companies who focus on solutions related to productivity, enhanced identity and access management, surveillance, optimized surveillance. And then all of the systems of course in controls that power buildings, all of these things play a big role here.

One of the reasons that caught my eye is that we just did, we just published an Environmental Sustainability Index that we partnered with Honeywell on that is a sentiment analysis and an index that we will be doing every quarter in partnership with Honeywell that really took a deep dive into all things sustainability.

And so in this particular bit of research, we surveyed some 600 plus senior leaders working in the corporate sustainability space. Some of the findings were not at all surprising. Some of those things included the fact that sustainability tops the list of key corporate initiatives that business leaders are focused on in the next six months, in many instances ahead of financial performance, digital transformation, and market growth. People are really, really laser focused on ESG. Even in tough economic times, sustainability still plays a really big role in business success and cost containment, in recruiting and retention efforts, in satisfying corporate stakeholders and all of that sort of thing. So I thought that that was not surprising to come out of our research, right?

65% of the organizations that we studied are putting sustainability initiatives first, 73% of the organizations that we surveyed said that they’re prioritizing energy, evolution and efficiency. Not surprising, right? And what was also not surprising is that the leaders that we spoke with said that, “We feel good about the success we made over the course of the last 12 months.” Okay, but when you think about the last 12 months, the last 12 months were largely pandemic 12 months, okay? And I’m not thinking about today onward. I’m thinking about when we initially did this survey, it was a little bit earlier in 2022, okay? So we were still kind of thinking back on that second year of the pandemic, right?

So leaders felt good about the progress that they had made. In many instances, we had emissions going down and building efficiency going up. The numbers looked good. But in many instances those buildings were empty. But what those same leaders told us is that we are not at all optimistic about our abilities to be successful moving forward. “We know this is important, we know it’s incredibly important for our organizations and all of the stakeholders, but we’re less certain about our ability to be successful in the next 12 to 18 months.”

That didn’t come as a surprise because what we see happening, and the reason that we’re focusing on kind of a laser-focus on the ESG space here at Futurum and partnering with our clients to do that is because I think much like… And we’ve talked about this Ron. Much like digital transformation is a huge thing and it’s a journey that doesn’t end, it’s a continual evolution and a continual adoption of technology and different processes and people and that sort of thing, well, sustainability is very much the same. But what we’re seeing is that organizations have planted flags, they’ve made promises, they’ve made commitments, public commitments to achieving certain sustainability objectives by certain timeframes.

What we hypothesize before we do a survey is that what is happening is that people make these promises, make these commitments, set goals, and then all of a sudden you get to the point where you’re like, “Holy crap. Now how are we going to make that happen?”, right? And this is what came out of our research that was, again not surprising but interesting, is that the changes that organizations have made to date as it relates to sustainability have been process-oriented change, okay? Changing their processes, not investing in and exploring and integrating technology solutions that can help them meet those goals.

And that circling back to the whole smart buildings, smart buildings market and 5G and the IoT and all of those things, as we both know, technology’s going to play a very, very big role in their success moving forward. There’s my dog saying hi to everybody that’s on this broadcast today.

So anyway, if this is of interest to you, if you are looking at sustainability within your organization and thinking about the IoT and all things 5G and how technology can help you reach your sustainability goals, I encourage you to download the Environmental Sustainability Index that we just finished, and to stay tuned for more on that front as we revisit that survey on a quarterly basis.

Ron Westfall: Yeah, I think the ESI is just a great tool, a great source of data. It’s great to get those tangible data points such as the 73% and 65% levels of strategic commitment. A couple of quick observations, I think part of the uncertainty over the next 12 to 18 months can also be attributed to macroeconomic concerns, potential recession as one example in talking with the key decision makers out there. The other one is that I think the pandemic did ushered what I think are some key shifts that will enable organizations to better meet their sustainability goals. So that is distributed workforce.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely.

Ron Westfall: More employees working from home or on a part-time or full-time basis cuts down on commutes, cuts down on the need for more commercial real estate in dense urban areas. So yeah, I think this is something that the organizations are going to look to leverage more whenever it’s possible. And I think on the technology side, it will fuel 5G, IoT use cases such as network slicing and private networks to really make smart buildings a success in terms of all these organizations finding ways to meet their ESG goals and their sustainability objectives.

Shelly Kramer: Right. Well, and I think that how organizations might look at this, I was reading an interview that Dell’s president for Latin America did recently with BNamericas. What he was talking about was what’s happening in the Latin American market and how the company, how Dell is bullish on investment in the market as it relates to all things multi-cloud, 5G and Edge in spite of the fact that there are tough economic times across the globe.

And what he was sharing was that they see this, and I know other companies do as well, as a huge opportunity for growth because you have organizations in lots of industry looking at how can we optimize operations, how can we be more efficient, how can we use the Edge, how can we use 5G, how can we use private 5G networks to allow us to do things that we might not have been able to do otherwise before.

One of the things that came out when I was reading this article, 50% of all infrastructure worldwide after 2024 will take place on the Edge. And this is because of advancements in 5G and Edge computing technology. So you can really see the possibilities here when you’re thinking about business strategy, when you’re thinking about the role of 5G and Edge and all of these things play in your strategy and your opportunities for growth. In spite of challenging economic times, there’s a lot of, I think, opportunity that you can be excited about there as well.

Ron Westfall: Exactly. I think also it’s pointing to the true global nature of this evolution.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: And so yeah, whether you’re looking at the smart building use case, the healthcare use case, the critical infrastructure use case, all these parallels are pointing to the fact that the Edge is going to be where this is going to happen.

Shelly Kramer: The Edge is where it’s at.

Ron Westfall: Absolutely.

Shelly Kramer: The Edge is where it’s at. Well, all right, we’re going to wrap this show now, Ron. It’s always a pleasure spending time with you talking about all of these things related to 5G, the IoT, and what kind of opportunities, lie ahead and all of that. And so to our listening audience, thank you for spending time with us. Hit that subscribe button over on YouTube, hit that subscribe button over on your webcast player if you haven’t done that yet and we’ll see you again next time.

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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