Technology and Connectivity Trends | 5G Magazine Jan 2023 Edition
- By Hema Kadia, TeckNexus
- January 6, 2023
- 5:18 pm
Featured articles in this edition
- November 5, 2023
Harnessing connectivity and technology opportunities with a diverse network ecosystem
As technology continues to advance, businesses need to stay ahead of the curve. To do this, they must understand the emerging technology trends, the underlying network connectivity options, and, more importantly, how to implement them successfully.
Below are the key trends and opportunities that network operators and enterprises can capitalize on in the next few years to introduce innovative solutions, improve productivity, and reduce operational costs.
5G Standalone Deployments
5G is expected to be the main driver of mobile network growth in 2023.
According to Statista’s prediction, subscriptions of 5G will skyrocket worldwide in the upcoming years – from 12 million in 2019 to 4 billion by 2027.
5G standalone deployments enable faster speeds, ultra-low latency use cases, and better coverage than previous generations of mobile networks and 5G non-standalone deployments. Enterprises across manufacturing to healthcare would primarily benefit from the 5G SA deployments as it enables Network Slicing and Network as a Service. Additionally, consumers will also benefit from enhanced customer experiences with the 5G SA deployments.
Fixed Wireless Access (FWA)
FWA is a relatively cost-effective alternative for providing internet access in areas where traditional wired infrastructure is either unavailable or would be too costly to install and maintain. It also enables users in remote locations to access high-speed internet connection with faster time to market and without upgrading the end-user devices. The access to wider channel bandwidths and diverse frequency bands, FWA is a more practical use case with 5G to provide high throughputs.
The recent Ericsson Mobility Report shows that, out of 310 service providers studied worldwide, 238 (or 77 percent) had an FWA offering. During the last 12 months, the number of service providers offering 5G FWA services has increased from 57 (19 percent) to 88 (29 percent).
Private 5G Networks
Businesses and governments across the globe increasingly require secure digital connections that can support more data than ever before. This surge in demand has caused a rise in private mobile networks based on 4G LTE (and now 5G) technologies. In addition, by combining connected systems with big data analytics, enterprises are revolutionizing their operations and automating processes to increase efficiency or offer customers new services.
ABI Research has reported that the total market for private network deployments within the enterprise verticals will reach $109 billion by 2030.
The Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) has estimated that at least 955 organizations have implemented LTE or 5G private mobile networks in 72 countries worldwide.
Despite the emergence of 5G, organizations still favor LTE, accounting for 40.9% of all private mobile network deployments. Manufacturing remains one of the most significant sectors for private networks, along with education and mining.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) based Automation
AI has become an essential part of many industries due to its ability to automate tedious processes while providing accurate results quickly and efficiently. For example, AI can help companies make quicker decisions based on real-time data analysis by leveraging machine learning (ML) algorithms that can detect patterns in large datasets faster than humans.
Projections from ResearchAndMarkets indicate that the global AI market in telecommunications will surge by $8.63 billion from 2022-2026, increasing at a rate of 47.33% CAGR during these five years.
The increasing adoption of AI for efficient predictive maintenance and improved customer experience is driving the market.
Edge computing is a distributed architecture that allows latency-sensitive network functions and compute resources such as servers and storage devices located close to end users rather than in centralized data centers or clouds. This enables the realization of URLLC use cases such as cloud gaming, AR/VR, and industrial use cases.
According to Deloitte Global’s projection, the enterprise market for edge computing will experience a 22% surge in 2023. However, during the same period, investments in enterprise networking equipment and overall IT spending are expected to rise only by 4% and 6%, respectively.
Virtual and Open RAN solutions
Operators worldwide are investing heavily in virtualization technologies to evolve their network infrastructures. Virtual & open RAN solutions transform the access network from a proprietary hardware-based network to a software-defined network, making it more flexible, agile, and cost-effective while eliminating vendor lock-ins. It allows innovations in the RAN space like RICs (RAN Intelligent controllers) that simplifies the network decisions via rApps and xApps. Virtualization also helps in leveraging the efficiencies of cloud native designs to bring automation in the ways the networks are planned, deployed, and managed.
According to the recently published report by Dell’Oro Group, near-term Open RAN and virtual RAN is projected to approach $20 B over the next five years and account for around 15 percent of the 2026 RAN market.
"To capitalize on the opportunities generated by above noted technologies, a diverse network ecosystem is essential."
System Integrators (SIs) are best positioned to lead the network ecosystem
Who are the players in the diverse network ecosystem?
A telecom network ecosystem is an interconnected system of components and services that form the basis for a telecommunications infrastructure. It covers everything from the physical infrastructure to transmitting voice, data, and video signals to the software and applications used to run all types of communication networks. This comprehensive set of elements enables telecommunications providers to offer innovative services to businesses and consumers.
As the demand for private networks, open RAN solutions, FWA, and other emerging technologies surges higher than ever before, all stakeholders must come together to meet the enterprise and consumer expectations regarding speed, reliability, latency, and security. It is the collaboration of below-diverse network ecosystem players that will eventually enable large-scale public and private networks to reach their full potential.
Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) – MNOs provide the network coverage needed to access 2G/3G/4G/5G services by building out their networks or leasing access from other operators.
Telecom Equipment Manufacturers (TEMs) – TEMs are responsible for designing, producing, and testing radio technology, such as antennas and base stations.
Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) – OEMs are companies that buy products from other suppliers to resell them under their brand.
Telecom Infrastructure Providers – Tower companies build the physical infrastructure required to deploy network technologies, such as cell sites, small cells, switch sites, masts, and towers across large geographic areas.
Industrial Automation Vendors – They automate Operational Technology (OT) for the enterprises, such as introducing industrial connectivity devices into the existing enterprise production ecosystem.
Hyper-Scalers – They provide public cloud infrastructure, including edge computing resources for enterprises and MNOs.
Application Developers – App developers create apps that leverage network capabilities to deliver improved customer experiences. For enterprises, apps are predominately built by industrial automation vendors.
Regulatory Agencies – Regulatory agencies in many countries have a role in issuing spectrum licenses, conducting auctions, defining spectrum regulations, and enforcing related obligations.
Governments – Governments are also actively investing in the infrastructure needed for large-scale deployment of 5G networks providing incentives and grants for required research & development efforts in this sector.
Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) – SDOs develop and maintain technical standards for telecoms and IT. The standards help to ensure interoperability and compatibility among different products and systems and facilitate communication and cooperation among different organizations.
System Integrators – System integrators play a crucial role in the network ecosystem by bringing together various components and technologies from the diverse network ecosystem players to build, deploy, and operate comprehensive end-to-end solutions that meet the specific needs of their clients.
Why are SIs best positioned to lead the network ecosystem?
With their unique expertise, discipline, and familiarity with both legacy and current systems and operations, SIs are the ideal choice to manage end-to-end solutions consisting of one or more technologies, including 5G SA, telco cloud, private networks, IoT, AI/ML, AR/VR, and edge computing. They offer special skill sets that in-house teams rarely possess or can match: an understanding of diverse experiences and specialized knowledge related to the ever-evolving technologies and solutions.
Let’s explore these advantages further.
Expertise and Experience
Every public and private deployment is one-of-a-kind, with its own blend of solutions and technologies. A single ecosystem vendor cannot understand how to get it right. To achieve success, an approach for ongoing advancement must be in place – though some vendors and enterprises do have this ability in practice, the majority lack such a strategy.
SI’s, have the expertise in integrating heterogeneous hardware, software, and communication systems – such as networking components, application servers, databases, and cloud services – into unified architecture that enables users to access data securely across multiple locations. This integration involves not just connecting various components but also configuring them in accordance with best practices.
In addition, SIs are experts in providing service excellence. Continuous improvement is at the forefront of their business model. With multiple technology experts on the team, they have an inherent edge over internal teams and other ecosystem players that lack experience or practice haphazardly. The integrators’ practices and methodologies far supersede what any single vendor or enterprise could accomplish alone–an advantage that can’t be overlooked.
Connecting Operational and Information Technologies (OT & IT)
An inherent IT and connectivity quandary is the integration of legacy operational technology (OT) in industrial and manufacturing contexts. The management of OT necessitates a deep understanding and extensive technical knowledge about both IT and the relevant industry to execute properly.
SIs often specialize in a particular field and gain extensive expertise in the OT, thus providing an ideal foundation for private network projects that involve combining OT, IT, and connectivity technologies and solutions. In addition, SIs are trusted partners for manufacturers looking to introduce new technology into their operations. They also have in place the necessary partnerships with hyper-scalers and infrastructure providers in order to serve as primary liaisons during the deployment of private enterprise networks.
Best of Breed Flexible and Customized Solutions
With their extensive knowledge of technology trends and industry best practices, SIs can develop customized and best-of-breed solutions that are tailored specifically to their client’s requirements, including enterprise vertical-specific solutions.
They can advise on which components are the best fit for a particular Telco/ Enterprise use case and can help their clients identify potential risks or security loopholes that could affect network performance or reliability. In addition, they possess the necessary skills needed to ensure optimal deployment of new technologies in existing infrastructure.
Modular Development Approach
SIs understand that starting small is typically the best approach. That’s why they make sure to first demonstrate a return on investment model before increasing operations and scale as necessary. Network deployments are complex processes, so SIs know from experience that defining business needs can be one of the most difficult tasks in major projects.
Subsequently, they have the know-how to document business necessities and value at the start of a project. They also recognize the advantages of collaborating with multiple operating units within an enterprise environment to refine requirements and navigate organizational boundaries more easily than the internal teams and other ecosystem players.
Multi-domain and Multi-vendor Expertise
SI’s have expertise in multiple domains and have integration capabilities across multiple vendors. This, by far, is one of the most important advantages brought in by a SI as traditional OEMs struggle to resolve multi-vendor integration issues and have expertise only in particular network domains.
As networks become more and more complex, MNOs benefit tremendously from this single ownership and ease of operations.
Strong Ecosystem Partnerships
To boost their digital transformation initiatives, SIs are able to identify enterprise pain points and constraints (which could be legacy technology landscape and budgetary limitations), then unify a multitude of technologies for an effective digitization solution. Furthermore, numerous leading SIs have built proprietary frameworks to integrate IT and OT domains over various connectivity options.
To foster a successful end-to-end connectivity system solution for enterprises, network ecosystem players are joining forces with other stakeholders to benefit from the partnerships and avoid redundant efforts. It is particularly essential to create robust connections with Hyperscalers and application developers equipped with specialized knowledge in order to produce vertical applications. Traditional telcos often struggle in this area.
However, SIs are already equipped with the necessary cross-domain partnerships. Moreover, they have an incumbent advantage through their technical expertise in integrating components from diverse network ecosystem players to bring comprehensive end-to-end solutions tailored specifically to each of their clients.
Conclusion | Why are SIs best positioned to lead the network ecosystem?
In summary, system integrators have a strong and important role in helping operators and enterprises to manage complex network environments while maximizing performance and minimizing costs by effectively deploying solutions and technologies from diverse ecosystem players and bringing the automation platforms on top of the deployed infrastructure.
With their deep technical knowledge and wider industry experience, they can offer tailored solutions that enable the successful deployment of public and private (industry-specific) networks and ensure long-term success for those organizations that partner with them.
How is Tech Mahindra Leading the industry to a future-proof network ecosystem?
The communications industry is entering the next phase of revolution fueled by 5G, Hyper-Automation, Artificial Intelligence/ Machine Learning, and Private/Public Cloud. The convergence of these technological and business model transformations creates new possibilities for our customers – to reimagine and reshape the future of consumer and enterprise services.
The challenges in this new world cannot be solved with traditional processes and redundant practices, instead requires skilled partners who can provide solutions. Tech Mahindra is the world’s largest independent network services provider with a proven track record in delivering best-in-class services. Telecom Networks is Tech Mahindra’s forte. We have been transforming and modernizing networks for our customers for over 25 years and are ready to reimagine, reinvent and reshape the future.
CI.NXT Approach | A pre-integrated solution platform for strategic network and service transformation
5G has fundamentally changed the way networks are deployed and maintained. The cloud-native and open architecture allow best-of-the-breed innovative products to be mixed in, creating a future-ready solution. However, the traditional SI approach of custom integration is a deterrent to adopting the best-of-the-breed solution. Instead of adopting a traditional custom SI approach, Tech Mahindra has created an innovative integration approach – the Continuous Integrator framework (CI.NXT).
The CI.NXT framework establishes integration points across end-to-end technology functions and enterprise processes. The Technical Integration architecture in the CI.NXT framework enables mix and match of OEM/TEM products while keeping the sanctity of open interface intact for the highest level of flexibility and future readiness. The Process Integration architecture empowers the deployment and operations team to adopt new lightweight processes for an open network while co-existing with legacy BSS/OSS platforms.
CI.NXT is Tech Mahindra’s approach to strategic network and service transformation for operators and enterprises. It is built on Netops.ai, the company’s next-generation automation product framework, and it is developed based on building blocks such as DevOps, Multi-domain Orchestration, Observability artifacts, Release, and test management.
CI.NXT functions as a ready-to-deploy pre-integrated 5G platform solution. Upon its implementation, businesses may look forward to quickly and easily integrating, deploying, and testing a range of technologies and features in a completely stable and secure environment. Increasing efficiency, reducing operating costs, and improving customer experiences are part of the parcel.
Next Gen Automation Product – netOps.ai
netOps.ai is a unique product that enables DevOps, multi-domain Orchestration, Test Automation, Service Assurance, and Predictive Operations in a single platform and works across hybrid private and public cloud infrastructure.
netOps.ai product, combined with Tech Mahindra’s deep industry and network domain experience, helps to provide a seamless and highly modular end-to-end network lifecycle management offering that makes it faster, cheaper, and easier for customers to design, develop, deploy and manage networks of the future.
Envisioning beyond 5G: SI glance on 6G
As we evolve from the current state of 5G to 5G+ and ultimately to 6G, there will be incremental and enhanced expectations from 6G in terms of unified technologies (Terrestrial and Non-Terrestrial), wider spectrum, robust security and high capacity and high-density hyperconnectivity. This connectivity will bring seamless communication that connects people’s devices to the network and allows sensors, vehicles, and a variety of other products and technologies to communicate with one another.
More importantly, 6G is expected to be built on the principles of a diverse ecosystem with open interfaces and AI-native design. This will enable access to more advanced AI capabilities by principle, compared to current technologies where AI is built on top of the technology layer. 6G will enable many additional use cases and enhancement of current use cases and will transform the level of interaction between the human and digital world, such as in the metaverse and extended reality.
The next-generation networks will unify our experiences in the physical and digital worlds to create an extrasensory experience across all aspects of life. 6G will evolve into multiple dimensions.
The first is infrastructure. 6G’s infrastructure will require an enhanced interconnection between nodes that facilitate a multi-static sensory mesh. It will also require fully automated, cloud-based, rapidly scalable, and AI/ML-based real-time monitoring software functions and platforms. The application process is another important layer, which calls for more automation of how information is consumed and controlled, opening new avenues for business growth.
Lastly, technology and network providers must ensure a layer of enhanced security using the concepts of Quantum communication, which can be achieved through leveraging the authentication and encryption algorithms to avoid unauthorized access to sub-networks, etc.
Looking ahead to 2030 and beyond, the possibilities for 6G are seemingly limitless. Harnessing the current capabilities of 5G networks, the time is ripe to work towards building infrastructure to enable the 6G future.
Tech Mahindra’s ready to deliver CI.NXT framework enabled by netOps.ai product empowers its customers to effectively and successfully deploy the network of the future today and be ready to face and embrace a decade of technology advancements that will thrive on digital transformation.
- November 5, 2023
Like the past two years, 2023 will likely be another year of headwinds and change. While there’s no way to predict what will unfold for telcos, there are a few trends we expect to take root.
Greater emphasis on data
Telcos such as T-Mobile, Globe Telecom, and Telia leverage data and artificial intelligence (AI) to elevate customer experience and automate campaigns. Yet there’s a lot more untapped potential for the industry. With the deprecation of third-party cookies, the first-party data sources will become even more valuable if they are governed with the customers’ best interests at heart.
Telcos have oceans of data, but much of it is scattered and siloed. For example, operational data is stored across multiple legacy technologies, like 3G or 4G, and platforms, including operational support systems (OSS) and business support systems (BSS). Further, many ISVs across the telco value chain maintain their data within walled gardens. This makes it hard to consolidate, govern and share data across the organization.
A data mesh architecture can help liberate telco data. The data mesh enables each domain-driven data set to be treated as a product and owned by the teams that intimately know the data. Data is then shared to a centralized catalog where it can be harnessed to deliver transformational business outcomes. A data mesh also ensures that lines of business have the right tools for the job. For example, it enables non-data scientists to build, train and deploy machine learning (ML) models, increasing ML adoption across the organization, accelerating innovation and enriching the customer experience.
Sustainability and energy costs move to the top of the agenda
With energy costs rising, reducing use and increasing sustainability will move to the top of agendas, and a data-driven approach can aid efforts. The global telecommunications industry produced 2.6% of the total world carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2020 – more than the airline industry, according to a European Telecommunications Network Operators Association report.
According to GSMA Intelligence, energy consumption accounted for 15-40% of telcos’ operating expenditure in 2021, which is expected to rise. For mobile network operators, the bulk of this energy consumption (60-75%) is from radio access networks (RAN).
Data-traffic loads are intermittent, meaning different parts of RAN can be put briefly into sleep mode, even during peak traffic periods, to reduce energy consumption. For example, a mobile network operator in Australia cut power consumption by more than 7% by simply turning off the power-amplifier symbol at a site without any service degradation. By using data and AI/ML applications, telcos can use intelligent services to monitor and automate this process.
Moving to the cloud provides further energy savings. Multiple studies conducted by international analyst firm 451 Research, part of S&P Global Intelligence, found that migrating on-premises workloads to AWS can lower the workload carbon footprint by nearly 80%. We’re already seeing telcos embrace the cloud, like Sweden’s Vilma, Spark New Zealand, and DISH. Also, innovation in processors in the 5G core can reduce energy use. For example, in Japan, NTT Docomo and NEC reduced energy consumption by an average of 72% against incumbent x86 processors.
More partnerships will grow the 5G ecosystem as networks mature
For the past few years, we’ve heard the promise of added revenue from 5G – but we’ve yet to see the windfall. 2023 will mark the beginning of a tipping point. Every major U.S. carrier has nationwide 5G deployments. In Europe, 34 of 50 European countries have deployed 5G, along with 14 across Asia Pacific, according to separate reports from GSMA. Devices are also catching up: the top smartphones of the past few years all come with 5G support.
The last barrier to realizing 5G’s potential is the ecosystem – the cross-industry and cross-functional partnerships needed to create 5G services and reduce barriers to building and managing 5G networks.
Private wireless offers huge promise for 5G industry use cases. IDC estimates that the private LTE/5G wireless TAM will reach $8.3 billion by 2026. But the adoption has been slower than expected, partly because of the high cost and complexity of planning, building, deploying, and managing a private network. In 2023, we expect more telcos to forge partnerships to increase adoption, like how Verizon and Vodafone have partnered to accelerate edge computing.
Transformation of Telcos
The fourth trend in the coming year will be the accelerated evolution of telcos to “tech cos,” transforming telcos’ relationship with their customers and how they operate to unlock new revenue. There are two pieces to this shift. First, telcos will need to shift from operating as connectivity providers to becoming digital service providers, leveraging their networks to enrich their relationships with customers.
For example, South Korean-based SK Telecom is transforming into an AI company. And Switzerland’s Swisscom is expanding the value it offers customers by training technical and commercial employees to advise and consult their customers on their cloud journey. Second, telcos will need to shift operations to use their network as a platform. This approach will provide a new way to monetize their network buildouts and spin up a new MVNO within a couple of days, which could also operate profitably with as few as 10,000 subscribers.
Embracing these four trends won’t be easy, as it requires upskilling and training for staff and, more importantly, a commitment from leadership. But telcos that make the shift will be better positioned to unlock new growth and adapt to innovations. I expect 2023 to be a year of massive transformation, and I hope to partner closely with telcos to help them realize this future.
This article originally ran in Light Reading.
- November 5, 2023
If you ask a typical CISO about their ‘worry list,’ private mobile network security probably isn’t on there today. After all, most security leaders already have their hands full defending employee endpoints, traditional enterprise networks, and an ever-expanding cloud footprint.
Plus, most are accustomed to leaving mobile network security in the hands of mobile network operators (MNOs). But the growing use of private LTE and 5G networks and other technology developments in the mobile industry will thrust mobile network security onto the enterprise CISO agenda in 2023.
Here are five reasons why.
As IoT and private mobile network usage accelerates, device security will become significantly more complex
In industries like utilities, manufacturing, healthcare, and mining, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors are rapidly moving from the lab to the real world. The data insights that can be gained from IoT devices are often central to these organizations’ digital transformation and growth plans. But IoT devices are only effective when they have persistent network connectivity.
And while existing enterprise Ethernet and WiFi networks can sometimes serve as a starting point, many enterprises are hesitant to overwhelm their business-critical networks with sensor traffic. For this reason, private mobile networks are emerging as the optimal choice for IoT connectivity.
Cellular networks have the range and flexibility to support the unique demands of IoT sensors. And deploying a separate network for IoT needs also keeps core enterprise IT networks isolated from any IoT device risks.
However, this industry shift also creates new challenges for security teams. Many enterprises already struggle to find and remediate hidden software and hardware vulnerabilities, and IoT device adoption severely exacerbates this problem. IoT devices have a particularly poor track record with vulnerabilities, and they also appear in much greater numbers than end-user devices.
The greater overlap between the physical and digital works created by IoT devices and private mobile networks is another important new consideration for enterprise security teams.
In many industries, IoT sensors must be placed well beyond the reach of existing enterprise networks, including at very remote locations. This makes it nearly impossible for security teams to prevent motivated threat actors from gaining physical access to devices. Since physical access to an IoT device opens the door to attack techniques like SIM cloning or SIM swapping, there is added pressure placed on monitoring efforts and a greater need for network segmentation to prevent lateral movement from compromised IoT devices to other areas of the enterprise network.
As the cost and complexity of private mobile network deployment decreases, security teams will quickly face an entirely new category of threats
In addition to being well-suited for the network demands of IoT, private mobile networks are also more practical and cost-effective to deploy than they once were. Cellular networks previously required specialized and extremely costly hardware infrastructure to operate. But this is now changing. Increasingly, the “brains” for a cellular network, known as the packet core, can be run as a virtual instance in the cloud. Just as the cloud changed the economics of enterprise data center infrastructure, the same is now happening with cellular network technologies.
In addition, as the MNOs evolve their networks to 5G technology, a technique called 5G network slicing becomes possible. 5G network slicing allows for the creation of multiple virtualized networks on the same physical network infrastructure. One application of 5G network slicing is to provide private mobile networks to enterprises without any physical network buildout. This is another way that private mobile networks are becoming much more practical and cost-effective for enterprises to adopt.
Unfamiliar architecture for security teams
The downside of these faster-to-deploy and less expensive private mobile network architectures is that they are unfamiliar to most enterprise security teams. While MNOs have deep experience protecting cellular networks, a typical enterprise does not. In addition, there are likely mobile attack vectors that do pose a risk to a stand-alone MNO infrastructure but do introduce significant risks when private mobile networks and enterprise networks are interconnected.
A broader geographic footprint creates new enterprise security challenges
While geographic reach is a necessity when it comes to IoT, it also creates a new set of security challenges, particularly when it comes to physical security. After all, it’s difficult for a threat actor to walk into a secure enterprise data center and access a traditional enterprise system. But climbing a utility pole in an isolated location to gain physical access to an IoT device is much easier to pull off.
As IoT devices multiply and find their way into less conventional, very remote locations, the game changes dramatically for enterprise security teams. When physical control over enterprise devices can’t be assured, approaches like Zero Trust Architecture stop being aspirational and instead become a necessity.
Existing enterprise security tools cannot see or stop cellular network threats
As enterprises face mounting pressure to innovate, security teams are often forced to play catch-up with risk mitigation measures. This will be more difficult than usual as IoT and private mobile network initiatives gain momentum. Most new security requirements in the enterprise setting can be addressed by using existing security tools in new ways. But most of these tools are entirely incompatible with cellular network technologies. Cellular networks are different from traditional enterprise networks in two important ways. First, they use a completely different network topology. The traditional IP-based networks used by most enterprises today have a mesh topology that includes granular access controls to govern traffic flow.
In contrast, cellular networks use a star topology. All traffic flows through a centralized packet core, and very little can be done natively to govern and segment traffic, since traditional security approaches like access control lists cannot be extended to private mobile networks. The second factor that renders existing tools and practices ineffective is that cellular devices use different identifiers. Enterprise security tools that rely on IP addresses and MAC addresses to identify fingerprint devices will not be able to do the same for cellular devices that use specialized device identifiers such as international mobile equipment identifiers (IMEI). This makes it impossible for security tools to put cellular devices into a business context and assess risk – if they even see them at all.
The first wave of cellular-based attacks will hit enterprises in 2023
Market indicators suggest that private mobile network adoption is accelerating. Nokia, one of the leading providers of mobile network technologies, reported a greater than 2.5 times increase in private mobile network customers between Q2 2020 and Q2 2022 in their Q3 2022 investor presentation. Ericsson, another key mobile network technology leader, is seeing similar momentum and projects 20 to 30 percent annual growth in enterprise wireless networks in their 2021 annual report. While many organizations are proactively implementing private mobile network security strategies, we’ll likely see enterprises get blindsided by major cellular-based attacks in 2023 as these new deployments come online.
For example, one type of attack that we can expect to see regularly as enterprise adoption of cellular networks increases is SIM hijacking. Traditionally, SIM hijacking has involved using social engineering techniques to convince an MNO to reassign a number to a threat actor’s device. These attacks will now be directed at enterprises with less mature cellular security workflows.
Additionally, in IoT scenarios, it is more likely that threat actors will be able to gain physical access to SIM cards. To revisit our utility pole example above, if a threat actor gains physical access to an IoT device in a remote location, they can attempt to remove the SIM, install it in a more capable device, and use it to access the private mobile network.
While private mobile networks create new security considerations for enterprise security leaders, proactive measures can be taken to mitigate these risks and stay a step ahead. The following are some recommended areas to focus on in 2023 as private mobile network security earns a spot on the CISO priority list.
- Integrate existing security products with mobile device identity tools to enhance visibility.
- Ensure that your device vulnerability management efforts extend to IoT and other cellular-connected devices.
- Implement a Zero Trust network segmentation model on all private cellular networks.
These steps will provide a sound security foundation as your organization realizes the many business benefits of private mobile network connectivity.
- November 5, 2023
2023 is shaping up to be a challenging year. The ongoing war, energy crisis, rising interest rates, and rampant inflation have created a perfect storm for the telco industry. That said, there are plenty of exciting developments and changes on the horizon. As we approach 2023, we took stock of what happened during 2022 to predict what might be in store for next year.
5G roll-outs continue but speed gives way to QoE
According to the Ookla® 5G Map™, there were 127,509 5G deployments in 128 countries as of November 30, 2022, compared to 85,602 in 112 countries the year prior. 5G download speeds stabilized as more consumers adopted 5G, with a median global 5G download speed of 168.27 Mbps in Q3 2022 compared to 166.13 Mbps in Q3 2021.
However, some operators believe they may have over-invested in their early emphasis on speed; they now need to monetize their investments through differentiation. One of our clients has famously said: “We are aiming for 1st world speeds and using 3rd world ARPU.”
Indeed, in 2023 we will see a big focus on the Quality of Experience (QoE) and initiatives to increase ARPU (average revenue per user) and consumer stickiness by adding entertainment services such as television and music streaming or cloud gaming platforms.
FWA will continue to be a poster child for 5G
Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) solutions received renewed interest in 2022 as a key use case for 5G networks and as a way to connect rural and underserved areas. In fact, one-third of service providers are offering 5G FWA, according to Ericsson Mobility Report.
Fixed Wireless Service solutions have been a success story in the U.S., where T-Mobile has added 1.6 million new subscribers so far this year. T-Mobile now has 2.1 million total FWA customers, with Verizon totaling 620,000 consumer FWA clients and 440,000 business customers.
Moreover, emerging markets such as Mexico, South Africa, Nigeria, and the Philippines are seeing an uptick in FWA adoption, and there is a growing interest in India too.
Jio announced that it will launch Jio AirFibre, a plug-and-play device connected to Jio’s 5G network that will act as a hotspot. While the exact launch date is still unknown, the operator revealed that it targets 100 million households with its 5G FWA offering.
With the demand for fast networks growing, FWA offers an excellent opportunity to cover areas that are too costly to lay fiber and is an alternative to fixed networks. We expect further adoption of FWA on the back of CPE devices getting cheaper, as well as more schemes aimed at connecting the unconnected.
Satellite coming to your home and phone
Globally, satellite already plays an important role in providing network backhaul for 2G, 3G, and 4G technologies in rural and remote areas while also connecting a range of enterprise verticals such as logistics. Thanks to the emergence of Low Earth Orbit (LEO), satellite technology can provide access to areas outside 5G coverage.
As our recent analysis shows, LEO satellites benefit from lower latency than Medium Earth Orbit (MEO). Therefore, they will be well-suited to offer backhaul and provide direct connectivity. As the 5G standard is adopted, new markets will open up for satellite operators, including IoT, private 5G, and cellular backhaul for densification to enable more cell sites and edge devices.
At the same time, start-ups such as Lynk were the first to demonstrate the power of the direct-to-satellite communication market. The recent Starlink/T-Mobile and Globalstar/Apple partnerships point to this market’s further growth. We will see more players entering the market in 2023 as providers attempt to bring connectivity to all.
The quest for Net Zero becomes more urgent
Focus on energy efficiency isn’t new; we have already seen this as a major trend for 2022. Across the broader tech industry, vendors look at the option of dialing down performance to help save energy costs – Microsoft’s survey of X-Box users asks how they feel about features that would reduce frame rates and resolution, thus reducing power consumption and saving money.
Unsurprisingly, cost-cutting and optimizing operations are top-of-mind for telcos in 2023 as energy prices and broader inflation remain high. We are already seeing operators look to sustainable solutions, such as wind and solar farmers, to supply sites with green energy instead of commercial electricity, partially to reduce costs.
Network planning and optimization teams also play a critical role. Using the right site locations, configuration, and optimum coverage/quality service for consumers reduces interference, resulting in less waste of power resources and fewer emissions.
Some other ways telcos will reduce energy usage will be through hybrid power implementations instead of relying on petrol/diesel for off-grid sites. They will also implement the latest software features that include smart sleep mode at times of no/low traffic demand. Energy efficiency will be a key focus area in 2023, with vendors lending a hand to telcos to help them reduce energy consumption.
Convergence helps to capture shrinking consumers’ wallets
Raising interest rates, inflation, and the contraction of disposable income will force many consumers to re-evaluate their telecom spending. Operators will be forced to reprice tariffs further, and consumers will shop around for better deals, which in turn will lead to churn.
We had already seen an increase in the adoption of fixed-mobile bundles across Europe during the economic downturn in 2008 when several European operators introduced convergent bundles, offering discounts on the discrete underlying services.
History could repeat itself in 2023. In the U.S., we already see moves by operators to offer converged services, as we have stipulated in our recent article but also elsewhere as consumers look for discounts across fixed and mobile.
Metaverse work will continue behind the scenes
Metaverse will not become mainstream next year, but investments will continue despite continued financial woes for the tech industry. The year ahead will primarily focus on standardization. Ookla plays an active role in defining the network requirements as part of the Metaverse Standards Forum (MSF).
We expect new devices to launch in 2023 and beyond at a lower cost than Meta’s Quest Pro, priced at $1,499. Apple is not participating in the MSF as it follows its usual walled-garden approach. There is talk of an Apple device that will give the metaverse device ecosystem a boost too. But for the metaverse to become real, it will have to be more than just about devices.
Metaverse is about creating a virtual world, with Meta, Microsoft, and Nvidia all working on creating them. 2023 will see more telco players jumping on the metaverse bandwagon and including it as part of their strategic roadmap.
Operators’ M&A activities will heat up
In Asia and Europe, companies facing challenging economic times will try to merge, with regulators having the last word on whether they can. M&A activity heated up across the Asia Pacific region recently, with deals on the table across several countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Indonesia but potentially also in Japan and Hong Kong.
Mergers and acquisitions should continue in Europe as well, as we discussed in our recent article, with recent examples including the agreed joint venture between MasMovil and Orange in Spain, Iliad’s recent bid for Vodafone Italy, and Vodafone and Three UK talks to merge.
In Asia, Telenor and Axiata were allowed to merge their Malaysian operations, while Thailand still awaits regulatory approval. European operators will closely follow whether Orange and MasMovil will consolidate in Spain. If they succeed, others in Europe will follow in 2023.
5G SA will power enterprises
The majority of 5G networks thus far are 5G Non-Standalone (NSA), which still uses 4G core to support enhanced mobile broadband and FWA use cases while also providing significant capacity increases.
Evolving to 5G Standalone (SA) brings additional service differentiation possibilities such as URLLC, network slicing, and edge computing. In the future, 5G SA will also deliver time-sensitive networking for high-precision devices. When RootMetrics® measured the performance of T-Mobile’s 5G SA vs NSA in Las Vegas, it found that T-Mobile’s 5G SA network delivered speeds over twice as fast as its speed on NSA 5G.
According to GSMA Intelligence as of Q3 2022, 31 operators had launched 5G SA networks, with a further 11 expected by the end of 2022. In total, 123 operators from 55 countries have launched or demonstrated intent to launch 5G SA networks.
Recently, Singapore covered 95% of the country with 5G SA, with operators focusing on developing innovative services for enterprises supported by encouraging regulation from the government and the regulator.
Private networks growth will continue
Private mobile networks play an important role in broader digital transformation and will only continue to gain traction. As enterprise digitization continues to gain momentum, countries are looking to private networks to address Industry 4.0 objectives.
A dedicated spectrum for private mobile networks has already been allocated to industry players in France, the U.S., Germany, Japan, and the UK. We have commented on how the private networks landscape is developing in Europe, making a case for private networks in India.
According to GSA, at the end of June 2022, 889 customers were deploying private mobile networks across 70 countries. Increasingly, these networks are using 5G and 5G SA. However, the 5G device ecosystem has yet to mature, so most of these networks are still 4.9G. The availability of industrial-grade devices depends on the standardization of 3GPP Releases. The industrial chipsets, based on Release 16, are scheduled to come to market in 2023. As a result, mainstream adoption of 5G solutions will likely happen later in the year.
Furthermore, once available, Release 16 5G industrial features (reliability, low latency, etc.) will need to be tested in partnership with industrial OEMs to help to convince them of the enhanced scope of capabilities of 5G for industrial use cases. As such, it will be some time beyond 2023 when 5G private networks will start to scale.
Link to this article on the Ookla website.
- November 5, 2023
Initial rollouts of 5G networks have been completed in many countries, and more countries are firming up their spectrum allocation for 5G, thereby enabling Telcos to roll out the networks. However, there is a difference in the rollout plans for 5G compared to the previous network rollout plans because 5G networks are increasingly becoming software driven.
Mobile Network Operators are moving towards virtualized, cloud-optimized Radio Access Network (RAN) architecture. Virtual RAN solutions enable telecom Operator’s networks to behave more like IT networks. While this helps operators integrate the RAN into the rest of their network infrastructure more seamlessly, it also helps them to manage and scale better. In turn, it leads to simplifying the deployment, provisioning, and automated network management with AI/ML.
RAN is a significant investment for a telecom operator. However, the virtualization and cloudification of the RAN help in bringing down the Capex and Opex for the mobile network operator.
Private 5G networks
To benefit from the power of 5G in making their operations more automated and efficient, many enterprises have started to roll out private 5G networks. Large enterprises such as manufacturing companies, Oil and Gas companies, etc, are adopting these changing dynamics by expanding the scope of their traditional CIO role to manage these networks or hiring a new Chief Network Officer (CNO). Many Telco Operators also offer to manage and operate the private 5G networks to ease the job of an enterprise.
We can expect a significant increase in the 5G-enabled industries soon. Here again, The virtualized RAN networks can aid in the adoption of private 5G by enterprises, as it is easier for them to integrate it with their existing infrastructure.
Open RAN – bridging users and key applications
Open RAN solutions lie at the epicenter of this virtualized digital transformation by disaggregating and virtualizing RAN software to run on diverse hardware platforms. Open RAN solutions allow MNOs to work with a multi-vendor Radio Access Network, which allows them to optimize their network with respect to the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). What is more, it offers a choice of the best and most innovative solutions from different vendors that can be plugged into the RAN network.
While many Telcos are increasingly looking to benefit from the Open RAN architecture, most of them are not yet convinced that the new players who will become potential suppliers of Open RAN equipment has reached the same maturity level as the traditional, bigger OEMs.
Their apprehension is not unfounded. These complex systems could take some time to match the performance levels of traditional players who have reached maturity after years of learnings in the field and billions of dollars of investments in building the network.
As a result, many Telcos have scaled down on their Open RAN deployment targets for the next 2-3 years. While this can be seen as a setback to the Open RAN ecosystem – at least during the initial days- in the long run, it will transform the industry and provide the promised benefits to all stakeholders. The expectation is that over the next 5-6 years, most of these vendors will have reached the required technological maturity to command a much bigger share of the overall network deployment.
Another aspect that was also bothering the Operators was the fact that while there was significant diversity in Remote Radio Unit (RU) hardware vendor ecosystem, there was only one significant vendor providing the semiconductor chips for the baseband unit or Distributed Unit (DU). But that is changing now with more chipset companies bringing more cost-effective and power-efficient DU chips. This will also help drive the true potential of the Open RAN ecosystem and speed up its adoption.
We expect that by 2026 there will be significant deployment of Open RAN-based Telco networks.
Edge Computing – an effective solution to emerging network problems
Another dimension to the implementation of virtualized telecom networks is the proliferation of Edge Computing. This leading-edge architecture allows telcos to push a lot of compute power to the edge of the network and helps them to deploy many of the 5G-enabled high bandwidth and low latency use cases such as Gaming, Healthcare, Autonomous Cars, and Smart Cities, among others.
The edge computing platform need not be just a server sitting in a data center, it could come in many shapes and forms as the number of use cases are exploding in 5G. One example is that many automotive companies are looking at making their car as a mobile edge computing platform to offer a myriad of value-added services through their cars. Edge computing platforms will also help build more intelligent networks that can fully harness the power of 5G and beyond.
- November 5, 2023
2022 – the first year of the new normal
2022 was another year of private network customers approaching with requests for 5G and, after some discussions engaging in 4G projects. For private mobile networks, the 5G NSA route taken by the public mobile network operators is a massive detour. Securing one frequency for a private network may be hard. Who would like to go for two? Techies can point out that 5G allows dynamic spectrum sharing – but even if products were readily available such complexity is of no use in private networks.
All-in-all, liberating 5G from the 4G legacy is taking much longer than expected. Summer 2022 was a comeback for large public events, and in many European countries, private mobile networks helped digitalize the festivals. No cash. Hundreds of payment terminals connected to private LTE allowed fast and reliable transactions even when public networks were more than busy uploading videos and photos. This is a great example of a use case where private mobile networks are superior to Wifi as there is so much less equipment to be set up and maintained – and after the weekend, you can just grab your base station and move to the next venue.
2022 – Still waiting for simple 5G
For private 5G, the year 2022 was a disappointment. Twelve months back, we believed reasonably priced 5G small cell base stations would become readily available. Not yet, unless you count in the O-RAN Lego blocks. Building a working gNB using these components is still more like stitching together a Frankenstein than playing with Lego. For small networks, the effort is too big and the management too complex.
In many cases, user equipment for 5G SA and out-of-the-box interoperability are still on the wish list. 5G innovation press releases in 2022 were mostly in areas of little interest for the community working on non-public networks. For example, new speed records using odd carrier aggregation combos are like pushing the front by hundred meters in a trench war. Very costly and only of local significance.
Optimizing existing 5G deployments to the patchwork of frequency licenses is nevertheless high on the 5G RAN vendor agenda. The needs of the big telcos come first – and it seems that the highest priority 5G application is still Speedtest. Marketing can make 5G look so easy. In this respect, the Web3-inspired decentralized wireless (DeWi) projects deserve a medal for taking the blurring of the radio generation to the next level. Talking 5G for motivating people into buying 4G CBRS gear in the hope of crypto incentives is a recipe for publicity and some early success. What remains to be seen is if any of these projects can attract paying customers or provide sufficient utility for the node owners to continue their engagement. Perhaps 2023 will show us.
2023 – End of Decentralized Wireless Wild West
The Decentralized Wireless (DeWi) space will face some regulation in 2023. A year from now, we are likely to know better where the boundary between private and public networks lies. A likely outcome is that anyone with a centralized subscriber database will be considered a telco.
In most jurisdictions, this means data retention, legal interception, and many other requirements that are likely to spoil the Web3 party – in case the crypto winter does not do the job. New projects working on real 5G will likely emerge. After all, there is still plenty of room to innovate using the combination of blockchain and telco.
2023 will give us a +1 for all the hype
While crypto projects are preaching decentralized 5G, the big players have already moved on. Since 2013 we have had the Brooklyn 5G Summit. In October 2022, there was the first Brooklyn 6G event. In 2023 6G will replace 5G in conference names and more forward-leaning marketing. You may also notice some of the more advanced 5G use cases, such as immersive video drifting into the 6G area. The same applies to URLLC, which will find a new home in Industry 5.0. High electricity prices and the climate crisis make energy efficiency the key driver for 6G.
During 2023 some of the massive MIMO enthusiasts are likely to conclude that near-future capacity demands can be met with more conservative antenna solutions and wait for a time when the promised watts/per bits energy savings also hold for an empty or lightly loaded network. As 6G is climbing up the hype curve, here is a good candidate for pre-standard claimed 6G solutions.
2023 5G SA baby steps towards becoming mainstream
5G SA is slowly emerging – but the road remains rocky even in 2023 as new mass market services are yet to be found. Slicing will be the top telco talking point with enterprise customers. In 2023 we will likely see clear product descriptions and tangible service offerings in addition to the proof-of-concept and fuzzy press releases.
A year from now, we may assess to what extent network slicing gives public mobile network operators a viable alternative to private 5G networks. Private mobile network deployments that have started with 4G will continue on the selected path. They grow their systems as proven solutions are copied to new sites, and new use cases emerge.
Going back to the festival summer: payment terminals with 5G connectivity are still rare and expensive. It is hard to see why a payment system provider would replace their existing base of terminals, as the kit used last summer still works fine. The same logic applies to many other IoT use cases.
For large sites and other outdoor deployments, the uplink video will remain the key driver for private 5G. That is where private LTE easily runs out of capacity. When it comes to 5G products, the 5G all-in-one small cell may finally allow the building of simple 5G SA networks. This increases the speed of innovation as it allows smaller companies to test their 5G use cases on their own R&D sites.
When it comes to 5G products, the 5G all-in-one small cell may finally allow the building of simple 5G SA networks
2023 The not so global market
High-interest rates, the war in Europe, and continued US efforts to isolate China from sophisticated silicone shape the telecom market in 2023. Flooding the market with an unexpected consumer innovation such as a VR gadget is far more difficult than before, as many supply chain options are unavailable, and the choice of technology partners may limit the accessible market.
Globalization is taking a crab walk. The result will likely be a significant delay in the next big as the industry is busy adapting to the new realities. Whatever gadget enters the market – be prepared to pay the full price for it. A business model where hardware is subsidized and profits are only expected from later subscription or software revenues become more difficult as the cost of borrowing money rises.
A year from now, we may better understand the implications of a prolonged trade war. For a telco, it means a return to regional vendors, as we already see for 5G, regional standards, and setbacks in global interoperability. This will undoubtedly also shake the IPR landscape, which has so far not been too much affected by deglobalization. Instead of consumer-driven innovations, we will see rapid progress in 5G drone control, surveillance systems, and similar safety and security-related use cases.
A year back, we would have expected the drones to be carrying people and other mostly harmless payloads. Now the importance of weapons and explosives is much higher. Luckily with a short delay, the progress is also visible in consumer applications.
2023 will have a happy end
By the end of 2023, we are likely to consider covid and the sudden spikes in inflation that set limits to consumption as being history. Many of us may have less spare money than before, but we get used to it over time. Also, the climate crisis won’t go away, but it’s time to be optimistic again. And sure – there will be a new set of iPhones and Pixels to choose from. That is quite easy to predict.
- November 5, 2023
Reflections from 2022
The year 2022 was a comeback year on many different levels. Businesses started to build a new post-pandemic world with a cold war type of tension between political blocks.
Supply chain as a weapon – In western countries, we have realized that global logistic chains are very vulnerable and can be used even as a weapon.
Increase automation to keep current cost levels – At the same time population is getting older, and in many places and industries, we suffer a labor shortage. In the field of non-public networks, this is seen as a significantly increased interest. There is a common understanding that we need to increase the level of automation significantly to be able to keep the current cost level when manufacturing and farming more products in western countries.
Politic block thinking – Politic block thinking is of increasing importance. Chinese technology manufacturers are seen as suspicious, and limiting technology export to Russia is high on the agenda again.
5G complexity in private networks – In non-public networks, 5G means a stand-alone solution. 5G is a very promising technology, but it has proven to be complex and unmatured, especially when using western technology providers. This, I assume, has led industries to take a closer look at 4G technology and find out if that could be used to get to the next level of the automation cycle started.
Predictions for 2023
4G come back!
Industry 4.0 use cases can be divided into two separate technological use areas, IT networks and automation networks. On the IT side, requirements for connectivity are significantly relaxed when it comes to latency and jitter. In many new use cases, productivity can be enhanced by introducing non-public networks. For example, using LTE, we can easily cover an area of a 1km radius. This is much more than we are used to with WiFi.
In a private LTE network, latency is 20+ ms, jitter can be managed, and capacity is around 100 Mbps per eNB when using a 20 MHz channel. This is definitely enough to fulfill IT and HD video application needs. Even basic-level automation can be done. Cost-wise, LTE non-public network HW is comparable to Industrial WiFi, and because there is a need to have significantly fewer units in LTE-based systems than in WiFi technology, the overall cost is lower. This is because the cost is mainly driven by needed cabling. LTE covers larger areas, and you have smooth handovers.
5G will mature
During 2023 we will see more and more 5G SA-capable devices that can be used in non-public networks. We also will see more than one box 5G SA gNB, which makes the installation of 5G SA significantly easier than it has been during the year 2022. The major difference will still come from rel 16 capable devices. During the year 2023, we will have the first URLLC modems available. I hope somebody will also publish Ethernet PDU-based chipset.
URLLC with Ethernet PDU is the basic requirement to get into the automation networks that will then allow a new level of low-cost automation networks to be introduced. During 2023 we will see the first real automation use cases, even without an Ethernet PDU session. These use cases will be something like automated farming, snow/grass removal from airports, and video control based on drones. All these use cases will require robust, low latency, and very secure communication. The same 5G network can also be used to meet IT network requirements. This target is achieved by using network slicing to create different logical networks with different capabilities.
6G hype will start building!
We are living on a planet that is warming. The Internet consumes roughly 20% of all electricity, and it is forecasted by Ericsson’s mobility report (Nov 2022) that mobile network traffic will be 3X in 2028 compared to 2022.
This will mean a significant increase in electricity consumption if nothing new won’t come up. To be able to reduce electricity consumption significantly, we need to redesign the Internet, and that will have an impact on access networks. In mobile networks, this will mean yet another G. Importance of global warming and reducing energy consumption because political tensions will be more important in 2023 than ever before.
Fight for frequencies
Mobile operators have paid billions of Euros and Dollars to governments for having a frequency among themselves. So far, it has made sense because mobile network technology has been complex and requires a significant amount of investment and workforce to purchase a mobile network and operate a mobile network. Today with fully virtualized core and low-cost radio equipment, this is not the case anymore.
Frequency plans like CBRS in the USA will change the business model, and it will create turbulence between the government, industries, and mobile operators. Mobile operators are not able to invest in 5G SA technology because the business has not grown during the last decade. At the same time, automation needs to increase, and tensions will start building up in many countries.
The question of the year, will AR/VR finally arrive?
AR/VR use cases have been demonstrated for a very long time. Will there be the first major AR/VR use case during 2023? Many companies have bet high on AR and VR technologies. This sounds like a classic hype curve. End of the hype curve, there will be an application that takes the market like storm, and a completely new area of business will arrive.
Could AR/VR be connected to Web 3.0 and have a way to separate true from fake? Could this happen during 2023?
- November 5, 2023
2022 was a transformative year for technological innovation and digital transformation. The trend will continue as the pace of innovation and development of potentially disruptive emerging technologies exponentially increases every year.
The question arises, what lies ahead for tech for us to learn and experience in 2023?
While there are many impactful tech topics such as the Internet of Things, 5G, Space, Genomics, Synthetic Biology, Automation, Augmented Reality, and others, there are four tech areas to keep a keen watch on this coming year as they have promising and near-term capabilities to transform lives. They include – Artificial Intelligence, Computing Technologies, Robotics, and Materials Science.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Since the HAL2000 computer and producer Stanley Kubrick provided a glimpse of AI’s independent (although nefarious) capability to think independently in the epic movie 2001 A Space Odyssey, we have been eagerly waiting for the emergence of artificial intelligence.
We are now on the cusp of AI emergence, and AI is no longer just found in science fiction movies. Elements that compose AI consist of machine learning and natural language processing and are now a daily part of our lives. Today, AI can understand, diagnose, and solve problems — in some cases without being specifically programmed.
The focus and challenges of artificial intelligence are clear-cut. AI systems seek to replicate human traits and computational capabilities in a machine and surpass human limitations and speed. It is already happening.
Mimic Human Brain – Artificial synapses that mimic the human brain will likely direct the next generation of computing. The components may differ, they may be analog or digital, and they may be based on transistors, chemicals, biological, photonics, or possibly quantum components.
Automation Activities – Computers with AI have been predominantly designed for automation activities that include memory emulation, speech recognition, learning, planning, and problem-solving.
Decision Making – AI technologies can provide for more efficient decision-making by prioritizing and acting on data, especially across larger networks with many users and variables.
Catalyst across Industry Sectors – In the very near future, AI is going to change how we do business, how we plan, and how we design. You can see it now. AI is already a catalyst for driving fundamental changes in many industries, such as customer service, marketing, banking, healthcare, business accounting, public safety, retail, education, and public transport.
AI for writing and image creation – Recently, a chat box called OpenGPT has brought attention to the potential of AI and its human-like correlations, especially when expressing itself in a written analysis. DALL-E, another OpenAI application, has shown the ability to that could create images from basic instructions. Both AI tools do so by mimicking human speech patterns and language and synthesizing data. A good overview of OpenGPT can be found in the recent FORBES article by Arianna Johnson: Here’s What To Know About OpenAI’s ChatGPT—What It’s Disrupting And How To Use It (forbes.com)
AI for research and coding – Last year, Google’s DeepMind AI division built machines that can predict millions of protein structures, a great benefit to science and health research. In a new breakthrough, DeepMind researchers have created an AI that can now write code as well as humans. The notion of AI writing its own code, and creating its own languages is both intriguing and potentially alarming. AI is not quite sentient but may be on track to be. DeepMind Builds AI That Codes as Well as the Average Human Programmer – ExtremeTech
AI around brain-computer interface – Another very exciting area of potential breakthrough for AI is around the Human/computer interface that will extend human brain capacity and memory. Science is already making great advances in the brain/computer interface. This may include neuromorphic chips and brain mapping. Brain-computer interfaces are formed via emerging assistive devices that have implantable sensors that record electrical signals in the brain and use those signals to drive external devices.
A brain-computer interface has been shown even to be able to read thoughts. This is done where an electrode plate called an ECOG is put in direct contact with the brain’s surface to measure electrical activity. Paralyzed humans via ECOG can now communicate with others via their thoughts being translated into text, according to Dr. Brian Brown (professor, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai). Can Technology Make Humans ‘Super’? – Innovation & Tech Today (innotechtoday.com).
A Frontiers in Science publication involving the collaboration of academia, institutes, and scientists summed up the promise of the human-computer interface, They concluded that “We can imagine the possibilities of what may come next with the human brain-machine interface. A human B/CI system mediated by neural nanorobotics could empower individuals with instantaneous access to all cumulative human knowledge available in the cloud and significantly improve human learning capacities and intelligence.
Further, it might transition totally immersive virtual and augmented realities to unprecedented levels, allowing for more meaningful experiences and fuller/richer expression for and between users. These enhancements may assist humanity in adapting emergent artificial intelligence systems as human-augmentation technologies, facilitating the mitigation of new challenges to the human species.” Frontiers | Human Brain/Cloud Interface (frontiersin.org)
And with the emergence of all technologies comes the fusion of how they might work together. Artificial intelligence is no doubt one of the primary catalysts involved in enhancing capabilities, especially in computing. For more on this topic of fusion, please see my FORBES article: The New Techno-Fusion: The Merging Of Technologies Impacting Our Future The New Techno-Fusion: The Merging Of Technologies Impacting Our Future (forbes.com)
Cognitive Computing Technologies
The world of computing has witnessed seismic advancements since the invention of the electronic calculator in the 1960s. The past few years in information processing have been especially transformational in our hyper-connected world.
Futurist Ray Kurzweil said that mankind will be able to “expand the scope of our intelligence a billion-fold” and that “the power of computing doubles, on average, every two years. Recent breakthroughs in physics, nano technologies, and have brought us into a cognitive computing reality that we could not have imagined a decade ago.
Biological computing is the advanced science of using biological products to perform actions that would traditionally be done using components like copper wire and fiber glass. Common biological components used in these studies include amino acids and DNA. Computational functions can be performed by manipulating natural chemical reactions found in these substances.
In the future, biocomputers may be able to be stored on the DNA of living cells. This technology could store almost unlimited amounts of data and allow biocomputers to perform complex calculations beyond our current capabilities.
Recently, researchers at the Technion In Israel created a biological computer constructed within a bacterial cell and capable of monitoring different substances in the environment. Currently, the computer identifies and reports on toxic and other materials.
“We built a kind of biological computer in the living cells. In this computer, as in regular computers, circuits carry out complicated calculations,” said Barger. “Only here, these circuits are genetic, not electronic, and information are carried by proteins and not electrons.” It was also reported that researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) may have developed long-lived biological computers that could potentially persist inside cells.
They used nucleic acid RNA to build computers. In explaining the difference between classical computing and biological computing, Samuel Schaffter, NIST postdoctoral researcher stated that “the difference is, instead of coding with ones and zeroes, you write strings of A, T, C and G, which are the four chemical bases that make up DNA.” Revamped Design Could Take Powerful Biological Computers From the Test Tube to the Cell | NIST.
Photonic and Optical Computing
Photonic computing uses optical light pulses rather than electrical transistors to form logic gates for computer processing. Researchers at Aalto University have been developing light-based optical logic gates to meet the data processing and transfer demands of next-generation computing.
Their new optical chirality logic gates can operate at ultrafast processing speeds – about a million times faster than existing technologies. Certainly, this is a computing area to watch. One Million Times Faster Than Current Technology: New Optical Computing Approach Offers Ultrafast Processing (scitechdaily.com)
Another unconventional approach to computer processing is chemical computing. The ability of chemical systems to compute by acting as logic gates exists in nature. “We are already using chemical computers, because our brains and bodies employ communication via the diffusion of mediators, neuromodulators, hormones, etc.,” says computer scientist Andrew Adamatzky, director of the International Center of Unconventional Computing at the University of the West of England in Bristol. “We are chemical computers,” he summarizes.” Chemical Computing, the Future of Artificial Intelligence | OpenMind (bbvaopenmind.com)
Civilization is now at the footstep of quantum computing. Quantum computing will be able to provide unprecedented computational speed with predictive analytics to solve problems. Quantum technology, which uses the unique characterizations of sub-atomic particles to process data inputs, will likely revolutionize everything from cybersecurity to real-time analytics. Quantum computing could be directed and augmented via artificial intelligence, operate in a 5G or 6G framework, support IoT, and catalyze materials science, biotech, genomics, and the Metaverse.
A market report sums up the promise and the race for supremacy of quantum technologies.
“Advances in quantum computer design, fault-tolerant algorithms and new fabrication technologies are now transforming this “holy grail” technology into a realistic program poised to surpass traditional computation in some applications.
With these new developments, the key question that companies are asking is not whether there will be a quantum computer, but who will build it and benefit from it.” Quantum Computing Market & Technologies – 2018-2024” report. According to David Awschalom, Liew Family Professor in Molecular Engineering and Physics at the University of Chicago, senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, director of the Chicago Quantum Exchange, and director of Q-NEXT, a Department of Energy Quantum Information Science Center:
“In the next five years, we anticipate the emergence of metropolitan-scale entangled quantum networks for secure communication. These networks may also be used to create small clusters of quantum machines for advanced computing. We also believe that quantum sensors will be employed to significantly improve clocks, mapping, and intracellular sensing.” David Awschalom | Chicago Quantum Exchange
Going into 2023, we will continue to be in an era of quantum discovery. However, we certainly are on the pathway to a new quantum era. Quantum computing is still in a nascent stage, but we may arrive there sooner than we imagined. In the future, it will be the combination of classical, biological, chemical, and quantum computing paired with artificial intelligence that will shift the computing paradigms as we currently know them.
Robotics is often viewed as the face of emerging technology, especially with the growth of capabilities in humanoid-type machines that captivate our attention. They have also been used for decades in automating manufacturing, farming, warehouse functions, hospitals, security, etc., for mostly routine programmable functions. Now aided by machine learning, machine vision, AI, and advanced sensors, robotics has become transformative in many industry verticals.
“By combining machine vision with learning capabilities, roboticists are opening a wide range of new possibilities like vision-based drones, robotic harvesting, robotic sorting in recycling, and warehouse pick and place. We’re finally at the inflection point: The moment where these applications are becoming good enough to provide real value in semi-structured environments where traditional robots could never succeed.” 2022: A major revolution in robotics | ZDNET
A humanoid robotic version of the Terminator has also become within technological reach. Engineers at Cornell University have created a robot capable of detecting when and where it has been damaged and then restoring itself on the spot. The terminator-style robot can survive being STABBED | Daily Mail Online
The extent that humans are replaced by robot helpers or morphed into man-machines is an interesting philosophical question. Joan Slonczewski, a microbiologist at Kenyon college, notes that humans have continuously redefined intelligence and transferred those tasks to machines. Slonczewski asks: “Could we evolve ourselves out of existence, being gradually replaced by the machines?” Intelligent Robots Will Overtake Humans by 2100, Experts Say | Live Science
Robotics have great potential for space and ocean exploration in extreme environments. In fact, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern developed a robotic arm called the Cold Operable Lunar Deployable Arm (COLDArm), that is designed to withstand temperatures of minus-280 degrees Fahrenheit and can allow future missions to explore the moon and planets. NASA Developing Robotic Arm to Withstand Moon’s Frigid Nights (gizmodo.com) Robotics will allow mankind to explore and go where no man (or woman) can boldly go before.
Advanced Materials Science and 3-D Printing
Applications for advanced materials are part of the new world of discovery enabled by AI and advanced analytics. As with AI, it applies to the fusion of working in concert with other emerging technologies. New materials are now being developed that can be stronger, lighter, handle extreme environments, and often can function at a higher rate of efficiency. They include (among other categories) electric materials, biological materials, composites, polymers, and nanotech.
Exciting research and development in materials science are leading to the creation of stronger, durable, lighter, and even “self-healing” and self-assembling materials. The capability to design and manufacture infrastructures such as bridges, roads, buildings with stronger, adaptable, self-intelligent, and seemingly eternal materials will revolutionize the construction and transportation industries.
3-D printing connotes a three-dimensional object that is created layer by layer via computer-aided design programs. To be able to print the object, the computer divides it into flat layers that are printed one by one. By printing with advanced pliable materials such as plastics, ceramics, metals, and graphene there have already been breakthroughs in prosthetics for medicine and wearable sensors.
The big advantage of 3-D printing can be customized, produced rapidly and is cost-effective. The possibilities for 3-D printing are seemingly limitless. 3-D printing is already trailblazing future manufacturing. 3-D printing innovation is making its way into printing electronics, sensors, and circuits. “Printed electronics” or electronic chips are fabricated by printing their features on top of thin surfaces. Using semiconducting and conductive inks and materials, 3-D printers can now print transistors, sensors, circuits, batteries, and displays.
One of the most important applications of 3-D printing and materials science is the potential for bio-printing. Bioprinters are like 3D printers but instead use biomaterials, like living cells, to create complex structures such as blood vessels or skin tissue. Researchers have bio-printed human kidneys, bladders, and lungs in the lab and other body parts.
Recently, a research team based out of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine succeeded in creating what could be one of the biggest breakthroughs in bioprinting thus far, a 3D printer capable of generating functional replacement tissue. Bioprinting Breakthroughs | Bioprinting World
As there is a worldwide shortage of human organs available for life-saving transplantation, bio-printing offers much hope in creating a safe and endless pipeline for medical uses and patient healthcare.
The societal, scientific, and economic impact of these 4 technology areas will be harvested in the coming year and into the foreseeable future. I have just provided a glimpse of a few of their potential applications. It could be a very promising, likely disruptive, and probably a wild ride in the quest for actualizing new technologies of the Fourth Industrial Era.
Link to this article on the Forbes website
- November 5, 2023
Rural telecommunications are one of the most dynamic markets in the U.S., fueled by fascinating and durable tailwinds that will push companies through 2023 and beyond.
For example, we are witnessing unprecedented levels of investment to expand broadband access. The data center market is bracing for exponential growth. And big tech companies are pouring billions of dollars into virtual reality applications, which will be mainstream sooner than expected. Meanwhile, private communications companies are taking a star turn as their market valuations continue to outshine those of their publicly traded counterparts.
Here are five notable market-moving developments to watch.
Private wireless networks can connect the farm
Previously unserved businesses and organizations in rural America have found an affordable solution in these carrier-grade networks. The business case for farmers, who need high-speed broadband to leverage precision agriculture technologies, is compelling. According to The Ohio State University, farmers are willing to pay between $10 and $30 per acre for broadband. That means a grower with 8,000 acres is willing to pay up to $240,000 for coverage.
However, CoBank’s modeling indicates that a 50-member cooperative can build a private wireless network for around $55,000 per farmer with the same acreage – up to 77% less than they expected.
Meteoric rise in the datasphere is coming
The metaverse, autonomous vehicles, migration to the cloud: The demand for data processing and storage will only skyrocket. In 2020, the global datasphere, or the total volume of data created in that year alone, was about 64 zettabytes.
Datacenter infrastructure to support the 64 zettabytes in 2020 was estimated to cost 2 trillion dollars. By 2035, self-driving cars alone will spike the datasphere to an estimated eye-popping 10,000–15,000 zettabytes. Suffice it to say that the additional capital required for infrastructure, fiber, and data centers to support 10,000 zettabytes will be astronomical.
Fully immersive AR/VR has a need for speed
Big tech companies have recently announced levels of spending on augmented and virtual reality applications that signal accelerated development and time to market. Meta is spending a minimum of $10 billion a year on AR/VR. Apple and Microsoft haven’t been as explicit about their investments, but rest assured, they’re in the billions.
Fully immersive AR/VR applications will require home broadband connection speeds of 200 to 5,000 Mbps. In addition to ultra-fast networks, AR/VR will need data centers located close to where the applications are being used.
Wireless providers are competing for home broadband
National wireless operators are making big gains in the home broadband market with their fixed wireless access offerings as they take market share from incumbent cable companies.
In Q2 2022, FWA providers claimed 100% of broadband net subscription additions. (FWA market share is calculated by comparing T-Mobile and Verizon’s FWA additions to Comcast, Charter and Altice fixed-line broadband additions.) That’s quite a jump from Q4 2021, when it was 43%.
T-Mobile already covers 30 million homes with FWA and is targeting second and third-tier markets where they typically have excess network capacity. Verizon plans to cover 30 million homes by 2023 and is focusing primarily on urban markets. Meanwhile, Charter Communications, Comcast, and Altice USA aren’t taking chances and have all launched wireless services via mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) models. They bundle their broadband service with smartphone plans and phones, a strategy that is paying off with subscriber growth.
Valuations soar for private broadband companies
The valuation gap between private communication companies and public cable companies is the widest we’ve ever seen. Based on recent transactions, valuations for private companies are more than two times higher than the average valuation for the main publicly traded cable companies. Several factors are driving this gap, including strong M&A interest from institutional investors.
Electric co-ops that have deployed broadband networks are well-positioned to enjoy similar valuations given their brand equity, strong balance sheets, and similarities to competitive fiber operators. Despite these tailwinds, as we enter 2023 with rising interest rates and recession warnings signs flashing red, it’s reasonable to assume some downward pressure on private valuations.
- November 5, 2023
For the past three decades, the telecommunications, media, and technology (TMT) industries have been at the center of the revolution in how consumers and businesses react, interact and transact with each other and the world. The models of society, work, and value creation developed post-World War II and prevalent through the Third Industrial Revolution are being challenged and replaced by the new models brought forth by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
In Industry 4.0, traditional manufacturing and industrial practices are being automated. The network replaces the hierarchy, decentralization and autonomy replace centralization and agility, and information replaces process and material as the source of value creation.
As the pace of change only accelerates in this new age, businesses and consumers are both adapting. The introduction of new technologies, the lasting impact of the global pandemic, and the change in the dynamics between brands and customers are forcing the companies that make up the TMT industries to seek new ways to create value and attract and retain customers. Following are 7 trends that TMT organizations need to be focused on not just to reach the full potential of Industry 4.0 but to constantly be prepared for what comes next.
Focus 5G on Businesses, Not Consumers
5G continues to have a lack of compelling use cases for consumers, despite the aggressive marketing done by North American telcos to drive awareness. But in the business world, there are a significant number of compelling use cases that span the needs of small businesses, like managing remote workforces, to enterprises, like industrial manufacturing and automated agriculture.
These examples can drive growth and profits for the telcos that can monetize these opportunities. One key use case in the immediate future will be supporting companies as they establish what the future of their work environments will look like.
This will help companies determine the connectivity and technology stacks to make working in the office and working from home productive and how switching or working in a hybrid environment can be seamless. Another opportunity lies in the re-emergence of small businesses post-pandemic. Small businesses will want more agility and less overhead in their solutions, and 5G-based solutions catering to their specific needs will draw an expected wave of new business customers in the coming years.
New Challengers to Big 3 Telcos Emerge
For over 20 years, the legacy Big 3 U.S. telcos, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, have owned the telecommunications infrastructure we relied on. The Big 3 are increasingly being disrupted by tech companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Space X. The top tech companies already own much of the infrastructure carrying data and content people consume.
They’ve started to sell internet access and mobile services while leveraging a combination of public networks and the mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) model. Google Fiber and Space X’s Starlink are only two examples of how Big Tech has the resources to compete in the long term. The MVNO model that’s allowing the Big 3 to remain gatekeepers of telco infrastructure isn’t going to remain a digital moat much longer. Albeit, new regulations and trust-busting on Big Tech may temporarily hamper some of these companies and create opportunities for the Big 3. However, emerging technology will continue to increase the pace of disruption among telcos.
Creating New Revenue Streams via Solutions
Telcos are overly reliant on selling the network — i.e., voice and data connectivity — in a North American market that is largely saturated by the Big 3 telcos and growing at roughly the rate of GDP in terms of net new customers. To create new revenue streams, telcos need to create solutions for customers through new service offerings or monetizing existing assets. For consumers, data, home security, and family management are important. For small businesses, the lifecycle of a startup, running a business, and scaling are key opportunities for telcos to provide services and solutions.
For enterprise businesses, the ability of 5G to support low latency and thousands of devices with mission-critical resiliency with the use of data and automation opens exciting new possibilities in verticals such as energy, manufacturing, and agriculture. Telcos should continue reaching out to partners across verticals to explore what Industry 4.0 will look like as cloud storage, cloud computing, and connectivity come together.
Even More Connected Lives Mean Even More Data Concerns
The Halo fitness tracker is one of the examples from Amazon of how connected our lives have become. Halo processes the wearer’s tone of voice, and Amazon claims “to help users communicate more thoughtfully with family, friends, and colleagues.” It also scans body fat. However, with more devices in more contexts connecting us and tracking every action—the control and portability of the data will need to be resolved.
Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple are not only enablers of these connected lives, they are among the largest holders of customer data. These tech giants are approaching monetizing and protecting that data differently as consumers become more aware of how much data is being collected. Regulations, privacy rules, and business models have yet to catch up to handle the accompanying data, whether transactional, electronic health records, or behavioral tracking.
Two trends that companies should be exploring immediately are
- Data trusts or a structure where data is placed under the control of a board of trustees with a fiduciary responsibility to look after the interests of the beneficiaries and
- Data wallets, where users can manage data through a trusted, independent party and then give companies permission to access specific data under certain guidelines, including duration, use and value exchange parameters.
As consumers assert control over their data and data rights, organizations at all levels need to explore how they will be compliant with regulations and, more importantly, earn and keep the trust of consumers.
Big AI May Not Need Big Data
Much of the artificial intelligence/ machine learning conversations to date have focused on the need for access to huge amounts of data to feed algorithms and neural networks, an area dominated by companies such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook, or the Chinese mega-tech companies, Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent. But recent advances in machine learning, including “less than one”-shot learning where ML algorithms can learn information about something from one or only a few training samples or images.
This example indicates that certain key ML capabilities may be achievable without needing large amounts of customer data. A recent MIT example using these techniques reduced the training set of images needed to identify handwritten numbers from 60,000 to 10. This puts complex AI-driven solutions that rely on supervised learning, like natural language processing and image recognition, within reach of start-ups and smaller companies, which should lead to accelerated innovation. Companies should start examining use cases that may have once been out of reach and determining if new techniques like one-shot learning could work and create value.
Ambient Technology Takes Over the Next Wave of Experiences
Ambient intelligence allows technologies to act on the user’s behalf without a user giving a direct command. Popular devices like Amazon’s Alexa have laid the groundwork for this technology, and many customers are already comfortable with smart devices completing household tasks. As more consumer technologies remain connected in a passive listening mode, some are experimenting with acting based on consumer preferences or preset automation workflows. An example would be a connected coffee maker turning on at the beginning of a workday when being notified by your IoT-enabled hot water pump that the shower had just turned off.
Although data privacy concerns are abundant in many of these scenarios, with the right privacy and security measures in place, consumers will become more comfortable with devices sharing data and streamlining many tasks in the background. Home automation, workplace safety, and automotive and retail could all be impacted as ambient technology becomes embedded in consumers’ lives making for higher degrees of personalization and more frictionless experiences.
Brands need to prepare for ambient technology as the next evolution of experience interactions that follow in the footsteps of desktop browsers and mobile apps.
Finding Streaming Flywheels
Successful media brands in the twenty-first century must have a streaming-first mindset. Media companies’ catalogs are assets, but many aren’t distributing and monetizing effectively. Disney’s content-driven flywheel has always been linked to its merchandising, experiences, and parks ecosystem, allowing it to monetize Marvel, Star Wars, or Pixar content well beyond the price of a single viewing, but other players are floundering. Digital experiences from rich content libraries are one area for media brands to start their flywheel innovation.
Media companies need to start paying attention to things such as experience enhancements like shared streaming, deeper personalization and ending endless scrolls by using artificial intelligence and machine learning. Companies must be conscious of not ending up where this all started: expensive bundles, too many options, low viewer satisfaction, and customer fatigue.
The winner will be whoever can keep subscribers engaged and coming back not just for the content but for the experience.
Read the complete article in the 5G Magazine
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