In this webinar from Cloudera, panellists discussed the diverse nature of connectivity technology in the 2020s and the major opportunities surrounding the intelligent use of enterprise data
The 5G era of change for telcos
The telecoms industry, it is undeniable that 5G is one of the most exciting and influential technologies we have seen in recent years, bringing with it not only greatly improved data speeds and capacity, but also a host of new use cases never seen before.
But for society at large, including in the enterprise sector, 5G may have something of an identity crisis, often being conflated with the numerous alternative and complimentary connectivity technologies on the market today.
Indeed, as Dean Bubley, Founder and Director of Disruptive Analysis, points out, often when people talk about a ‘5G era’, they often are in fact talking about the wider connectivity ecosystem itself.
“Often when you speak to people about 5G, whether it’s in enterprise or government and policy makers… sometimes they use it as shorthand for ‘cool new wireless stuff’,” said Bubley, noting the wide array of communications technologies currently available, including fixed fibre networks, satellite connectivity, WiFi, and various low-powered IoT-centric networks. “It’s useful to think of this term ‘the 5G era’ really as a proxy for ‘advanced connectivity’.”
Regardless of terminology, it is also clear that in recent years, enterprises have grown acutely more aware of their connectivity needs, looking to reap the benefits of adjacent technologies like AI, machine learning, and the IoT. Partly as a result, the telecoms industry itself is also shifting, with telcos increasingly developing specialised services to target industry and enterprise verticals.
“You’ll start to see the telecoms industry blend with enterprise, so you’re not just getting enterprise services, as provided by today’s operators, but new classes of service providers. You’re seeing dedicated providers for the oil and gas sector, governments deploying their own mobile and fixed networks, new forms of network sharing, managed services, tower companies are building active infrastructure, and road and rail agencies building or commissioning their own networks… It’s a much more heterogeneous landscape,” explained Bubley.
It is worth remembering here that communications service providers (CSPs), do not interact enterprise data by providing the infrastructure over which it is carried. They play a crucial role as intermediaries between edge facilities and the wider compute and data storage ecosystem. In addition, compliance and auditing data is increasing in importance, as is reusing in-house network and customer data for enterprise customers and integrating vertical data solutions, like IoT and aaS offerings.
In short, CSPs have a broad role to play in relation to enterprise, which extends far beyond just providing connectivity.
“In collection, there is an awful lot of opportunity for CSPs with enterprise data, but its worth looking through these different lenses to consider what is most suitable for you, whether as a telco trying to provide these services or as an enterprise looking to partner,” concluded Bubley.
Check out our webinar teaser video above. To see the webinar in full, register here
Evolving networks, evolving opportunities
Today, in 2022, it should be noted that we are still far from realising the full potential of 5G in terms of enterprise applications. Like all mobile technologies, 5G deployments are phased, with network capabilities continuing grow throughout the 2020s. For now, most 5G deployments operate on non-standalone architecture (i.e., using a 4G core network), but the transition to standalone (i.e., a 5G core) is already beginning, potentially enabling the more advanced use cases, like VR and AR, that have long been promised by telecoms industry.
For now, however, the opportunity to monetise these networks in the enterprise and industrial space is still somewhat limited.
“The 5G core is still a little bit behind industry expectations, so we still can’t monetise 5G in the ways that we would like,” explained Dr Tomek Gerszberg, CTO at Axiata Enterprise, who noted that the primary opportunity for telcos in the enterprise space today is not necessarily these new use cases, but rather as-a-Service-based data offerings. In particular, the additional insights granted by improved data analytics, which can be monetised and provided to enterprises, will be enormously valuable.
“We assume that not every enterprise will like to develop its own infrastructure,” he said. “We as operators therefore have a role to play in delivering data as a service, and data processing capabilities as a service.”
As such, Anthony Behan, Manging Director of Telecommunications at Cloudera, explained that managing the vast amount of data being created in an enterprise environment will be a significant challenge, particularly as it relates to the edge.
“A lot of the challenge of edge processing is simply to address the challenge of scale and volume,” said Anthony Behan, Manging Director, Telecommunications, Cloudera. “It’s to aggregate the data in smart ways that doesn’t compromise the integrity or the value of that data in downstream systems, but also minimising the amount of data that you must feed all the way through.”
“At every stage we should be asking ourselves: do I really need to pass this data on to the next stage? Can I aggregate it? Can I compress it? Can I encrypt it? Can I do something to offset the load on the downstream systems?”
There is also a sustainability angle here, with data transfer being a huge contributor to network energy consumption. With most major telcos already committed to targeting carbon neutrality goals of 2040 or earlier, efficient data processing will be a crucial factor
“Trying to do as much as we can close to the point of data collection reduces our energy costs,” explained Behan.
Transformation for capitalisation
Ultimately, the role of operator is changing in the 5G era. The goal is no longer simply to transfer data packets, but to make intelligent decisions about what should be transferred and how that data should be managed.
“Operators need to think outside of the constraints of the network and towards becoming a more broad member of the data ecosystem,” said Bubley.
As trusted partners for enterprises, there is a huge role for telcos to play as a facilitator, particularly for smaller enterprises that do not have the scale and expertise to manage their data effectively on their own.
“Large enterprises have the capacity to manage their own transformation regarding how they disaggregate their applications to the cloud, edge, on-prem, and so on,” explained Gerszberg. “For many of the middle-sized enterprises, they can’t do this. So, there is a big role for a facilitator.”
But to fulfil this role well, telcos will need to be agile, innovative, and open to collaboration,
“We need to adapt. We need to change,” concluded Dr Ayman El Nashar, VP and Head of Technology Architecture R&D, du. “We need a new strategy in this era. We need to cooperate with the ecosystem, from the devices all the way to the cloud.”
“Collaboration is the most important thing. The challenges are not unique – there’s a lot of commonality there. So, figuring out ways to collaborate and leverage each other’s experiences,” finished Behan.
To watch the webinar in full and learn more about enterprise opportunities in the 5G era, follow this link: https://register.gotowebinar.com/recording/6180576284390636801
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