Leading Vendor Partners and Their Clients Discuss Network Transformation Realities —
ISE magazine’s inaugural Executive Roundtable was an energetic discussion about trends and the drivers leading telecom providers, municipalities, utilities, and other stakeholders, as they tirelessly work to transform today’s wireline and wireless networks.
A select group of industry leaders and their customers contributed to the exchange, sharing perspectives on everything from 5G realities to alternative network powering strategies. The objective of these discussions is simple: vendor leaders and their customers are working together to help lead the industry in determining appropriate strategic decisions for the future of the ICT/Telecom industry.
ISE: What are your top network-related priorities for 2020?
Mauricio Martinez, Fujitsu Network Communications: Strategically, we are focused on enabling our customers’ digital transformation. So, we’ll continue with the execution of our cloud-based technologies and operations strategy. In addition, we’ll be enhancing our third-party ecosystem for bringing new Everything as a Service (XaaS) solutions to the marketplace quicker. Finally, we’ll continue operationalizing disruptive technologies — from a people, process, and tools perspective, for enabling our customers to achieve their transformation goals.
Brian Riley, Horizon: From my perspective, it’s wholistic. We’re an expanding company: a lot of new territories, new products, and new services. So, for me it’s all about cadence. How do we bring these markets online faster? How can we deploy the services faster?
Scott Armul, Vertiv: Our main focus next year is recognizing how macro-cell sites are going to grow in capacity to support 5G. We need to have products available to help enable that trend. We need to be thinking about small cells and municipal networks having the right power solutions, better battery backup solutions, and thermal management solutions, to help operators.
From Vertiv’s perspective, one of our big areas of focus is bringing together turn-key products from the IT segment, the data center realm, and the telecom space. We aim to package that all together to create more standardized building blocks so we can enable infrastructure to be dropped into place quickly.
Colin Garner, Wolf Line Construction: Wolf Line Construction builds networks, we service rural broadband buildouts across the US. Our biggest priority for 2020 is educating our clients and trying to come up with best practices to serve them. What’s the best way to deploy these very rural — really challenging-to-serve — areas? We want to help our clients make the best decisions for their needs so we can help them meet their objectives.
Todd Richard, Mears Group, Inc.: Mears is working to support improved resiliency and physical integrity of the network. We develop and support outside plant infrastructure construction services. From Mear’s perspective, we’re focused on enhancing network reliability and resiliency through sound implementation and safe construction methods. We work with our clients to ensure that their networks are constructed to be physically secure. While we don’t produce hardware or software, we do help interconnect data centers with our client’s Broadband fiber optic networks.
ISE: What should all of us in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT)/Telecom industry be talking about that we aren’t?
Colin Garner, Wolf Line Construction: The reality that 25 up and 3 down [25/3 Mbps] isn’t broadband. That wasn’t good enough for 2018. And with telemedicine, smart cities, smart agriculture, and more, the speeds need to be a lot faster than the current FCC definition.
Todd Richard, Mears Group, Inc.: I believe the integrity of customers’ data should be trusted and validated. I think the industry should do a better job of ensuring that customers are protected from outside influence such as
Scott Armul, Vertiv: Our focus is energy, and energy consumption more specifically. Globally, the ICT industry’s share of the world’s total energy consumption continues to grow.
With the implementation of 5G and growth in the wireless space, coupled with the advent of cloud and hyperscale computing, and multi-tenant data centers, the demand for data and content will continue to grow. How do we power it?
Mauricio Martinez, Fujitsu Network Communications: To begin, I think we need to address how all these new innovative technologies are truly improving the quality of life. What are the real benefits to human society?
Second, we need to address workforce transformation. If we look at the telecom industry, there is absolutely an aging distribution problem. Most of the large service providers have massive legacy infrastructure that is understood by an aging workforce. In addition, our industry is having a problem attracting new talent.
Brian Riley, Horizon: Joint pole environments are a big part of 5G transformation, That means addressing One Touch Make Ready (OTMR) rules, as well as dealing with challenging deployments between municipalities, pole owners, and people who want to invest. In my opinion, that is probably the biggest thing out there preventing rapid 5G rollout. If we’re going to take a 5G leadership position as a country, we probably need more FCC involvement to help solve this issue.
Chris Wacker, ESPi: No networks work without power. Unfortunately, that seems to be an afterthought in many cases. People are more concerned with getting the units deployed and getting the fiber in the ground. After those things occur, then they decide to call the utility company for that power.
As you know, it can be from $5,000 to $60,000+ to get power to remote locations. So, it’s something certainly not to ignore because your redundant fiber routes do not work without power.
ISE: There’s going to be a tremendous need for low-latency data transmission to support autonomous vehicles among other applications. At the same time, small, bursty data from IoT sources will be occupying the same network. How do you support both, while not overbuilding or underbuilding the network?
Mauricio Martinez, Fujitsu Network Communications: You need a data/bandwidth management strategy. A traffic estimation needs to be done, and end-user applications considered to see what type of networks and architectures are most valuable. That means edge processing, network slicing, discrete IoT networks, and Wi-Fi offloading.
Network slicing will also be key, as you have different levels of traffic: Internet data, IoT devices, video, etc. You can only segment your traffic if you ensure each has their own slice. Autonomous vehicles may have a dedicated slice, for instance. At the end, you need to have a data management strategy.
Brian Riley, Horizon: You have to start with a good foundation. If you can build a fiber-based, low-latency network, that gives you an opportunity to deploy a lot of things. With it, you can do everything you need, like network slicing, bursty IoT needs, video, and a variety of other technologies that end users demand.
The good news is the incremental cost per bit is going down. If you have the right foundation, the ability to upgrade is not as costly or difficult.
Colin Garner, Wolf Line Construction: Rural co-ops are building new broadband networks but always facing the question of Do we overbuild now? Or, if not now, how do we serve under-built areas on our system later?
I think you need FCC support or other forms of government support to make sure you build-out the network as a whole, rather than leaving under-built areas.
Todd Richard, Mears Group, Inc.: We should introduce more flexibility and allocate data categories and establish priorities. So, prioritization of traffic, such as public safety data, would certainly come first.
When we start talking about autonomous vehicles in the future, I want to know that the autonomous vehicles have more than just a small slice of the network’s bandwidth. I would recommend clients deploy more fiber to effectively support densification, potentially allocating capacity for advanced data networks, like 5G, for example.
I also think we should build networks with an abundance of fiber, and be able to add fiber in the future. That way, network capacity will have certainty, and prioritization can be established with both fiber allocation and enhanced bandwidth capacity to ensure data can be managed effectively.
Scott Armul, Vertiv: Network intelligence and edge processing inherently will help facilitate network sharing, prioritization, and data splitting — and enable an optimized pay-as-you-grow approach.
Enabling that intelligence fundamentally changes the type of network equipment being deployed. It’s also important to understand the application and use-case for the network that is being rolled out. Low latency applications that are life safety or mission critical require a far different approach to network resiliency, redundancy, and power and battery back-up, compared to a non-critical IoT device that is checking in once per hour.
ISE: What emerging or disruptive technology excites you the most for the future of the ICT industry?
Todd Richard, Mears Group, Inc.: The advancement of Open Access Networks. We’ve seen many municipal communities and Broadband service providers participating in Open Access integration.
The sharing of technology applications and infrastructure across different networks is available. The partnerships between large telcos, MSOs, Co-ops, municipalities, and independent service providers, are still being developed.
We’ve seen network access and a shared infrastructure model work in the mobility sectors through partnering. We are likely to see more mobility capacity and bandwidth available with 5G. It would be helpful to our clients if shared infrastructure was common, and network access could easily migrate between a wireless device to a wired environment more fluidly.
Brian Riley, Horizon: The thing that excites me most is the overall dumbing down of the network. Historically, we built networks where everything was very specialized and focused. That meant you had a thousand different vendors who supplied different things in the network.
More virtualization, "XYZ"-type devices in the network that are cloud-controlled, are what we need. We can spin them up; spin them down. That’s what we’ve seen in the data center world.
Colin Garner, Wolf Line Construction: I’m looking forward to a new Last Mile solution. The company that comes out with a "true" wireless Last Mile Gig-Up-Gig-Down will truly disrupt the entire market. Right now, we’re dropping fibers to homes. It’s expensive and challenging. I’m looking for new wireless technology solutions for the Last Mile.
Mauricio Martinez, Fujitsu Network Communications: We’re living in a very disruptive, innovative time where innovation is no longer cyclical and anything can come out tomorrow. What excites me the most is when we start looking at what is the true impact on human society, and how is it going to improve the quality of life.
Currently, I’m thinking 5G wireless, because that’s really making a difference to the access infrastructure. That’s what will enable the smart city technologies for the future.
Chris Wacker, ESPi: We take a certain percentage of our revenue every year and reinvest in new technologies. With that understanding, we’ve got to keep the company going as well. It’s a personal challenge to keep the existing company priorities moving forward while recognizing constant changes still need to be addressed.
Scott Armul, Vertiv: I get excited about everything tied to network intelligence. From a technology perspective, when you pair solar and lithium-ion batteries, you have the opportunity to look at things like peak shaving and micro-grids to support the network. This kind of intelligence enables operators to reduce operating costs, deliver service in very remote areas, and minimize carbon emissions.
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At the end of the event, we asked our participants to share 3 words that best described themselves. We thought it would be fun to share these with you. Enjoy!
Innovative, Trustworthy, Honorable
Grit, Authentic, Decisive
Tenacious, Innovative, Galvanizing
Strategic, Dependable, Trustworthy
Energetic, Curious, Even-Keeled
Collaborator, Engineer, Teammate